Muxlow Family Has New All-Time Leading Scorer; Brown City May Soon As Well

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 8, 2023

When Gaden Muxlow talked to his sister Kendal after passing her career point total, he received a congratulatory response – with a caveat.

Bay & Thumb“She gave me the speech about how she had to miss so many games because of her ACL injuries,” Gaden said with a laugh.

Passing a family member in the Muxlow house – regardless of how many games that family member had to miss – is quite an accomplishment, as the family is all over the Brown City basketball record books. Kendal is the all-time leading scorer in the girls program, with 1,419 points. Mom, Shari, isn’t far behind at 1,363, and dad, Doug, had 1,327.

Gaden sits at 1,481, atop his family ranks and 22 behind the school’s all-time leading scorer Justin McPhail.

With the postseason starting tonight for Brown City, it’s not a guarantee Muxlow will catch McPhail – but it’s a pretty comfortable expectation.

He’s scored at least 22 points in 18 of the Green Devils’ 22 games this season, averaging 27.6 points per game on his way to a school-record 607. The person he had to pass to break that record? Dad.

“Ever since I was a kid, basketball has always been a big focus in our family,” Gaden Muxlow said. “I remember watching my sister in AAU tournaments as a kid, it’s always on the TV. Since I was a kid, I always had goals to beat my siblings. It always gave me a little bit of fire, and I started getting a little more into the season, and as I got closer, we started talking about it a little more in my family. (Passing Kendal) actually felt really good, because my sister was pretty talented, and I grew up watching her play.”

It’s not just family records that Muxlow has been breaking, as he and his teammates enjoyed a 21-1 regular season, which included a Greater Thumb Conference East title.

Muxlow scored a school-record 45 points in a game against Ubly. He has hit 187 of his 222 free throws, smashing the previous mark of 127. He’s also made 62 3-pointers on the season, 13 behind the school record, but not out of reach if the Green Devils make a run.

The Muxlows celebrate Gaden’s signing with Rochester College. “He’s a great player,” Brown City coach Bob Hatten said. “He elevates the players around him. He does a good job of staying unselfish, but he also knows in key moments when to take over.”

Muxlow has signed to play at Rochester University, making him the fourth player in his family who will play college basketball.

Kendal is currently at Purdue University-Fort Wayne, Shari played at Dayton and Doug played at Cornerstone.

Gaden’s older brother, Caleb, played football at Concordia.

“I guess it wasn’t as much pressure as it was a lot of people were telling me they were expecting big things from me, and they were excited to watch me play,” Gaden said. “I guess it was a little bit of pressure, and a bit of excitement, as well. I wanted to do as well as I could to live up to the hype or the name, or whatever.”

He’s certainly done that. And when opposing teams were throwing every exotic defense they could think of at him this season, it wasn’t because of his name. It was because of his track record.

“Early in the season, we saw everything,” Hatten said. “Box and one, triangle and two where both guys were on Gaden. We saw teams full court deny him with two guys. We trailed in the second half in seven of our first nine games, and we had to find a way to win some close ones. It was probably midseason when a lot of our guys started falling more in line with their roles and started being more comfortable.”

Thanks to those players fulfilling their roles, and playing well around Muxlow, the Green Devils have thrived, and teams can be punished for focusing too much attention on him.

Fellow senior captains Clint Ford and Callen Hagey have excelled in leadership roles, while also providing some scoring cover for Muxlow. Senior Brandon Kohler has been a threat from the outside, keeping teams honest.

As a team, the Green Devils are holding the opposition to just 39.3 points per game. They’re also executing in areas that win big games, shooting 72.5 percent from the free throw line and turning the ball over fewer than 10 times per game.

The cohesiveness and success make sense when you realize most of these players have been playing with one another since elementary school.

