Haslett Cancer Games Touch Close to Home

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

February 18, 2020

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

By pure coincidence, it happened to be Valentine's Day.

However, that date on the calendar served as the perfect backdrop when two schools and two officiating crews paired up for a "Coaches for Cancer" girls and boys basketball doubleheader Friday at Haslett High School.

Adding to the poignancy of this particular Feb. 14 were the still-raw emotions for the host school, which lost its longtime principal, Bart Wegenke, to pancreatic cancer a month earlier.

"This is our second year participating in a Coaches vs. Cancer event at a basketball game," said Haslett athletic director Darin Ferguson. "The event was actually planned before Bart’s passing." 

Wegenke, 53, was widely recognized in educational circles for his excellence as an administrator, and also was an accomplished basketball official at the high school and collegiate levels, ascending to NCAA Division I status.

During a recent booster club meeting, there was discussion of the event, scheduled for the home doubleheader versus local rival Fowlerville. In attendance was Mike Conlin, whose son Jace is a member of the Haslett golf team. Conlin also assigns basketball officials for the Capital Area Activities Conference and is owner of Correct Call Officiating Outfitters, provider of licensed MHSAA officials apparel.

"They were displaying purple t-shirts that the teams would be wearing that night, and I thought, 'Why not have the officials join in that night?'" Conlin said. "Because of the situation with Bart and his positive influence and the respect given him by players, coaches and officials alike, we had patches created in his memory. So it seemed fitting to outfit the officials for this night with special shirts bearing Bart’s name."

Conlin and partner Joe DeRosa at Smitty Apparel had designed the commemorative patches for collegiate-style shirts that were worn in the Big Ten during a weekend shortly after Wegenke's passing. The shirts differ in style from MHSAA shirts; the area on the shoulder of the collegiate shirt provides greater visibility for the patch.

"I am not an advocate for high school officials wearing college shirts; that's not me," Conlin said. "But, in this case, we got to talking and thought the ragland sleeve would allow for a more prominent display. And, we wanted the shirts to be purple and white so that our crews that night could join in the cause."

Conlin contacted the MHSAA, and permission for the alternate gear – which also would include purple whistles – was granted. Following the games that night, Conlin collected the commemorative shirts to have them dry-cleaned. They were to be given to Bart's brother Brett, who will distribute them to family members.

There was another twist. When Conlin noticed who had been assigned – months before – to officiate the games that night, he decided that one more design would be needed.

Working the girls game that night were Deb Traxinger, Rob Stanaway and Dennis Bickerstaff. The boys crew was Scott Barnes, Mike Maisner and Justin Terry. It was Terry's name that triggered additional response.

Terry lost his wife, Diana, last May 25 after a courageous fight with cancer.

"When I saw Justin as one of the officials for that night, it just made all the sense in the world to craft a special shirt for him with Diana's name on it since this hits so close to home," Conlin said. "We wanted something for him to take with him."

And Terry did just that, not only following the game, but for the game.

"I'm wearing that shirt for the game," Terry said the morning of the event. "Here it is, Valentine's Day, people exchanging cards, flowers, candy, and for the first time, I don't have that. But I'll be thinking about my honey when I take the floor, and she’ll be with me. My whole family will be there."

And he said he would be thinking of countless others enduring the same struggles his family experienced.

"My heart goes out to the Wegenke family. I know first-hand what it's like to lose the love of your life," Terry said. "I hope for this night to serve as a reminder that people need to be educated about cancer; about regular checkups and warning signs. Whether it's a spouse, child, uncle, aunt, these things creep into our lives and cause us to pause. Every one of us will be subjected to something similar someday. It's important to love hard and live life."

On a date signifying heart, there was plenty of adoration to go around.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mid-Michigan officials wear purple shirts for cancer awareness during Friday’s basketball games at Haslett. From left: Justin Terry, Scott Barnes, Mike Maisner, assigner Mike Conlin, Rob Stanaway, Dennis Bickerstaff and Deb Traxinger. (Middle) Terry wore this shirt honoring his late wife Diana, who died last May after a fight with cancer. (Photos courtesy of Mike Conlin.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)