The city of Detroit has been fortunate to be home of superstars of the past and present. Steve Yzerman convinced hockey diehards that Hockeytown was alive once again. The Bad Boyz brought a new life and new mentality to the Detroit Pistons in what many consider the hey day of basketball. Barry Sanders ran all over opposing defenses in the late ’90s in Honolulu Blue before running over their hopes and dreams with an early retirement in 2000. And the “Bless You Boys” made the summer times in Detroit a true treat at Michigan and Trumbull. Nowadays, Yzerman is repairing a mess left for him in Tampa, Barry is still content in retirement, and the aura of the 1984 Tigers in Tiger Stadium is now recollected in history books.
Travel almost 20 years later and watch as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are being given the keys to the Detroit Red Wings with an aging core soon to skate into the sunset. The Detroit Pistons’ recent struggles are only shortcomings with draft picks Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight looming as potential superstars. After years of disappointment, the Detroit Lions nucleus remains strong with Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh. We most certainly cannot forget the stalwarts Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera that make Comerica Park their summer home.
As the new era of stars dawns in the Motor City, the focus should be on the future. These are the players who will be eased into the highest ranks of Detroit Sports, only hoping to dethrone one of the Detroit greats on our imaginative Mt. Rushmore. Getting to a point of being a potential superstar is surreal for some. Luckily, these athletes have withstood obstacles in their way to help further develop, while also harnessing their true skill. Below will be five young aspiring athletes who are on the cusp of becoming hometown heroes. I tried to equally represent each professional Detroit sports team.
5. Brandon Knight PG/Pistons – Teams heading into NBA Draft Night can only hope for a little luck. It was that same luck that Pistons’ GM Joe Dumars found this past June when the Pistons selected Brandon Knight from the Kentucky Wildcats at 8th overall. The young phenom had led his Wildcat teammates to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight only to fall short to the VCU Rams to advance to the Final Four. Knight’s training camp was cut severely because of labor disputes, but head coach Lawrence Frank was patient in grooming the rookie point guard through the growing pains and his complex dribble-drive offense. Averaging 13 PPG, 4 APG, and 4 boards per, Knight is only getting better with more talent and more time to learn the complexities of the NBA. Also, having big man and second year star Greg Monroe as a valuable option will help Knight elevate his game and create a viable PG-C combo long sought after in Motown.
4. Jacob Turner RHP/Tigers – As Spring Training slowly wanes, the center of attention has been on whom will occupy the fifth starting rotation spot. Among those in the conversation for a long time was Jacob Turner. The former first round pick looked in command and strong in his ML Debut this past July. In 5 1/3 innings, Turner only succumbed three hits and one run to the visiting Angels while fanning six batters. A nice stat line for the next Tigers’ star pitcher. The Tigers’ prospect got the call up once more in September, but having not pitched to MLB hitters since July, hitters got the best of him. Turner will also have to get over a “dead shoulder” that has shut him down for a duration of Spring Training. Yet, when at his best, the future ace can turn up the fastball to 96-98 mph and overwhelm hitters with his repertoire of pitches. Turner is all but a lock to start the season where he finished last year, in Triple-AAA with Toledo. His progress will certainly be monitored closely by front office staff and writers alike.
3. Titus Young WR/Lions – Speed and skill are what the Lions have lacked for years at Wide Receiver. The Lions were fortunate to add Calvin Johnson 2nd overall in 2007 and bring in Nate Burleson via Free Agency. What was next for GM Martin Mayhew was to add a game-changing slot receiver to QB Matthew Stafford’s arsenal. Young got off to a slow start on the season. His season progressed and the rookie wideout out of Boise State saw more balls come his way. This speed demon caught 48 balls and racked 607 yards while finding the end zone 6 times. Opposing team’s corners will be (trying) shutting down Johnson and Burleson. With two prolific wideouts as teammates, Titus does not garner the type of coverage as Burleson or Johnson might. Following up to a solid rookie season is hard for some offensive skill players, but Young shouldn’t lose a step as the Lions try to build off their best season in more than a decade.
2. Brendan Smith D/Red Wings – The fate for the 22-year old native of Mimico, ON hinges on whether Captain Nicklas Lidstrom will return for his 21st NHL season with Detroit. Red Wings fans were only able to see a small sample of Smith’s play this season. In 13 games so far, Brendan has provided a new look on the defense by contributing 7 points over the course of 13 games. He has flashed his offensive prowess that led to him becoming a Red Wings draft pick in 2007. His defensive game looks improved, but his main use in Mike Babcock’s system would be to spark the Wings’ already lethal breakout. How this uber-talented prospect fits in is yet to be seen.
1. Greg Monroe C/Pistons – Some will criticize Pistons’ GM Joe Dumars for giving a botched attempt at rebuilding. Amid the Pistons’ struggles of recent, Monroe has flourished into an up-and-coming kingpin in the NBA. Virtually every stat line Monroe has is littered with double-doubles and point totals in upwards of 20 or more on an almost nightly basis. The NBA is in dire need of big men who can take over a game, and the second-year southpaw is surely capable of doing this. Since his time in a Pistons uniform, some acknowledge fellow teammate “Big” Ben Wallace as a mentor to Monroe, helping to tailor his defensive game. This season, Monroe is averaging 16.5 PPG, 10 RPG, and 2.5 APG. With stats like these, the only place Greg can go with his game is up. Detroit may have found it’s coveted young superstar to carry the Pistons back to the promised land.
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