A year can make a big difference.
But a year of hard work can make a much bigger difference.
It certainly did for Petoskey senior Michael Squires.
“Petoskey boys basketball will ‘go down swinging’ with the Michael Squires of this world,” said second-year Northmen coach Matt Tamm. “Michael is a great teammate and even better person.
“Michael is a great young person that I have had the honor of coaching for three years.”
The first year Squires played for Tamm was as a sophomore on the junior varsity team. The second, Squire’s junior season, began to make Squires think about not returning for his senior year. He opted instead for a year of hard work before coming back to the court.
Northmen fans are glad he did. Squires is the team’s leading rebounder and strongest defender.
“After my junior year, I debated coming to play my senior year after my limited play time, but I am glad that I did,” Squires said. “The work that I put in my junior year paired with an increase in size and strength allowed me to earn a role on the team and contribute to the success we have had.”
Squires, who sports a 3.98 GPA while taking honors and advanced placement courses, is finding tremendous success on the court after a stellar fall soccer season filled with postseason honors. He’s also looking to wrap up his senior year helping his golf team reach the Finals this spring.
The Northmen are 12-5 overall and 5-3 in Big North Conference play heading into tonight’s home contest with Cadillac, the conference leader. Petoskey lost to Cadillac in the first meeting, 68-65 in overtime, as Jaden Montague hit a 3-pointer well outside of the arc with just four ticks remaining. The Northmen’s last shot in regulation was blocked by Cadillac.
A win tonight and another over second-place Traverse City Central next week could wreak havoc on the title race. Petoskey lost to Central 72-59 earlier this season, and its other conference loss was in double overtime at Traverse City West.
“Our focus is on playing good basketball,” Tamm said. “If we play good basketball, winning and losing will take care of itself.
“Cadillac is a quality opponent, and we look forward to the challenge.”
The Northmen are also looking forward to postseason play after winning their District last year. Four Big North Conference opponents, along with Marquette and Sault St. Marie, are the initial competition.
A postseason run could be in the cards again, Squires believes.
“This year I believe that the District is open for us to win, but once we reach the Regional round we will likely play teams such as Grand Blanc who are very good,” Squires said. “If we play to the quality of basketball that we have shown earlier in the season, and I know we are capable of, winning the region is something that I think we can accomplish.”
Squires’ senior-season success wasn’t exactly anticipated — due to his first three seasons at Petoskey. His freshman year featured his offensive side. His sophomore season saw most all of his playing time recorded as a substitute.
Limited playing time on the varsity as a junior led to thoughts of no more basketball. But all that changed.
Tamm has always focused on individual roles. He and Squires believe they found the right one for the 6-foot-2 standout.
“The biggest difference between this year and last year for me, I believe, was my mentality toward basketball and how I would contribute to the team,” Squires said. “As many people do, I would love to score a lot of points – but this year the realization that that’s not my role was key in my development.
“That realization allowed me to put forth all my effort into what I’m best at – defense and rebounding,” he continued. “This year I took my role of shutdown defender and rebounder more to heart and committed myself to doing what I am good at and what our team needs me to do for us to be successful.”
Tamm said Squires plays the exact role the Northmen need.
“Michael understands and accepts his role on the team,” Tamm said. “He is not our strongest offensive player — he understands that.
“But he plays excellent defense, rebounds, sets screens, slashes at the basket and dives after loose balls,” Tamm continued. “Michael does not take the ill-advised shot. … He seldom — if ever — misses a defensive assignment or box out and generally takes care of the ball and makes the right pass.”
Tamm also points to Squires’ work ethic and positive attitude as keys to his success. Squires worked closely with Mike Zenk, the Petoskey boys basketball strength and conditioning coach, and made gains.
“Michael grew, and he filled out,” Tamm said. “He shows up every day – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and he always remained positive.”
Squires, who prides himself on playing outstanding defense and attacking the offensive boards, finds tremendous joy in shutting down the opposing team as Tamm normally assigns him the other team’s best player to defend.
“Some people find the most enjoyment in scoring points but I equally enjoy stopping someone from scoring and throwing someone off their game,” Squires said.
When basketball ends next month, Squires will turn his thoughts to his last career sports goal, and likely move on to study mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan. He’s also been accepted at Michigan State and Purdue.
“Before I graduate I would like to make it to the state tournament in golf as we missed out on it last year,” Squires said. “This year we have a pretty good team, and I feel we have a good shot at making it.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Michael Squires rises above a pair of Traverse City Central defenders for a shot. (Middle) Squires elevates again, this time on the soccer pitch against Traverse City West. (Below) Squires officiates during a Petoskey youth tournament earlier this month. (Photos by Billy McNamara.)