Preview: On Course Again for Historic Victories

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 7, 2021

A number of teams at Thursday’s Boys Basketball Semifinals finished last season with wins as COVID-19 abruptly ended their postseason runs during District play.

But all 16 teams this weekend have another opportunity to close with a win – and this one accompanied by an MHSAA Finals championship.

Nine are seeking their first titles, including all four teams contending in Division 1. Others are seeking their first championship since 1939, 1945, 1966 or 1975.

Below is a schedule of all Semifinals and Finals – Semifinals are Thursday at Breslin Center in East Lansing and Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, and all four championship games will be Friday at Breslin.

DIVISION 1 - Breslin Center
Ann Arbor Huron (19-0) vs. Warren De La Salle Collegiate (14-3), 3 p.m.
Forest Hills Northern (17-1) vs. Grand Blanc (13-2),
5:30 p.m.

DIVISION 2 - Van Andel Arena
Ferndale (14-4) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (18-0), 3 p.m.
Bridgeport (17-2) vs. Battle Creek Pennfield (20-2), 5:30 p.m.

DIVISION 3 - Breslin Center
Hanover-Horton (20-1) vs. Flint Beecher (14-1), 10 a.m.
Schoolcraft (19-1) vs. Iron Mountain (18-0), 12:30 p.m.

DIVISION 4 - Van Andel Arena
Rudyard (18-2) vs Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (13-2), 10 a.m.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (20-1) vs Detroit Douglass (15-5), 12:30 p.m.

Finals – Friday
Division 1 - 12:30 p.m.
Division 2 - 5:30 p.m.

Division 3 - 3 p.m.
Division 4 - 10 a.m.

Spectator limits remain in effect, but all Semifinals will be streamed live on and viewable with subscription, with free audio broadcasts via the MHSAA Radio Network. All four Finals will be broadcast by Bally Sports Detroit (formerly FOX Sports Detroit), the first three on the primary channel and the Division 2 Final on delay at 1:30 a.m. All four also will be available live on the FOX Sports Detroit Website and the FOX Sports Go! app. 

Below is a glance at all 12 teams contending this weekend. Click for the full program. (Statistics below are through Regional Finals. Rankings are based on the Michigan Power Ratings generated to seed teams at the District level.)

Division 1

Record/rank: 19-0, No. 9
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference Red
Coach: Waleed Samaha, 17th season (282-94)
Championship history: Class A runner-up 2010.
Best wins: 44-34 over No. 28 River Rouge in Quarterfinal, 77-45 and 70-36 over No. 29 Ypsilanti Lincoln, 56-33 over No. 24 Dexter in Regional Semifinal.
Players to watch: Julian Lewis, 6-6 sr. G (12.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg); Devin Womack, 6-2 sr. G (12.6 ppg, 35 3-pointers, 3.6 apg); Kingsley Perkins, 6-7 sr. F (9.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.1 bpg).
Outlook: Huron has booked its first trip to the Semifinals since that runner-up season of 2010, and its second trip in program history – although last year’s team had high hopes entering its District Final with a 21-1 record. Lewis earned an all-state honorable mention as a junior and is part of a balanced, experienced and sizable attack – he’s one of nine seniors and one of five players standing 6-5 or taller. Senior 6-5 guard Tyson Edmondson also is part of all three groups averaging nine points per game with 35 3-pointers entering this week.  

Record/rank: 17-1, No. 11
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: Joe Soules, 10th season (153-68)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 66-56 over No. 10 East Lansing in Quarterfinal, 53-49 over No. 16 Zeeland East in Regional Final, 62-54 (District Final), 62-42 and 82-71 over No. 30 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 67-46 over Division 2 No. 14 Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Trinidad Chambliss, 6-1 sr. G; Ethan Erickson, 6-1 sr. G. (Individual statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Forest Hills Northern has won 15 straight games to reach the Semifinals for the second time and first since 2008. The only loss was early to Williamston, by just two points, and a tough tournament path has included dealing Zeeland East its only defeat. Erickson and Chambliss both earned all-state honorable mentions last season.

