On a recent evening at the home of Corunna boys basketball coach John “Rocky” Buscemi and his wife Chloe, the household is a whirlwind of activity.
Their daughter Charley, 5, darts in and out of the Buscemis’ home office to ask questions, mimic riding a horse, or whatever else comes to the mind of a little girl full of energy.
The only thing that would tell you that cancer had interrupted their lives for five months in the fall and winter is the hair that just now is starting to grow on Charley’s scalp.
Shock, then Support
Charley Buscemi is named after her grandfather, Charley Silm, who refereed high school basketball for 22 years in and around mid-Michigan when he wasn’t working on the farm. He often took his daughter, Chloe, to games he worked when she was a youngster.
“I remember packing up my little bag with snacks and watch my dad officiate,” Chloe Silm-Buscemi recalled. “Even though I didn’t play basketball, I grew up in the gym, just like Charley did.”
Her daughter has grown up watching her dad coach. She confidently refers to Corunna players as “her boys” and announces that she wants to coach with him some day.
Last summer, Charley was having trouble sleeping, and sleep apnea was diagnosed. Her doctor advised that removing Charley’s tonsils would likely eliminate the apnea.
The Buscemis agreed, and her tonsils were removed Sept. 25.
“We knew nothing else,” Chloe said, “but apparently the doctor noticed that one of the tonsils looked abnormal, or a little awkward, so he sent it off for testing.”
Chloe said she was told that any complications might require another operation to stop bleeding in the area, but she was stunned when the doctor’s office called back Oct. 1.
“We didn’t know the testing had been done,” Chloe said. “We got a call that said ‘the findings of the pathology are consistent with a diagnosis of lymphoma.’ And we were like, ‘Wait. What?’ It caught us completely off guard. (Charley) was racing in circles around our kitchen island and our dining room table, and I was like, no, you’ve got the wrong kid here. There’s no way this kid has cancer.”
“Initially, it was, this can’t be right,” Rocky said. “I was trying to read between the lines and find some wording that gave some idea that this is what they think. I tried to hang onto the idea that there’s got to be more tests, and those tests will show us that it’s not (cancer).”
The diagnosis was correct. Charley had diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s a fast-growing cancer that affects B-lymphocytes, a type of blood cell that helps fight infection.
While it is a fast-growing lymphoma, it’s considered potentially curable.
The cancerous cells found in Charley’s tonsil were sent to the Mayo Clinic and the National Institute of Health, and the diagnosis was confirmed.
Charley began chemotherapy at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing and celebrated her fifth birthday there.
Chloe, meanwhile, was also navigating the second trimester of her pregnancy.
“I spent most of my second trimester sleeping on a cot in the hospital while she got chemo treatments,” Chloe said.
“Her first round of chemo was horrible,” Rocky said. “She didn’t react to it well, and we were there 20 of 25 days.”
But once word got out, people in the Corunna school system, neighbors, fellow coaches and others reached out in the Buscemis’ time of need.
“The schools were so understanding,” Rocky said. “Once we found out, it was, go be with your family. Put in for your (Family and Medical Leave Act). Everyone was supportive from that end.”
The Corunna basketball players drove out to the Buscemi home and raked up its leaves. Some Corunna alumni got together to string up Christmas lights, the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s team sent her a giant stuffed panda, and many more showed support.
“We’re working on thank-yous now,” Chloe said. “My mom says people would know if you posted a thank-you (online), but I want to be able to send something out. Right now there’s something like 250 thank-yous.”
Strength & Sliver Linings
Charley had two rounds of chemotherapy and has been pronounced cancer-free. She has monthly meetings with her oncologist and quarterly CT scans scheduled for the next year.
“They’re watching her heart, because the chemo can affect that, so we meet with the cardiologist,” Chloe says.
“It’s a lot for a little person,” she adds as Charley flits back and forth between parents, announcing at one point she has cleaned her plate at dinner with no small amount of pride. “But for the most part, she’s just like this. She’s pretty happy, pretty easy-going, and takes it in stride. Sometimes I struggle with it more than she does. You feel totally helpless.”
For Rocky, the whole experience is full of silver linings, however hard-won.
“You’re always trying to find the silver linings,’ he said. “We had no idea she had cancer, but the silver lining was once we found out what it was, and it was confined to the tonsil, the blessing was it was almost a miracle we had her tonsils removed almost at the same time it was starting to develop. It wasn’t found anywhere else, so that’s a silver lining.
“Recently she’s been diagnosed as having celiac disease, and we’ve been given the OK to (shift) to a gluten-free diet. If she hadn’t had cancer, we might not have known until she was a teenager and had permanent damage. We’ve been so fortunate and blessed to find things out when we did.”
The Buscemis talk in tones of awe and appreciation for the caring and other gestures that have come their way.
“It’s incredibly humbling,” Rocky said. “It makes you want to do for someone else. I’m much more aware of people in need, and I hope to pay it forward. There are a lot of people you wouldn’t have anticipated reaching out who have reached out.”
The fear and stress of that time, he said, are often near, even with Charley in the clear.
“I wanted to be strong for Chloe and my family and be that rock that could be leaned on,” he said. “But man, oh man, there are still mornings when I drive to school and tear up. It’s nice to have other guys who understand that or have been through it. I’d be the rock here (at home) and then I’d be emotional with my friends in the coaching fraternity.”
Charley and 3-year-old brother Sam were mainstays at practice last year, playing quietly in a corner of the gym while the team practiced. Charley was at most every game, and Rocky always made a point of looking for her and her mother in the stands.
That hasn’t been the case this year, as Charley’s immune system has been weakened by the chemo and has kept her at home this season, watching the Cavaliers play on her mother’s laptop.
There’s been another change, too.
“I’ve adopted a one-day-at-a-time, appreciate-every-moment approach,” Rocky said. “A year ago in 9-degree weather, I might have been trying to find reasons not to go outside. Now if Charley wants to go sledding, we’re going sledding!”
He laughs as he says that, a man who has a new appreciation of things.
His players have been honoring her, too, wearing black T-shirts at warmups with a large unicorn on the front with the hashtag #Charleytough and the Corunna logo on a basketball.
As for Charley, she will go back to kindergarten next year, but at the moment, she’s anxiously awaiting the birth of her brother or sister March 22.
She already has informed her parents that her new sibling will be a girl, named Maggie, and wants the newborn to sleep in her room.
“She says, ‘Mommy, I’ll feed the baby,’” Chloe said, chuckling. “I told Rocky we don’t have to worry about parenting a third baby. Charley’s got it.”
Besides another new brother or sister, if all goes well, Charley will be back on the sideline with her dad and her basketball team next winter.
Rocky says his family’s experience, among other things, showed him how strong the ties are in the coaching community.
“It was nice to see the game be the bridge that allowed me to reach out and depend on people a little bit,” he said “Without it, you don’t have those relationships. Things like this make you realize how special those things really are. If you don’t experience it, you don’t get to understand people’s true motivations.
“It was humbling,” he added. “It was scary at times, but all in all it was a little bit of everything that helped us to be able to get through this.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Charley Buscemi and her dad Rocky enjoy a fun moment at home. (2) From left: Charley, Rocky, Chloe and Sam Buscemi. (3) Corunna players wear #Charleytough T-shirts as warm-ups for their games. They prominently feature Charley’s favorite animal, a unicorn. (4) Charley’s immune system isn’t robust enough for her to attend games in person, but she never misses a chance to watch “her boys” play on her mom’s laptop. (Photos courtesy of the Buscemi family.)
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.