By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
Jermayne Golidy emerged as the “go-to” player on Saturday in Muskegon’s first real test of this young basketball season.
But the smooth, 6-foot-4 senior wasn’t even in the starting lineup on the previous night in a lopsided win at cross-town rival Muskegon Mona Shores.
“That’s the kind of team we are – you never know who will be the leading scorer,” said Golidy, who finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots as Muskegon rallied from a halftime deficit to post an impressive 68-55 win over visiting powerhouse Chicago Whitney Young in the final game of the Muskegon Showcase tournament at Redmond-Potter Gymnasium. “I came out a little shaky and nervous, but I knew I had to start playing if we were going to win.”
Defense has always been paramount for Muskegon basketball, but fifth-year head coach Keith Guy knows that in order for the Big Reds to get back and compete for another Class A championship after winning it all in 2015, it will take three other Ds:
Diversity on offense, depth and good decisions.
“We don’t have one guy on this team; we have 10 guys who can put it on the floor and score,” said Guy, whose team is off to a 6-0 start. “We have to use all of our weapons and we have to make good decisions with the ball. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
It’s a change from recent Muskegon teams which featured a marquee player surrounded by a supporting cast. DeShaun Thrower (2014) and Deyonta Davis (2015) were back-to-back Mr. Basketball Award winners, and last year’s team relied on the senior backcourt duo of Michael Littlejohn and Linwood Lee at crunch time.
This year’s team may not have any five-star college recruits, but the sum of its parts may be better than any other team in the state.
Golidy was one of those supporting cast members the past two seasons who is still trying to adjust his mindset in his senior year.
He started off the season with a game-high 20 points in a victory at Rockford, then was relatively quiet over the next three games, seemingly slipping back into his understudy role.
So his coach benched him.
“We thought we could get more out of him,” explained Guy, who has a 96-13 record at Muskegon, where he is assisted by Maurice Sain, Louis Murray and Josh Wall. “He had a rough week of practice, so he did not start against (Mona) Shores. We put him back out there, and he responded.”
After playing just 13 minutes and scoring eight points in the win over Shores, Golidy came out with renewed purpose against Chicago Whitney Young, an elite magnet public school which boasts such distinguished alumni as Michelle Obama and Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers. Golidy basically never left the floor, playing 30 of 32 minutes.
Muskegon trailed 23-21 at halftime, but it was a 3-pointer early in the third quarter which put the Big Reds ahead to stay. When defenders came out on him, Golidy drove his lean frame to the basket, while also scoring on offensive rebounds and putbacks. Golidy finished 10 of 15 from the floor (with two 3-pointers) and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.
“I feel like I can play all-around,” said Golidy, who helped the Big Reds to the Class A Regional Finals last year, where they were upset by Hudsonville. “Each game might be different. If we are getting out-rebounded, I’ll go down in the paint. If we need a 3, I’ll take that.”
The problem for Muskegon opponents is that Golidy is just one of four extremely versatile seniors in the Big Reds’ starting lineup who all measure between 6-4 and 6-6 and can play both inside and outside, thereby creating a matchup nightmare.
Markell Jackson (6-6) is the tallest and thinnest of the four, with a massive wingspan that has allowed him to grab a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game. Anthony Bethea III (6-5) is the strongest and most natural post player, and has a nice left-handed shooting stroke. Sam Cornett Jr. (6-5), who joined the Big Reds after formerly playing for his dad Sam at Grandville, supplies speed and ball-handling skills of a guard.
One of the biggest challenges for Guy is keeping those seniors engaged and challenged throughout the long season.
Muskegon, frankly, has not been tested much in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black since Guy came over from Muskegon Heights in 2012. Therefore, he has made it a point to seek out the best nonconference opponents he can find, often in early-season tournaments.
Already this winter, Muskegon has knocked off East Kentwood in the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Classic over Christmas break and Chicago Whitney Young at the Muskegon Showcase last weekend. Next up is a tussle with host school Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills in Saturday’s fourth and final game at the annual Floyd Mayweather Basketball Classic.
“We love these big games; that’s where we play our best,” said Golidy. “We’re trying to go 28-0, get a ring and get a state championship. Those are our goals.”
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at email@example.com with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon senior Jermayne Golidy looks to make a move during the Big Reds' 68-45 win over East Kentwood in the Meijer Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Classic on Dec. 28 at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer High School. (Middle) Muskegon coach Keith Guy and his bench look on during the Big Reds' win over East Kentwood. (Photos by Tim Reilly.)
GRAND RAPIDS – Bob Schichtel always pauses when he comes across the ancient black and white photo long enough to ponder whatever became of the two youngsters adorned in Grand Rapids Union basketball uniforms.
The posed shot shows two players facing each other in a local gymnasium in a photo apparently taken four days after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that launched the country into World War II. Only a handful of fans today would recognize the players' striped, ultra-short shots and simple sleeveless shirts with "Union" emblazed across the front as recognizable basketball uniforms. One holds a battered-looking basketball, while the other looks on. The two players, whose uniform numbers are "4" and "9," aren't really smiling, but still seem as close as any teammates, whether 81 years ago or today.
In fact, it's the look the youngsters share that intrigues Schichtel, whose thankless, pro bono job it is to identify the two players.
"Once you start," said Schichtel, a former longtime Grand Rapids basketball coach, "it's like looking down a deep rabbit hole."