“I think that’s probably the biggest piece to our success; we never have to worry about any drama,” Muxlow said. “Everybody gets along, everybody’s goal is the same thing – just to win. Everybody is buying into their roles. I don’t really feel like I’m doing this in a ball hog way, it’s just a piece to the puzzle that we’ve built along the way. Everybody bought into their role, and everybody knows what they’re doing. I know my role is to put the ball in the bucket, and I do whatever I can to help us win.

“It feels more special that it’s helping and leading to wins.”

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) Brown City’s Gaden Muxlow, right, brings the ball upcourt during a win over Burton Atherton this season. (Middle) The Muxlows celebrate Gaden’s signing with Rochester University. (Photos courtesy of the Muxlow family.)

Howardsville Christian Striving to Transfer Fall Successes to Basketball Court

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

November 28, 2023

HOWARDSVILLE - There is a sign that hangs inside Howardsville Christian School's tiny gymnasium that accurately depicts the mission for the Eagles during the 2023-24 boys basketball season.

Southwest CorridorIt reads "In Jesus' name we play."

Ken Sparks and the eight players on his varsity basketball roster have challenged themselves to help one another understand what it means to give their season to  God.

"My goal is to help these boys find gratitude in playing for a greater power than themselves," said Sparks, a varsity standout himself at Howardsville from 1996-2000, member of the 1,000-point club and an honorable mention all-stater his senior year.

Nestled on the border between St. Joseph and Cass counties along Bent Road, Howardsville Christian, a Division 4 school for its sports with fewer than 80 students, has enjoyed a rich tradition of spiritual learning both in the classroom and on the court and playing fields.

The contribution of many talented athletes from several families has been instrumental in Howardsville's athletic success for years, especially this school year.

Howardsville won District titles this fall in boys soccer and girls volleyball. Now the Eagles hope to carry that momentum over to the basketball court.

With four starters returning, Sparks is looking for Howardsville’s boys team to battle for supremacy in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph League and improve on a 13-10 record from last season. The Eagles finished 7-7 in the league last winter and endured a disappointing District Semifinal loss to Marcellus. Howardsville Christian had won its District the season in 2021.

"We competed well with all the teams on our schedule and lost to some teams we shouldn't have," Sparks said. "There are eight teams in our conference, and this season we need to beat Benton Harbor Countryside to be the top team. It's been a good league for us."

Senior twin brothers Colin and Dylan Muldoon return for Howardsville, along with junior cousin Kaden Sparks, son of the head coach, and junior John Paul Rose.

The Muldoon brothers both are beginning their third year as varsity starters.

"Working together as a team is something we really want to do well. A lot of teams set a goal of winning Districts. The last two years we've fallen short of that goal. It's definitely something we want to achieve this year," Colin Muldoon said.

Dylan Muldoon echoed that sentiment.

"Our success in soccer makes us want to attain the same goals in basketball. We know we are capable of reaching those, so I think it makes us want to pull things together," Dylan Muldoon said. "There's a lot of long-distance running in soccer, but there's also a lot of quickness and turning in basketball, especially when you're guarding or driving around someone. You just have to be quick."

Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. Kaden Sparks, another three-year starter, will be Howardsville's best shooting guard.

"Winning Districts is achievable. We have to learn to work together. I played summer ball, and the biggest takeaway is that it taught me that I have to always give 100-percent effort out there. We had a great soccer season, and It’s taught us a lot about accountability," Kaden Sparks said.

Rose will be Howardsville Christian's starting point guard. He has been a starter since his freshman year, along with Kaden Sparks.

"The team chemistry and communication we had in soccer easily transfers over to basketball. As our point guard, it's important for me to try to get the ball to other guys who have open looks," Rose said. "I want to be more aggressive defensively, push the ball up the floor more and increase my scoring."

In addition, Ken Sparks believes the physicality a majority of his team learned from soccer will be a big benefit on the basketball floor.

"You build up your physicality from playing soccer with having to always body up. Watching them play sometimes hurts me, but that's what I want them to do in basketball. It helps them to want to draw contact and be physical on the floor," Ken Sparks said.