Record/rank: 13-2, No. 5
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Mike Thomas, fourth season (66-17)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1952.
Best wins: 58-53 over No. 1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Quarterfinal, 77-61 over No. 28 River Rouge, 85-58 over No. 19 Marquette in Regional Final, 91-52 (District Final) and 82-44 over No. 14 Davison.
Players to watch: Ty Rodgers, 6-6 jr. F (17.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.6 apg); RJ Taylor, 5-11 soph. G (16.8 ppg, 29 3-pointers, 7.2 apg); Timonte Boyd, 6-3 soph. G (9.7 ppg).
Outlook: Grand Blanc is back at the Semifinals for the first time since 1953 and after last season’s team was forced to end at 18-3. Rodgers earned an all-state honorable mention last season and has been considered among the top players in his class throughout high school. He’s got lots of help, with Taylor another big scorer and 6-2 senior guard Jacob Carlson (8.1 ppg) and 6-0 sophomore guard Amont’e Allen-Johnson (8.0 ppg) also adding to the balanced attack. The Quarterfinal win over St. Mary’s avenged a 65-52 loss from Feb. 16. Thomas  formerly led Kalamazoo Central to Class A titles in 2010 and 2011.

Record/rank: 13-3, No. 13
League finish: Third in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Gjon Djokaj, first season (16-3)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1982.
Best wins: 64-59 over No. 2 Detroit U-D Jesuit in Regional Final, 53-51 over No. 6 Detroit Martin Luther King in Regional Semifinal, 59-42 over No. 7 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 56-18 over No. 24 Dexter.
Players to watch: Linden Holder, 6-1 sr. G (17.7 ppg, 28 3-pointers, 3.6 apg); Triston Nichols, 6-4 soph. G (9.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Caleb Reese, 5-10 jr. G (12.5 ppg, 3.5 apg).
Outlook: De La Salle is back at the Semifinals for the second time in four seasons, thanks in part to avenging a two-point overtime loss to Jesuit from March 11. Five players average at least eight points per game – 6-0 sophomore Nino Smith (8.6 ppg) and 6-7 sophomore Michael Sulaka (8.2) bolster the scoring and also are part of a starting lineup that will graduate only one player. Djokaj formerly led Walled Lake Northern and Livonia Franklin’s programs and has a 73-35 record overall.

Division 2

Record/rank: 20-2, No. 16
League finish: First in Interstate 8 Athletic Conference
Coach: Nate Burns, fourth season (60-30)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 54-49 over No. 12 Romulus Summit Academy in Quarterfinal, 56-53 over No. 2 Williamston in Regional Final, 57-45 and 44-41 over Division 1 No. 41 Coldwater.
Players to watch: Ryne Petersen, 6-1 sr. G (15.6 ppg, 32 3-pointers, 5.9 rpg, 6.3 apg, 3.1 spg); Luke Davis, 6-1 jr. G (11.2 ppg, 25 3-pointers, 3.6 apg); Gavin Burns, 5-11 sr. G (12 ppg, 51 3-pointers).
Outlook: Pennfield has been one of the stories of the tournament, first winning a Regional title for the first time since 1972 and now making the Semifinals for the first time ever. The team’s only league loss this winter came against Marshall, and the Panthers avenged in the District Final. Petersen earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

Record/rank: 17-2, No. 36
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference 8
Coach: Kevin Marshall Sr., fourth season (85-6)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 52-41 over Escanaba in the Quarterfinal, 54-53 (Regional Final) and 55-54 over Carrollton, 53-33 over Frankenmuth in District Final.
Players to watch: Jaylen Hodges, 6-4 sr. G (16.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.4 apg, 3.1 spg, 1.5 bpg); AJ Pipkins, 5-8 sr. G (9.6 ppg, 57 3-pointers, 3.3 apg, 3.6 spg); Omarion Wilkins 6-4 sr. F (9.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg).
Outlook: After opening the season 1-2, Bridgeport avenged both of those losses and has won 16 straight games on the way to its first Semifinal since 2009 and third in program history. Hodges made the all-state second team last season and is one of eight seniors total and four who start. Senior 5-7 guard Ramaureon Arthur is another offensive key averaging 8.2 points and 4.3 assists per game.

