By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
For many years, basketball was a letdown at Muskegon High School.
The Big Reds have been known for football ever since their first victory in 1895, racking up 806 more wins since then (most in the state), along with eight MHSAA championships – including recent titles in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
But as the snow slowly blanketed Hackley Stadium’s hallowed turf on an annual basis, Muskegon was never consistently able to transfer the energy, focus and success from the gridiron to the hardwood of Redmond-Potter Gymnasium.
That all changed in 2012, when nearby Muskegon Heights went through a period of upheaval, before eventually reconstituting itself as Muskegon Heights Public School Academy. During that time of uncertainty about the school’s athletic future, boys basketball coach Keith Guy made the move down Sanford Street to Muskegon High, and suddenly football was no longer the only show in town.
“I’ve always thought that there are enough great athletes and enough potential at city schools that they could be great in both football and basketball,” said Guy, who starts his fourth season as Muskegon’s basketball coach Friday night against visiting Rockford.
“I know we won’t ever be what the football program is here at Muskegon, but I feel like we now have a little identity of our own.”
That’s an understatement.
In the past two years, the Muskegon boys basketball program has won two Ottawa-Kent Conference Black titles, two Class A Districts, two Regionals, one MHSAA Finals title in an undefeated 2014 season, 51 of 53 games overall and produced back-to-back Mr. Basketball winners with DeShaun Thrower in 2014 and Deyonta Davis last year.
Thrower, as his name suggests, was a star quarterback for Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield in the fall and the star point guard for Guy in the winter. Thrower is now a sophomore guard for Stony Brook, a Division I school in New York which narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA Tournament last year.
Guy’s handling of Thrower’s situation, essentially staying out of the way while football season was still going on, set the tone for Big Reds football and basketball programs that continue to encourage each other and push each other higher. While basketball has elevated itself among the state’s elite programs, Muskegon football has kept pace, advancing to MHSAA championship games three straight years in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Guy, 40, a former standout point guard at Muskegon Heights, Muskegon Community College and Ferris State University, explained that situation after basketball practice on Nov. 30, after quickly changing from his sweat suit into formal attire to help run that night’s end-of-year football banquet as the athletic director.
“When one succeeds, all of us succeed,” said Guy, whose son, Christian Martinez, was the star quarterback of Muskegon Catholic Central’s Division 8 football championship team this fall. “Shane has gone and filmed games for me on the east side of the state before, and he knows that he’s got my support during football season.”
While this year’s Muskegon basketball team may lack the star power of the past two years, it hopes to make up for it with depth. At a recent practice, it was difficult to decipher the starting five from the reserves.
“Last year, we ran a lot more set plays with DD (Davis) in there,” said Michael Littlejohn, a 5-11 senior guard who is the lone returning starter off last year’s team, which was stopped a game short of returning to the Breslin Center by Lansing Everett in the Class A Quarterfinals. “This year, it’s going to be more running, more showtime.”
Littlejohn will start at point guard and will be joined in the backcourt by smooth-shooting senior Linwood Lee and defensive stopper Jacarius Scott. The leaders up front are versatile juniors Jermayne Golidy (6-3) and Anthony Bethea (6-5), along with senior Desi Stephens (6-4).
The Big Reds also will get a boost of muscle and toughness from a couple of college football prospects in senior Terrion Hill-McKay and junior Jacorey Sullivan.
Guy also has three sophomores – Chris Murry, Willie Shanks Jr. and Antwan Reed – on the varsity roster, along with freshman DeAndre Carter. Reed (6-7, 286 pounds), considered one of the nation’s top sophomore offensive tackles, is improving his conditioning and footwork for football and could develop into a basketball force as well.
Muskegon’s playing rotation and style of play will take shape during back-to-back blockbuster tournaments over holiday break, when Muskegon will be the focus of prep basketball interest statewide – and give Guy an indication of whether this year’s group has the makings of another 20-plus win team.
“I won’t ever shy away from playing the best,” said Guy, who is assisted on the varsity level by his brother and former Muskegon Heights teammate, Maurice Sain, along with Louis Murray and Josh Wall. “I would rather find out the truth about my players in December and January than in March.”
The truth will start to be told Dec. 29 and Dec. 30, when Muskegon takes on Detroit Consortium and East Kentwood on back-to-back nights at the Meijer Hall of Fame Classic at Reeths-Puffer High School, a tournament which also features Lansing Sexton and Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills.
The challenge then gets ratcheted up later that same week, when Illinois power Chicago Whitney Young comes to Redmond-Potter on Jan. 2 for the featured event in the three-game Muskegon Basketball Showcase.
“Our goal at Muskegon now is to win a state championship in football and basketball every year – it doesn’t always happen, obviously, but that’s always our goal,” explained Hill-McKay, who is a rare Class A three-sport athlete, playing baseball as well. “We’re not going to lower our expectations just because we don’t have a 7-footer.”
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 protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon boys basketball coach Keith Guy, right, confers with Jordan Waire during the Class A Semifinal in 2014. (Middle) Guy works to get the attention of his players during the championship game win that season.
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.