Coaching Couple Guide Rising Cardinals

By Dennis Chase
Special for

January 21, 2016

JOHANNESBURG – It's Thursday – game day in the Huff household.

Nothing unusual about that. Most winter days are game days for Heather and Troy Huff, the head varsity basketball coaches at Johannesburg-Lewiston High School.

"Monday is usually the only night we eat at home as a family," said Heather, who is in her 15th season as the girls coach.

This week's schedule is as hectic as ever – the boys hosted Bellaire on Tuesday, the girls entertained Onaway on Wednesday, the boys travel to Pellston tonight and the girls head to Mancelona on Friday.

On Saturday, the Huffs will be in Houghton Lake to watch their 12-year-old son Sheldon play.

Sunday? It's back to practice.

"We get a lot of basketball this time of year," said Troy, now in his fourth season as boys coach.

Winning basketball, too. Propelled by a strong senior class, the Cardinals are off to a combined 14-2 start – the boys are 6-1 and the girls 8-1.

The girls record is not a surprise. The Cardinals are averaging 16 wins a season under Heather Huff, who is 234-89 since she took over from her mentor, Rick Guild, who won 443 varsity games during his Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame career.

The boys, though, are reaching for new heights. Troy Huff inherited a struggling program when he took over in 2012. The Cardinals finished with 10 victories that first season, and then jumped to 16 wins a year ago.

"It's amazing how far the team has come in four years," Troy said. "We had five coaches in 10 years (previously). You can't build a program like that."

Coaching stability has been a key to success at Johannesburg-Lewiston. The football program, which has won 61 percent of its games since starting the sport in 1969, has had just three head coaches since 1983. Girls basketball has had two since 1975. Kevin Kennedy will be starting his 30th season in the spring with girls track & field, a program he's led to seven league and six Regional titles. Guild is gearing up for his 41st season as baseball coach for the Cardinals, who have won 15 Districts and three Regionals in that span.

"We've been able to keep that continuity (in those programs), and that's huge," athletic director and football coach Joe Smokevitch said. "Year after year after year, the kids know the expectations."

The Huffs set the bar high in basketball.

"Troy and I were raised to work hard and set high expectations for ourselves," said Heather, who teaches math and health at the middle school. "We (ask) that from the kids that we coach, too. We hold them to a high level of accountability. I think when you do that, you get out of them what you expect out of them."

Troy agrees.

"I don't accept that 'I can't do it' type attitude," he said. "You have to push yourself to that next level."

On the court, the results are apparent.

The girls, led by four-year veterans Madison Showerman and Kelsey Cherwinski, are in contention for another Ski Valley Conference crown. The 5-foot-11 Showerman is averaging 25.3 points, 11 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. She just went over the 1,000-career point mark. The 5-5 Cherwinski is averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 steals and 4.4 assists. The Cardinals also are getting strong play from two other seniors, Kate Heidman and Sarah Korff.

As in the past, Johannesburg-Lewiston likes to pressure the ball on defense, creating scoring opportunities off turnovers. And when the Cardinals clear a defensive rebound off the glass, they like to get out in transition.

If the fast break is not there, the Cardinals can turn to an improved halfcourt offense, Heather Huff said, that features Showerman's developing skills inside.

Another four-year varsity veteran, Logan Huff – Heather and Troy's middle son – is a key cog on the boys team. The 5-11 point guard, who carries a 3.99 grade-point average, also is averaging 18 points a game and surpassed the career 1,000-point mark earlier in the season. Troy's nephew, Brandon Huff, is a 6-3 forward who averages better than 15 points per contest. Seniors Nathan Fox, Brent Carpenter and Ori Kierczynski add to the attack. The 6-7 Carpenter, who is averaging close to 10 points, suffered a bone bruise four games into the season, so Tyson Claeys, a 6-3 freshman, stepped up, and is averaging nearly a double-double.

Troy Huff said that balance is the strength of his team.

"We have (multiple) guys that can score," he said. "It's not unusual to have three to four guys in double figures."

The Cardinals are pursuing their first boys league title since 1981. But it just got more challenging. They suffered their first loss Tuesday to Bellaire. The girls lost to Bellaire last week.

“That will be a great motivator for us,” Heather said.

Now, it will be for the boys, too.

For the Huffs, coaching at Johannesburg-Lewiston completes a circle. It’s where they went to school, where their sports journeys began.

Heather was a standout player under Guild, scoring 1,216 points during her career. She played at Alma College for a couple seasons before turning to coaching, starting at the middle school level in Alma, Breckenridge and Gaylord before returning home. She spent six years as an assistant and junior varsity coach before succeeding Guild. Her 2009 team reached the Class D MHSAA Semifinals.

Troy was a captain on the football and baseball teams in high school, but did not play basketball.

"That's one of my regrets," he said.

Troy Huff went on to spend 25 years in law enforcement, retiring from the Gaylord Police Department in 2013.

With three sons active in sports, he took on a second job during those years, coaching youth sports.

“It was in my blood,” he said.

Huff was still working in the police department when he accepted the boys varsity basketball job. Not long after, he agreed to be an assistant to Guild in baseball.

Smokevitch said Huff's personality is what stood out when he took over the basketball program.

"He's a take-charge guy," said Smokevitch. "He has that no non-sense (attitude) about him, similar to the way I coach (football)."

Huff also knew the kids. He coached most of them in youth sports.

Huff has had the joy of coaching two sons on varsity – Coalton and Logan. Sheldon, the team manager, is coming up through the ranks.

The Huffs agree the best part of their jobs is simply working with their players and “helping them be the best they can be.”

"Just watching each player develop, watching them work together as a team, and having some influence on that, is rewarding," said Heather.

That's not lost on Smokevitch. He’s seen Heather teach her craft on the court for all 15 years as head coach.

"She's constantly working with the kids, constantly teaching," he said. "I read a quote from John Wooden the other day. He said, 'It's not coaching, it's teaching.' That's what Heather does."

Smokevitch said this is a special time at the school. Teams are doing well across the board.

"We have great kids," he said.

Not just in talent, but character, he added.

Take Logan Huff, Brandon Huff and Fox, for example. They were three-year starters for Smokevitch n football. The Cardinals finished 9-2 in the fall, losing by six and eight points to St. Ignace, an eventual Division 8 semifinalist.

Brandon was the pass-run threat at quarterback, Logan was a 1,000-yard rusher and became the school's all-time leading tackler, while Fox was an all-state punter.

They visited Finlandia University in Hancock late last week and then returned home in time to attend a birthday party for Smokevitch's 7-year-old son, Joey.

"He invited those three to come to his bowling party," said Smokevitch. "They all showed up, bowled, brought presents, had pizza and cake, and hung out with a bunch of 7-year-olds. That shows you what kind of kids they are, the upbringings they've had.

"It's that small-town school atmosphere. Our school is one building, K through 12. The younger kids see the (high school) kids all the time. My son idolizes those kids, and they accept him right back."

In another month or so, those three boys, along with their teammates, would like to be accepting a league championship basketball trophy. The girls would like to be celebrating a title, too.

But there are still a lot of game days ahead. Just ask the Huffs.

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. 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: Heather Huff, left, and husband Troy coach the girls and boys varsity basketball teams, respectively, at Johannesburg-Lewiston. (Photos courtesy of Brandon Folsom/Gaylord Herald Times.)

Clarkston's Loyer Leaves All-Time Legacy with 25 Record Book Listings

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 22, 2023

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.

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.