Record/rank: 14-4, No. 5
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Juan Rickman, third season (43-19)
Championship history: Class A champion 1963 and 1966.
Best wins: 73-68 (2OT) over No. 4 Croswell-Lexington in Quarterfinal, 56-49 and 51-43 over Division 1 No. 17 Clarkston, 60-55 over Division 1 No. 15 North Farmington, 94-74 over Division 4 No. 17 Detroit Douglass.
Players to watch: Jason Drake, 6-2 jr. G (16.5 ppg, 25 3-pointers); Christopher Williams, 6-3 soph. G (7.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg); Treyvon Lewis, 6-5 jr. G (19.3 ppg, 37 3-pointers, 7.0 rpg).
Outlook: Ferndale won its first league and second District titles under Rickman, who formerly led Detroit East English Village/Detroit Crockett, and have reached the Semifinals for the first time since 1985. The Eagles lost only once in their league, in their rematch with North Farmington, and three of their four defeats this season were by five points or fewer. Lewis earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is part of a starting lineup made up of all juniors and sophomores.

Record/rank: 18-0, No. 8
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Coach: T.J. Meerman, eighth season (116-63)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 2018.
Best wins: 83-72 over No. 1 Benton Harbor in Quarterfinal, 68-50 (Regional Semifinal), 58-56 and 49-46 over No. 23 Grand Rapids South Christian, 71-52 over No. 10 Hudsonville Unity Christian in District Final, 59-44 over No. 14 Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Jack Karasinski, 6-6 jr. G (19.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg); Kaden Brown, 6-0 soph. G (19 ppg, 4.5 apg); Durral Brooks, 6-1 fr. G (10 ppg, 5.0 apg, 7.0 rpg, 3.5 spg).
Outlook: GRCC has advanced to its first Semifinal since 2018 and is seeking its first championship after falling by a point in overtime in that year’s Class B Final. Karasinski made the all-state second team last winter and is part of a lineup with a variety of contributors – junior 6-2 guard Jordan Brooks (9.5) and senior 6-9 forward Gabe Quillan (8.5) also score nearly in double digits per game. GRCC had only three single-digit games this season – two against South Christian.

Division 3

Record/rank: 14-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Red
Coach: Mike Williams, 17th season (336-93)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 89-58 over No. 3 Reese in Regional Final, 84-54 over Division 2 No. 20 Goodrich, 73-68 (2OT) over Division 2 No. 5 Ferndale, 65-63 over Division 1 No. 4 Flint Carman-Ainsworth.
Players to watch: Keyon Menifield Jr., 6-1 sr. G; Carmelo Harris, 5-11 jr. G; James Cummings II, 6-2 jr. F. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Beecher is making its first Semifinals appearance since its last championship season of 2017, although the Bucs were 20-2 last season when it was halted. Menifield earned an all-state honorable mention last season and leads a team that lost only to Division 1 top-ranked Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the second game of the regular season. Carman-Ainsworth and Ferndale were the only other opponents to get within single digits.

Record/rank: 20-1, No. 20
League finish: First in Cascades Conference
Coach: Chad Mortimer, 23rd season (453-97).
Championship history: Hanover was Lower Peninsula Class D runner-up in 1941; Horton was LP Class D runner-up in 1936 and 1937.
Best wins: 41-29 over No. 9 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in Quarterfinal, 50-45 over No. 8 Leslie in Regional Final, 69-38 (Regional Semifinal), 66-52 and 45-44 over No. 28 Michigan Center, 70-45 over No. 23 Homer in District Final.
Players to watch: Carson Sanders, jr. G (18.5 ppg, 33 3-pointers); Brogan Brockie, sr. G (13 ppg); Conner Mortimer, sr. G (13.2 ppg, 3.8 apg). (Heights not submitted.)
Outlook: The Comets saw last year’s run end as they stood 20-1 when COVID struck. But this time they’ve reached the Semifinals for the first time since 2015 and fourth time in program history. Hanover-Horton graduated three players who earned all-state honorable mentions last season, but the next set of standouts has filled right in. Four of the team’s eight seniors join Sanders in the starting lineup. 

Record/rank: 18-0, No. 14
League finishes: First in Western Peninsula Athletic Conference and Mid-Peninsula Conference.
Coach: Harvey Johnson, 21st season (315-155)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1939), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 53-50 over No. 2 McBain in Quarterfinal, 63-52 over No. 6 Oscoda in Regional Final, 71-50 over No. 7 Painesdale-Jeffers in Regional Semifinal, 79-48 over No. 15 Menominee in District Final, 58-52 over Division 2 No. 3 Escanaba.
Players to watch: Foster Wonders, 6-5 sr. G; Ricky Brown, 6-0 sr. G; Jurgen Kleiman, 6-4 sr. F. (Statistics not provided.)
Outlook: Iron Mountain was the Division 3 runner-up in 2019 and 21-1 last season when it was forced to end. But Wonders has led the charge back into the Semifinals with incredible scoring numbers in going over 2,000 points for his career. The Mountaineers have downed previously-unbeaten teams their last two games, and Jeffers had only one defeat when they met. Only McBain and Escanaba got within single digits.

