BY DAN STICKRADT
NOVI — It’s safe to say that Novi has some unfinished business that the Wildcats left out on the basketball court last season.
Novi started fast only to lose seven of their final nine games to finish 12-9.
“I don’t think we ended the season they way we envisioned. We definitely left a ton of unfinished business out there last year, which serves as a motivational factor for us this year,” said second-year Novi coach Brandon Sinawi, who graduated three players from the main rotation. “Last year we started 7-0 in (the KLAA Central Division) and all we had to do is win one of our last three to tie (for the division) and we lost all three. Then we lost in the district to (Plymouth) Canton where we had a 13-point lead.”
The 57-54 setback to Canton alone was motivational fuel, not just the late-season collapse. Returning a very talented cast with ample size and experience has Novi thinking big and ready to make amends for last year’s shortcomings.
The Wildcats will bolster a roster this winter that features 10 players that range between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-7 and have a wide variety of experienced players that could make this team one of the best in the entire 24-school KLAA and a squad capable of making a lengthy run in the Class A state tournament. Only one of the 13 players is listed as under six foot and the Wildcats bolster an array of weapons that will make them one of the best in Oakland County — and beyond.
Seven key players are back for second-year coach Brandon Sinawi, plus the arrival of three quality newcomers that are vying for minutes that will make this squad deep and versatile. Novi is the favorite in the KLAA Central Division.
The fuel to Novi’s fire is 6-5 senior point guard Kam Hankerson, who has signed with Wisconsin-Green Bay. He offers fine court vision with a high basketball IQ to run the show.
Seniors Naji Ozeir and Jay Duarte, a pair of 6-7 twin towers, will hold down the fort in the post along with 6-4 junior Johnny Davis, another inside scoring threat. Ozeir is a stretch four who already has five 3-pointers in a game this season, while Duarte and Davis are low-post bruisers that provide muscle in the paint
Sophomore guard Traveon Maddox (6-3) is solid with the ball as both a scorer and set-up man. He was pulled up to varsity early last season and is a star on the rise. Another promising sophomore in the backcourt is 5-8 Nick Williams, who recorded eight assists in a win over Rochester (61-56).
The depth chart has size and scorers galore, with 6-4 senior forwards Adam Tarrant and Alex Tarrant providing additional spark. Bradley Wenner, a 6-5 senior guard, is another threat.
Alec Begeris, a 6-3 junior forward, and 5-11 sophomore Trenden Hankerson, Kam’s younger brother, are part of the cast of newcomers.
e regional semi
“I kind of like being a sleeper pick,” offered Sinawi. “Novi has had a lot of good players over the years, but not too many teams that have gone deep in the tournament — nothing beyond the regional (semifinals). They’ve had good players, but not the right combinations in the right system. We hope that we can bring it all together and have a great season. The overall talent and size in there. When you have 10 guys that are 6-3 or taller, it is something that you can work with. We plan on using that to our advantage.”