Inspired by Dad, Southland Sons Give Shores Hoops 2nd-Generation Boost

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 3, 2021

Drew and Jake Southland now have to help their struggling father onto the basketball court at Mona Shores.

But they know it wasn’t too long ago that Scot Southland was carrying the load for the Sailors’ basketball program.

“People tell me all the time about how good he was,” Drew Southland said of his father, the all-time leading scorer in Mona Shores basketball history with 1,113 career points, who is now battling an even tougher opponent in multiple sclerosis.

“I try to live up to it. He is such an inspiration, with his positive attitude. I try not to complain about anything in my life, that’s for sure.”

Drew, a 6-foot-1 senior, and his team are having a difficult season so far, losing eight in a row before bolting out to a 38-6 halftime lead Tuesday and then cruising to a 64-41 win over visiting Grand Rapids Union. Drew scored a game-high 20 points for the Sailors (2-8).

Jake, a sophomore who is the same height as his brother at 6-1, is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Shores junior varsity, which evened its record at 5-5 on Tuesday, also with a win over GR Union. He scored a season-high 35 points in a loss against Whitehall on Feb. 20.

Win or lose, the Southland boys are always there for their dad, who turned 50 in January. Scot made first-team all-conference in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red as both a junior and senior, graduating in 1989. He was also a two-time Muskegon Chronicle All-Area selection and averaged better than 20 points per game his senior year.

The first signs of his MS showed up during college, but the symptoms of the progressive nerve disease have become more pronounced in recent years, preventing him from working and even walking on his own. Drew and Jake are always there to help him in and out of his wheelchair and into the family’s van.

“I don’t mind it one bit,” said Jake. “I know he would be taking care of me if it was the other way around. My dad is so good to me and so supportive in everything, so helping him around is really the least I can do.”

Family affair

The Southland family is a fixture at all of Mona Shores’ home games.

Scot is always there at the end of the bleachers on the baseline, with his high school sweetheart and wife, Steffanie, close by his side. Other regulars, when tickets are available with COVID-19 restrictions, are his daughter Mason, his mother Joanne Southland and his mother-in-law Mary Golin.

Mona Shores boys basketball 2Joanne has been going to games at Mona Shores for years as her three boys – Ted, Kip and Scot – worked their way through the system. Kip was a standout basketball player, but his best sport was baseball, as he went on to start at shortstop for Central Michigan University during the mid-1980s and later played in the San Francisco Giants farm system.

Scot started some varsity football games at quarterback, but of the three Southland boys, he was the one who left the biggest mark on the hardcourt.

He was a three-year varsity starter at a time when sophomores rarely started on the varsity, especially at a Class A school. As a junior, he led the Sailors to 13 wins and a rare District championship. As a senior, he became the first Mona Shores basketball player to score 1,000 points – a milestone that the humble, quiet standout wasn’t even cognizant of until after the fact.

“He is out there to set the best example he can,” then-Mona Shores coach John Adams told The Muskegon Chronicle in 1989 about Scot, his senior captain. “He is the All-American, apple pie kid. He’s the perfect role model for the program.”

The strong athletic genes run deep in the family, tracing back to Scot’s maternal grandfather Pete Petroskey, a welterweight boxer who won more than 180 professional fights. Petroskey went on to train some of the best boxers to ever come out of Muskegon, including Kenny Lane and Phil Baldwin, and was inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

Scot’s athletic achievements continued after high school, as he led the Muskegon Community College basketball team to a runner-up finish at the junior college national tournament in 1990. He later walked on to the University of Arizona football team and made the roster as a backup quarterback.

Scot did some coaching when his kids were younger, but his disease has prevented him from coaching in recent years. He is now the No. 1 fan and encourager for Drew and Jake, as well as Mason, who is having a good year for the Mona Shores eighth-grade girls basketball team.

“The Southland family is very special to Mona Shores basketball,” explained Mona Shores varsity coach Brad Kurth, who missed two games after the death of his mother but returned to guide the Sailors to victory Tuesday night. “Drew and Jake are everything that you can ask for as a coach. They just compete. They go out and give you everything that they have.”

Different perspective

The Mona Shores athletic program has changed drastically since the late 1980s when Scot Southland was leading the Sailors in football and basketball.

Back then, the Sailors struggled to win any games on the football field, but were highly competitive with the likes of Muskegon and Grand Haven in basketball. Now, the Sailors rarely lose a football game and basketball has been looking up at those aforementioned programs over the past 10 years.

Mona Shores boys basketball 3Perhaps no single player has been more affected by the unsettled basketball program as Drew, who has had a different varsity head coach in each of his four years at the high school – as the program has had six head coaches over the past eight years.

“It’s been hard with the different coaches, but I hate making excuses,” said Drew, one of just four seniors on the Shores roster. “We can play much better than we have.”

Through it all, Drew has worked tirelessly to improve his game, waking up early to come in and shoot almost every morning, and still hopes to play college basketball.

Jake, who plays wide receiver and defensive back for the Shores football team and was moved up to the varsity for the team’s recent Division 2 championship run, hopes to be part of a basketball resurgence at Shores over the next two years.

The Sailors have plenty of height and youth on their front line in juniors Donovan Russell (6-8) and Ethan Krueger (6-6) and sophomore Parker Swartz (6-4). With Jake and many other talented players set to move up to the varsity full-time next year, he is hoping to engineer a basketball breakthrough – much like his father did during his junior year of high school.

Jake turned some heads when he got moved up to the varsity for Saturday’s game against Wyoming. In less than two minutes of action, he scored five points and grabbed two rebounds.

“Drew and Jake just love to be out on the basketball court,” said Mona Shores junior varsity coach Tyler VanBergen. “The love that their dad has for the game flows through the whole family.”

Love for the game of basketball, along with humility and a strong work ethic, are not the only gifts Scot has given to his children.

Watching their father handle his illness with grace and a positive attitude – while never wallowing in self-pity or taking his frustrations out on them – has given all three of them a perspective on life which most kids their age simply don’t have.

“I’ve learned from watching him that life isn’t fair,” Jake said. “I mean, I would love to be able to play 1-on-1 against him, but instead we have to do other things. We watch a lot of movies together and talk about them. Doing that with him has really given me a passion for movies, and I’d love to work in film or directing someday.”

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 Mona Shores’ Drew Southland works to get up a shot during a game against Muskegon last season. (Middle) Scot Southland was a standout for Mona Shores before graduating in 1989. (Below) Scot, as a member of the Sailors, and younger son Jake who is playing this season on junior varsity. (Top photo courtesy of Local Sports Journal; additional photos courtesy of Southland family.)

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

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

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 [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.)