Record/rank: 19-1, No. 17
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley
Coach: Randy Small, 16th season (306-64)
Championship history: Class C champion 2011, runner-up 2009.
Best wins: 59-47 (Quarterfinal) and 60-55 over No. 10 Grand Rapids Covenant Christian, 56-38 over No. 4 Niles Brandywine in District Final, 55-49 over No. 5 Pewamo-Westphalia.
Players to watch: Bryce VanderWiere, 6-7 sr. C (15.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg); Shane Rykse, 6-1 fr. G (11.6 ppg, 43 3-pointers); Tyler DeGroote, 6-6 jr. F (13.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg).
Outlook: Schoolcraft is returning to the Semifinals for the first time since 2012 and was 21-0 when last season came to a close. The only loss this winter was to Division 2 top-ranked Benton Harbor. VanderWiere earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is part of a sizable frontcourt that also starts 6-6 junior forward Ty Riske and brings 6-6 senior center Harmon DeVries off the bench.

Division 4

Record/rank: 15-5, No. 17
League finish: Second in Detroit Public School League East
Coach: Pierre Brooks Sr., seventh season (103-50)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 68-56 over No. 1 Southfield Christian in Quarterfinal, 55-51 (2OT) over No. 29 Plymouth Christian Academy in District Final, 60-53 over Division 2 No. 1 Benton Harbor.
Players to watch: Pierre Brooks II, 6-6 sr. G (33.1 ppg, 50 3-pointers, 9.3 rpg); Javantae Randle, 6-10 sr. F (18 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.9 bpg); Damonn Tiggs, 6-0 sr. G (8.5 ppg, 31 3-pointers, 3.8 apg).
Outlook: Brooks II made the Division 2 all-state team last season and has signed with Michigan State, and Randle gives Douglass a second Division I college prospect in the frontcourt. The Hurricanes were 17-5 last season when it ended and will be playing in their second Semifinal and first since 2014. Brooks Sr. has guided the program to three District titles over the last six seasons and formerly coached Detroit Martin Luther King.

Record/rank: 20-1, No. 9
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference
Coach: Justin Sherlock, first season (20-1)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 1975), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 59-53 over No. 13 Frankfort in Quarterfinal, 61-49 over No. 15 Hale in Regional Semifinal, 70-56 over Division 3 No. 29 St. Charles.
Players to watch: Zach Wentworth, sr. G (16.7 ppg, 37 3-pointers, 6.7 rpg, 3.4 apg); Luke Predum, sr. G (21.2 ppg, 47 3-pointers, 3.5 apg); Aidan Halliday, fr. F (7.8 ppg). (Heights not submitted.)
Outlook: Sacred Heart is a three-point loss to Division 3 St. Charles from being undefeated and is headed back to the Semifinals for first time since finishing Class D runner-up in 2006. Predum and Wentworth both earned all-state honorable mentions last season and provide 63 percent of the team’s scoring, although five players total average at least five points per game. 

Record/rank: 18-2, No. 7
League finishes: First in Straits Area Conference and Eastern Upper Peninsula Conference
Coach: Jim Suggitt, third season (44-19)
Championship history: Upper Peninsula Class D runner-up 1945.
Best wins: 78-55 over No. 34 Mackinaw City in Regional Semifinal, 74-32 and 49-31 over Division 2 No. 48 Cheboygan.
Players to watch: EJ Suggitt, jr. G (20.3 ppg, 53 3-pointers); Cam Peterson, fr. G (7.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.7 apg); Tate Besteman, jr. C (15.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg).
Outlook: Rudyard has improved from 11 to 15 to now 18 wins over the last three seasons and is making the trip to the Semifinals for the first time since 1963. The only losses this season came to No. 8 Munising, which finished 15-2, and Division 3 Roscommon. The Bulldogs have won their first five tournament games by an average of 33 points.