Schichtel works as a volunteer for the Grand Rapids Public Library trying to identify mostly former Grand Rapids City League basketball players from approximately 1938 through the early fifties. The online photos are mostly from the Robinson Photo Studio Collection taken in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Herald newspaper. The library says the unique collection spans some 950 basketball negatives from the entire Robinson/Herald collection that totals well over 900,000 Grand Rapids photos.
While the work – which amounts to a ton of patience combined with a detective ability – can be exhausting, it's still what Schichtel describes as a labor of love. For example, there's the shot of the two still-unidentified Union players. Schichtel looks at the photo and can't help but wonder whatever happened to the kids. Were they exceptional athletes? Did they leave their marks on Grand Rapids history, whether it was in education, politics, business, industry, the arts or another field? He doesn't even know, as in many photos from this era, whether the two entered the military and thus even survived World War II.
Schichtel has searched everywhere for the answers, but has come up short. Too many times, in fact.
Which isn't to say he'll quit looking or chalk up his research as inconsequential. Schichtel said the foremost reason he spends hours on the project is that many of the athletes he identifies deserve the recognition for achievements far beyond basketball. In many cases former City League basketball, football, baseball, track and tennis athletes became the foundation on which Grand Rapids was built. If Schichtel can uncover an old photo which depicts these youngsters during their high school careers, so much the better, he said.
"It's important to recognize Grand Rapids sports history, and I don't know if we've given enough attention to their past," Schichtel said. "They are what got us here, and I'm a firm believer they need to be recognized for it."
Figuring out that history, however, ranges from, at the least, extremely time consuming to – in too many frustrating cases – virtually impossible. The City League was formed in the late 1920s and featured original schools Grand Rapids Central, Creston, South, Union, Ottawa Hills, Catholic Central and Davis Tech. The league was eventually folded into the Ottawa-Kent Conference in 2008.
"It was a long, evolving league," Schichtel said.
The identification tools available to Schichtel are actually more numerous than most would suspect. For starters, he's formed an impressive database of information by pouring through old City League yearbooks and programs, photos from other collections and microfilm of old newspapers, And then there's also the knowledge gathered by Schichtel himself, a 1968 Grand Rapids Catholic Central graduate. After playing in many old City League gymnasiums, Schichtel went on to compile a 389-197 record in 27 years as the Cougars girls basketball coach. He uses countless City League contacts as both a player and coach to identify athletes. In all, Schichtel taught in the Grand Rapids school system for 34 years.
He also uses the game itself to identify the photos. For instance, he can pinpoint some photos simply by the styles of the uniforms worn by players. He also figures out who is who by other clues such as what the players are doing in the photo. If a player is taking a set shot in the photo, it's likely pre-World War II. The beginnings of the jump shot, or what Schichtel calls "elevation while shooting," is probably mid-1940s. In addition, Schichtel can identify photos through pure basketball athleticism. Players can look a bit awkward in shots from the thirties as compared to players from the late 1940s who were beginning to play with a more obvious flare.
Put all the information together and Schichtel, who has uncovered more than two dozen personal connections to subjects in the photos, believes he has a reasonable shot at identifying them.
Since he signed on with the project, Schichtel figures he's identified about 10 percent of the photos he's viewed. Among the City League athletes he's found shots of Central's John Lavan, who was born in 1890 and played Major League Baseball during the Babe Ruth era and became a military hero who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery; Creston basketball player Roger Wilkins, an assistant United States attorney general during the Watergate hearings; Art Spoelstra of Godwin, a former NBA player and member of the Grand Rapids Hall of Fame; and Grand Rapids native Bill Cutler, who turned a chance post-World War II meeting with then-American League president Will Harridge into a position as commissioner of the Pacific Coast League,
Schichtel said gaining information through photos on the people who became the bedrock of Grand Rapids should be celebrated.
"I think it's a great approach for the community; they shouldn't be forgotten," Schichtel said. "Who else is going to do this? Why do I do it? I see a certain, for lack of a better word, a nobility. These kids played for the love of game, and they became the “Greatest Generation.” These kids did great things. It's not just, 'Well, there's No. 58,’ in a photo.
"You want to know more about them. That's the real intrigue for me."
Tim Gloege of the Grand Rapids Public Library said the collection of photos – and their identification – is continually growing. As more people log onto the library's website, more people want to either add to the collection or have information that leads to an identification. The library estimates about 1,200 photos are searched monthly. But as time grows, many of the original photos are disintegrating. The library is in a constant state of preservation, Gloege said.
"It's a massive project, and we're working to get as many photos online as possible," he said. "The numbers (of photos) we have are rising pretty significantly as people post them on social media.
"When you think of the past and now, you need to realize these are people, kids who used to play basketball and did other things. The work is hard and very time-intensive, but it brings a whole new dimension to history."
Schichtel said he's "kind of picked the low-hanging fruit" on many of the easy photos to identify. But the work will continue.
"Yes, it can be frustrating," he said. "There are limitations if you want it to be accurate. Sometimes you look at a photo and you know it's not going to happen, and you move on. But this a chance to learn about people who made Grand Rapids what it is. That's important to me."
PHOTOS (Top) Two Grand Rapids Union basketball players stand for a photo taken Dec. 12, 1941. (2) Longtime area coach Bob Schichtel researches hundreds of photos that are part of the Grand Rapids Public Library archive. (3) Schichtel has identified these 1941 Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills basketball players as James Horn (left) and Chuch Reynier. (4) Schichtel identified Grand Rapids South High’s “Fireman Five” of, from left, Fred Esslair, Lee Morrow, Jack Carroll, Bob Youngberg and Bruce Bigford. (Historic photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Library.)