The lack of upperclassmen on Howardsville's varsity the last couple of years gave Rose and Kaden Sparks an immediate opportunity to play as freshmen.

"The fact John Paul and Kaden had that early chance at the varsity level is really paying off now,” Ken Sparks added. “Kaden is an excellent shooter. I want him to get the confidence that I had when I was in high school. He tends to be a little more passive on the floor than I like, but he's finally getting that aggressive nature that you need offensively.”

Kaden, Colin Muldoon and Rose all averaged double-digit scoring last season, while Dylan Muldoon is the Eagles' best defensive player. The Muldoon brothers will serve as Howardsville's team captains.

"Kaden is very self-motivated to become a better basketball player. His goal is to be the best player that he can be," Ken Sparks said. "John Paul is explosive and has really refined his jump shot to where he can be a scoring threat. He sees the floor very well and can really push the ball up the floor without turning it over. We're going to see big strides from him because of his determination and drive.

"Colin is a great overall player. He's a threat from the outside and can score inside with his height as well. If we're going to be successful, he and Dylan have to bring the same drive that John Paul and Kaden bring to the court.”

"I've coached all of the guys on our team for the last three seasons except one,” Sparks added. “We talk about being well-rounded. These guys are the best academically and spiritual leaders in our school."

Howardsville Christian’s most well-known alumni is Dylan Jergens, the third-leading scorer in state history with 2,782 career points.

The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (During the fall soccer season, the Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose helped Howardsville win a second-straight District title. The Eagles then lost 5-0 in the Regional Semifinal to eventual Division 4 champion Muskegon Western Michigan Christian. Both Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose were named to the first-team all-BCS and District soccer squads.

The Muldoons were the two main catalysts in the Eagles' soccer run, along with Lukas Krueger. Dylan Muldoon had 28 goals and nine assists, while Colin Muldoon posted 14 goals and eight assists. Krueger added 19 goals to go with 16 assists. Kaden Sparks had five goals and four assists, and Rose added three goals and three assists.

Steve Muldoon, Colin and Dylan's father and Howardsville's head boys soccer coach, sees many correlations between soccer and basketball that will bring the Eagles success in hoops this winter.

"Communication is key. A team that doesn't talk on the field/court isn't going to win. They learn how to correct and encourage one another to deal with problems without getting too negative," Steve Muldoon said. "Individually, they learn how to anticipate. There isn't much difference between anticipating a pass and stepping in front of it in soccer or basketball or making a hard run down the court/field to get open for a layup/counterattack. They learn how to react and make the correct decision under pressure. The skills needed to do it in soccer and basketball are different, but most of it is mental and that carries over."

Determination was another big factor for Howardsville's soccer success this fall.

"We beat Lansing Christian this fall in a weekend soccer tournament and they are a much bigger and physical team than us, but we managed to beat them," Colin Muldoon said. "That win gave us a lot of confidence for the remainder of the season that we could beat anyone."


The family dynamic doesn't stop with Howardsville's boys basketball team.

Senior Kyla Sparks, Ken's daughter and Kaden's older sister, is one of three cousins on the roster for a Howardsville girls team that finished 12-11 last year. All five starters are back for that Eagles team as well.

"As a team, we want to improve on last year's record. With all our starters back, we feel we have a good shot to finish at the top of both our conference and District. Most of our basketball team also played volleyball this fall, and we view us all as family," Kyla Sparks said. "Being able to play with my two cousins makes good lifelong memories."

Kyla Sparks, who averaged 12 points per game her junior year, starts with sophomore cousins Kelsie Muldoon and Kate Evans. Those three also started on the varsity volleyball team that captured its first District title since 1997.

Coincidently, the mothers of Kyla, Kelsie and Kate were all on the 1997 District champion volleyball team.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Colin Muldoon drives to the basket against his twin brother Dylan Muldoon during recent Howardsville Christian boys basketball practice. (Middle) Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. (Below) The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (Top and middle photos by Scott Hassinger. District championship photos courtesy of Howardsville Christian School.)