It’s not a cliché to say, “What a difference a year makes” when it comes to the Frankel Jewish Academy boys basketball team.
In fact, it’s downright apropos.
The Jaguars finished 10-10 this season. They were 4-16 last season.
The architect of the turnaround was first-year coach Mike Marek, who said his players deserve the credit.
“They bought into the system,” he said. “I told them before the season that all the pieces of the puzzle were there. They just needed to come together as a team.”
Guard Dylan Backalar, the only senior on the team, said Marek was the reason for the six-victory improvement.
“Our team enjoyed practicing and playing,” Backalar said. “Coach Marek related to his players. He knew how to get the best out of all of us.”
Even Frankel’s 81-27 loss to host Southfield Christian in a Class D district semifinal March 8 wasn’t so terrible. Powerhouse Southfield Christian (20-4) is ranked No. 1 in the state in Class D.
“They’re going to win it all,” Marek said. “I told our guys before the game that facing Southfield Christian was a great opportunity for our program and we’re playing with house money. We had nothing to lose.
“We stuck with them for about five minutes. (Frankel junior guard) Jordan Salesin hit a triple that cut Southfield Christian’s lead to 11-7 with three minutes left in the first quarter. It was downhill from then.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was at the game scouting a Southfield Christian player. Izzo spent some time chatting with Frankel parents. That probably was the first time Izzo saw Frankel play.
“It wasn’t cool that Coach Izzo saw us get destroyed, but it’s something we can tell our kids someday,” Backalar said.
“I was upset after the game. I didn’t want to end my high school basketball career that way. But the guys on our team who will be back next year know now what they need to do to beat them (Southfield Christian) if they’re in our district again. Southfield Christian is losing a lot of seniors.”
At only 5-foot-6, Backalar was Frankel’s “lock-down defender,” according to Marek.
Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Garrett Balazsi, who scored 21 points on seven 3-pointers against Frankel in the teams’ first meeting, had only five points on free throws when Backlar guarded him in the rematch.
“I’m just glad I was able to help our team,” Backalar said about his defensive prowess. “I’m not a great scorer.”
Backalar’s basketball playing days may be over, but he’s going to study sports broadcasting at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and be a student manager for the Ball State basketball team.
Marek said another reason for Frankel’s success was moving junior Noah Schlussel from shooting guard to point guard to take advantage of his ball-handling skills.
Junior forward Ryan Otis was Frankel’s top scorer and rebounder, averaging 21 points and eight rebounds per game. Otis’ high game was 31 points against Detroit Cristo Rey and he had a team-best 15 points against Southfield Christian.
Sophomore forward Ethan Mostyn averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game and he finished with a flourish, averaging about 18 points over the last six games.
Also on the Frankel roster were junior forward Jacob Klein, junior guard Zack Seiferheld, sophomore guard-forward Will Bloomberg, sophomore forward Adin Kleinfeldt, freshman forward Brandon Gladstone and freshman guard Jeremy Jenkins.
Here are some other Jaguars accomplishments this season:
- They beat Detroit Cornerstone 67-18 on March 5 in their district opener behind a season-high 23 points from Mostyn and 12 points from Salesin. It was Frankel’s first district victory in more than 10 years.
- They beat Allen Park Cabrini 37-33 on Jan. 9 and 50-48 on Feb. 1. Frankel was 0-6 against Cabrini the last three seasons.
- They beat Gabriel Richard 56-54 on Feb. 14. Frankel was 0-8 against Gabriel Richard the last four seasons.
Frankel was 5-7 in Catholic League play. The Jaguars haven’t won a Catholic League division championship since the 2008-2009 season, Marek said; that’s a goal for next year.
So is having a junior varsity team once again.
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This was Marek’s seventh season coaching boys basketball.
He was the head coach at St. John Neumann Catholic in Canton from 2010-2014 and led his CYO team to a 71-6 record and four division championships. He was the lead assistant coach at Plymouth High School from 2015-2017.
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