BASKETBALL: Young Hornets Have Reason for Optimism


How many varsity basketball teams with six sophomores, one junior and two seniors have reason for optimism?

Thanks in large part to sophomore Jonathan Sanderson, who’s picking D1 college offers at a rapid pace, you can count Saline among the few.

Sanderson has been nearly unstoppable in the early season for Saline, averaging 35 points in two Saline victories. It all starts with the 6’2 guard for the Hornets.

“He just plays at another level,” said Saline head coach Mike Marek. “He just has that motor. He just goes. He’s just a special player.”

On opening night at Salem, Sanderson had an 8-point run, including 6 points in just 20-25 seconds, to close the gap and put Salline within reach.

Sanderson is part of a super sophomore class that won’t surprise anyone in Saline - not after his fabulous freshman campaign.

Lincoln Keyes has been a revelation. He’s graduated from JV to become the starting center. In his first game, he struggled in the first quarter and got better throughout the game. In his second game, he scored 19 points to go along with 14 rebounds.

“He’s grown from game 1 to game 2. He’s got a motor. He competes. He goes out there and leaves it all out there,” Marek said.

Sophomore Tommy Carr has played big minutes so far too. He hit three jump shots in the second half of his most recent game. He was clutch with free throws in the opening-night victory.

“He’s got a quick first step. It’s a little deceiving. He doesn’t always look quick, but he gets by his guy any time he wants. And he can finish in there,” Marek said. “He gets in the paint, lands on two and finishes at the rim.”

Senior Peyton Widen brings maturity and solid play to a young Hornet squad. Widen has been starting and he’s hit three-pointers in each of the first two contests.

LaDainian Woods is new to the basketball program. He was at Huron last year. Saline sports watchers saw his blazing speed at work for the football team in the fall. Woods showed the same speed on the court and used that speed to dribble around the court and kill time late in the opening night victory.

Coming off the bench, Brad Leventhal is the second senior on the squad. He hit a critical three to help kickstart the Hornet offense on opening night. He helps calm down the young teams when things get harry. Sophomore Isaiah Harris, an All-SEC Red defensive player, has been one of the key players off the bench. Fellow sophomore Caleb Washington also showed poise and solid ball-handling skills when he entered the game in the home opener. Basketball preps writer Scott Hankamp said sophomore Christopher Cotuna is someone to watch.

“He’s a two-way player that keeps getting better,” Hankamp said.

The x-factor is Ghana Solongo, a seven-foot-tall sophomore who hails from Mongolia. Solongo played in the Dayton area as a freshman and has played with Sanderson in AAU ball. and reportedly already has offers from colleges. The MHSAA has not yet cleared Solongo to play for Saline. The Saline Post has learned that there are efforts to keep him in Saline, long-term.

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