Regularly, BallinMichigan.com will look back at the yearly Mr. Basketball award with the benefit of hindsight. These posts will look back at the top five finishers at the time, provide updates on what they’ve done since and, for the fun of it, let readers re-vote to see if the results would be different if we include their full college and professional bodies of work. Thanks to Ron Pesch, MHSAA historian, for the great Mr. Basketball voting database he provides online.
The top five finishers:
- Dion Harris, Detroit Redford
- Brandon Cotton, Detroit DePorres
- Drew Naymick, North Muskegon
- Brandon Bell, Flint Southwestern
- Olu Famutimi, Flint Northwestern
Harris just edged Cotton (555-503) in one of the closest Mr. Basketball votes in recent history. This top five featured two McDonald’s All-Americans, though surprisingly, Harris wasn’t one of them. Famutimi and Cotton were in a class of McDonald’s All-Americans that included several future NBA starters or better, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Luol Deng and Kendrick Perkins.
It sounds weird to say since Harris didn’t attain the heights in his basketball career most predicted for him, but not making the McDonald’s team was a legitimate snub during his senior year. Harris and his Redford team faced James and his St. Vincent-St. Mary’s team four times in high school. Harris’ teams more than held their own against the national high school powerhouse, including a three-point loss in the 2001-02 season in which Harris scored 31 points.
In college, though, Harris never quite met the lofty expectations folks had for him at Michigan. He had a solid career, playing big minutes and averaging double figures each year, but he also struggled shooting the ball, never shooting better than 41 percent in a season. His underwhelming numbers weren’t so much chalked up to a lack of talent so much as a lack of consistency. Harris had a handful of brilliant games at Michigan mixed in between forgettable ones. This is from a report in the Michigan Daily in 2005:
Harris said in the games that he doesn’t play as well, he doesn’t compete as hard. What isn’t clear is if this is a conscious choice or a psych-out.
“I think it’s kind of both, but I think it’s a lot of him psyching himself out,” Dion’s mother, Rischon Harris, said
Dion’s mother said she has never seen her son play as unmotivated as he has, at times, this season.
“I can see there is no motivation (sometimes),” Rischon said. “I can see it all over him. I can tell the way he gets down the floor. I know right off the bat, he’s just thinking ‘It’s not working.’ ”
Harris wasn’t exactly in the best environment on Tommy Amaker’s Michigan teams. A lack of motivation was a hallmark of those teams, and Harris was as close to stable as it got, staying out of off-court trouble and playing a large role on the team every year he was there. Since leaving Michigan, he has played professionally overseas. He’s currently playing for TSV Troester in Germany, averaging 15 points and two assists per game while shooting 46 percent.
Unlike Harris, Cotton’s college career stalled almost immediately. He started off at Michigan State, but a foot injury caused him to miss time early in his career. A family tragedy — his uncle was murdered — also marred his freshman season at MSU. He left the team and transferred to the University of Detroit, but he was involved in a serious car accident that put his college career in jeopardy.
Cotton was able to recover and he became a dynamic scoring guard at U of D. He averaged 17 points or more and made the All-Horizon League team all three seasons he played for Detroit. He’s played professionally in the NBA D-League, Canada and in the Dominican Republic. This season, he played for the Hamar club in Iceland.
Naymick also went to Michigan State, looked a bit in over his head early in his career, then by the time he graduated, he’d become a typical Tom Izzo blue collar big man. Naymick is Michigan State’s career leader in blocked shots. Naymick was an extremely effective shot blocker in college, something that translated well from his high school career — he averaged nearly six blocks per game as a high school senior — even if he didn’t necessarily have the explosive leaping ability and length typically associated with great shot blockers.
Naymick didn’t have the star projections some of the others in the 2003 top five did, but his hard work and consistent improvement at Michigan State earned him an opportunity to play professionally. He went to training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers and has played in Europe. This season, he’s averaged 10.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game for CEZ Nymburk in the Czech Republic.
Like his older brother Charlie Bell, Brandon Bell turned a standout career at Flint Southwestern into a high major opportunity. Brandon was a little bit smaller than Charlie as a point guard and, although he was certainly a good scorer, he was known for his passing as well. The older Bell was simply known as a lights-out scorer in high school.
Brandon Bell didn’t last long at Marquette, though. He had an underwhelming freshman season, playing few minutes and averaging fewer than two points per game. He left school as a sophomore and ended up finishing up his college career a couple years later at the University of Detroit, where he averaged six points and three assists per game off the bench.
Olu Famutimi … he’s the one who hurts if you talk to people who have followed Flint hoops long-term. Famutimi was a freakish athlete in high school, transferring to and finishing at Northwestern after moving from Canada. He was No. 7 in the nation in his class according to ESPN’s rankings. But then injuries and a hastily made decision to enter the NBA Draft cost him a career that at one time seemed destined for great things. Famutimi seriously injured his knee, robbing him of some of his trademark athleticism. He had a solid freshman season, making the All-SEC Freshman team, and he improved his field goal percentage and 3-point shooting as a sophomore, averaging nearly 10 points per game. Despite pre-draft projections that weren’t favorable, Famutimi entered the 2005 NBA Draft anyway and was not selected.
Since, he’s bounced around professional leagues abroad and overseas. Most recently, he played for Optimum TED in Turkey, averaging 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He also was a part of Canada’s national basketball team, participating in the World Championships for Team Canada in 2010.
Any Mr. Basketball top five that features two McDonald’s All-Americans, a third who legitimately had a case to be one and all five guys playing for high major universities would obviously have incredibly high expectations. By that measure, the 2003 top five probably fell quite a bit short of what most expected out of them collectively. Although none of the five became star players in college, all were able to go on and make money playing basketball, which is the goal for just about any player who makes it to the amateur levels they did. This is a tough group to re-rank, but here’s my stab at it: 1. Harris 2. Naymick 3. Famutimi 4. Cotton 5. Bell. What do you think? Let us know in the poll below or in the comments.