Haslett Cancer Games Touch Close to Home

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

February 18, 2020

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.)

St. Clair County Celebrates 1st Mr. Basketball Winner, PHN's Jamison

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 29, 2023

The Jamison family has spent plenty of time over the years driving long distances as Tyler chased his basketball dreams.

Bay & ThumbAfter the Port Huron Northern senior achieved one of the biggest ones, they had to put some more mileage on the family vehicle.

As the newly-crowned Mr. Basketball, Jamison was invited to a special presentation during the Boys Basketball Finals this past Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center. It was an invitation Tyler and his family didn’t hesitate to accept, and the drive from Port Huron to East Lansing was nothing.

But it did cause a pretty big change to some other travel plans.

Tyler and his family were scheduled to fly to Florida on Friday for spring break. That flight had to be canceled, though, and instead, the family made the drive down later.

“There were some jokes about just leaving me and letting me find my own way down there,” Jamison said.

While they joke, there’s nowhere the Jamisons would have rather been Saturday than at the Breslin. As a true basketball family – Tyler’s dad Brian is also the coach at Northern, and his brother Alex was a standout freshman for the Huskies – they have a great appreciation for the Mr. Basketball Award and its significance.

“I had said a while ago, ‘Hey, if we’re still in the tournament, we’ll be playing Friday,” Brian Jamison said. “I even mentioned that it would be a miracle, but Tyler could win Mr. Basketball. Now we’re eating plane tickets and driving down to Florida. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re not missing this.”

Jamison was the overwhelming winner of the award, which is named after Hal Schram and given out by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. He received 3,058 points in the vote to become its 43rd winner. Curtis Williams of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (2,004 points), Kaden Brown of Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1,918), Sonny Wilson of Detroit U-D Jesuit (1,883) and Ryan Hurst of North Farmington (1,811) were the other finalists.

“It was just insane,” Tyler Jamison said. “I can’t even really put into words how I felt – it was just a dream come true, a culmination of all the hard work that’s been put in over the years. My mom was in the other room (when his dad called to tell him), and I just hugged her and we were kind of screaming. The dog was getting riled up. It was fun. There were a few tears shed.”

Jamison throws down a dunk.Jamison, who signed with Fairleigh Dickinson in December, finished the season averaging 26.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game. He was named the Macomb Area Conference White division MVP after leading Northern to the league title and a 20-4 overall record.

Even with all that, winning the most prestigious individual basketball award in the state didn’t seem like a reality.

“We purposely try to play a tough schedule, and we purposely got into some showcases because we wanted people to see, not only him play, but us play,” Brian Jamison said. “We had beaten Skyline and Hamtramck, and went up to Croswell-Lexington and won up there, and I thought, ‘OK, now he’s done it against some of the better teams.’ Up to that point, when we played those tougher teams, he’s always showed out well, but it’s different when you’re not winning them. But at that point, I thought he had a chance. Really, I was just hoping he would get on the list. To win it was kind of above and beyond what I had hoped for.”

On the court, Tyler’s impact on the program was pretty obvious and immediate.

He’s the program’s all-time leading scorer – a record he set as a junior – with 1,763 career points. He also holds Northern records for career rebounds (825), points in a game (59), rebounds in a game (28), career field goals made (638) and career free throws made (439). As a junior, he was named MAC Blue MVP.

Northern did not lose a league game in either of the past two seasons.

But Northern is likely to see future success because of Tyler’s non-statistical impact.

Leading a young team, including a group of star freshmen – his brother Alex, Cam Harju and Amir Morelan – was a major part of Tyler’s job this season.

Northern’s home games were must-see events this winter, as the Huskies were one of Division 1’s top teams, and Tyler was providing nightly highlights and must-see performances. Even in his final game, a loss against Macomb Dakota in the District Final, Jamison treated the standing-room crowd with a 46-point performance and a halfcourt shot at the third-quarter buzzer in a valiant effort.

“That’s the big thing, you want the students and the school community to support you, and they did an amazing job,” Tyler Jamison said. “We also had people from the community that wanted to support us and watch us play. Port Huron High had a really good season, too, and I think both schools in the city had that public support. That’s huge. It makes you feel like you’re playing for more than yourself.”

Among those crowds were the next generation of Huskies, some of whom were coached by Tyler in youth basketball. As he’s the first Mr. Basketball winner from St. Clair County, those kids now have a hometown example of someone who has reached the highest heights.

“I think interest gets sparked when the little kids come to the gym, like, ‘Hey, I want to do that,’” Brian Jamison said. “They want to play for Northern or (Port Huron) High. And with him winning Mr. Basketball, I think it gives kids a little bit of ‘Hey, why not me?’ I do think it helps motivate younger people. We’ve had great crowds at our games. I think the area is excited about basketball. It really is a great basketball area.”

With all of that excitement surrounding him, Tyler had one more challenge after the season – keeping the secret that he had won. He found out six days before the award was announced.

“It was terrible – especially when it’s something of that magnitude,” he said. “You want to tell everyone. You want to tell your friends and family. It was hard to be like, ‘No, I don’t know.’”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at paulc[email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Tyler Jamison, second from left, with his parents and brother, stands with his newly-received Mr. Basketball Award trophy during the ceremony at the Detroit Free Press. (Middle) Jamison throws down a dunk. (Photos courtesy of the Jamison family.)