This is first in a series of five articles profiling the top teams in the State's Class A division along with the players and coaches that make them go.
DETROIT - Inside a sweat-soaked open gym on Detroit's near eastside, few people saw what was developing. It would become one of the top teams in State of Michigan.
Most casual observers of the game knew the names of the contenders for the PSL title.
Pershing, the state runner up a season ago would return Michigan State commitments Derrick Nix and Keith Appling. Detroit Southeastern sported one of the top players in the state in sophomore Brandan Kearney and junior forward Percy Gibson but few if any knew anything about Coach Ray Reeves Finney Highlanders.
With good reason says assistant coach Hans Jones. "With the exception of Darrell Canaday and Rashard Reeves, all of our players were either on J.V. or in middle school."
But over the summer, Finney's players developed a camaraderie that has carried them through the early season. Currently, they sit at 3-1 and coach Jones lamented the one that got away. Percy Gibson led Southeastern to a 59-43 win over the Highlanders, a loss that rubs Jones the wrong way.
"We're young and some of our guys didn't realize the intensity you have to play with every night in the PSL. The good thing is that it isn't like football, where one loss puts you out of it. We'll get a chance to play those guys at our gym and we'll have a chance to redeem ourselves."
Finney rebounded with a 65-47 win over Northwestern to up their record to 3-1. Jones said the loss of 6-foot-5 MSU prospect Isaiah Sykes, really hurt Finney in their lone loss.
"His grades are excellent and we're looking forward to him joining the team on January 16th," said Jones.
The MHSAA ruled that Sykes would have to sit out after transferring from Chadsey after having problems at the school. Finney felt that Sykes would be allowed to transfer under the current rules but instead he was forced to sit out.
He will miss some of the biggest games of the season for Finney including the team's appearance in the Roundball Classic and the Romulus Holiday classic.
The Highlanders will play East Grand Rapids in the Roundball Classic at Chandler Park on Dec 26, play the feature game against Romulus on the 27th, then two days later return to the Roundball classic.
MSU is among the teams who are looking closely at Sykes, who came from nowhere to the point where he's a consensus top-five player in the state. Sykes is being recruited very hard by Michigan, Detroit, Dayton, Tennessee and of course, Michigan State who has had him up for an on-campus visit this year.
GSN will have an in-depth interview with Finney star Isaiah Sykes later this week.