Record/rank: 13-2, No. 5
League finish: First in Alliance League
Coach: Mark Keeler, 34th season (627-197)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 56-44 over No. 20 Webberville in Quarterfinal, 60-32 over No. 28 Marcellus Howardsville Christian in Regional Final, 57-50 over Division 3 No. 10 Grand Rapids Covenant Christian.
Players to watch: Brady Titus, 5-9 jr. G (22 ppg, 30 3-pointers, 4.2 apg); Austin Treece, 6-7 sr. C (11.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg); Jaden Ophoff, 6-3 sr. G/F (6.5 ppg).
Outlook: Tri-unity will be making its second Semifinals appearance in three seasons and third in six years, and finished Class D runner-up most recently in 2013. Titus made the all-state second team last year and drives a team that starts three seniors but has only four total. The team’s only losses were to Division 2 Wyoming Godwin Heights and Muskegon Orchard View, which had one regular-season loss between them.  

PHOTO: Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, here against Grand Haven, is among nine teams playing this weekend hoping to win a championship for the first time. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

Longtime Coach Researches Photos to Tell Story of Grand Rapids Sports' Past

By Steve Vedder
Special for

September 16, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS – Bob Schichtel always pauses when he comes across the ancient black and white photo long enough to ponder whatever became of the two youngsters adorned in Grand Rapids Union basketball uniforms.

The posed shot shows two players facing each other in a local gymnasium in a photo apparently taken four days after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that launched the country into World War II. Only a handful of fans today would recognize the players' striped, ultra-short shots and simple sleeveless shirts with "Union" emblazed across the front as recognizable basketball uniforms. One holds a battered-looking basketball, while the other looks on. The two players, whose uniform numbers are "4" and "9," aren't really smiling, but still seem as close as any teammates, whether 81 years ago or today.

In fact, it's the look the youngsters share that intrigues Schichtel, whose thankless, pro bono job it is to identify the two players.

"Once you start," said Schichtel, a former longtime Grand Rapids basketball coach, "it's like looking down a deep rabbit hole."

Longtime area coach Bob Schichtel researches hundreds of photos that are part of the Grand Rapids Public Library archive. Schichtel works as a volunteer for the Grand Rapids Public Library trying to identify mostly former Grand Rapids City League basketball players from approximately 1938 through the early fifties. The online photos are mostly from the Robinson Photo Studio Collection taken in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Herald newspaper. The library says the unique collection spans some 950 basketball negatives from the entire Robinson/Herald collection that totals well over 900,000 Grand Rapids photos.

While the work – which amounts to a ton of patience combined with a detective ability – can be exhausting, it's still what Schichtel describes as a labor of love. For example, there's the shot of the two still-unidentified Union players. Schichtel looks at the photo and can't help but wonder whatever happened to the kids. Were they exceptional athletes? Did they leave their marks on Grand Rapids history, whether it was in education, politics, business, industry, the arts or another field? He doesn't even know, as in many photos from this era, whether the two entered the military and thus even survived World War II.

Schichtel has searched everywhere for the answers, but has come up short. Too many times, in fact.

Which isn't to say he'll quit looking or chalk up his research as inconsequential. Schichtel said the foremost reason he spends hours on the project is that many of the athletes he identifies deserve the recognition for achievements far beyond basketball. In many cases former City League basketball, football, baseball, track and tennis athletes became the foundation on which Grand Rapids was built. If Schichtel can uncover an old photo which depicts these youngsters during their high school careers, so much the better, he said.

"It's important to recognize Grand Rapids sports history, and I don't know if we've given enough attention to their past," Schichtel said. "They are what got us here, and I'm a firm believer they need to be recognized for it."

Figuring out that history, however, ranges from, at the least, extremely time consuming to – in too many frustrating cases – virtually impossible. The City League was formed in the late 1920s and featured original schools Grand Rapids Central, Creston, South, Union, Ottawa Hills, Catholic Central and Davis Tech. The league was eventually folded into the Ottawa-Kent Conference in 2008. 

"It was a long, evolving league," Schichtel said.

Schichtel has identified these 1941 Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills basketball players as James Horn (left) and Chuch Reynier. The identification tools available to Schichtel are actually more numerous than most would suspect. For starters, he's formed an impressive database of information by pouring through old City League yearbooks and programs, photos from other collections and microfilm of old newspapers, And then there's also the knowledge gathered by Schichtel himself, a 1968 Grand Rapids Catholic Central graduate. After playing in many old City League gymnasiums, Schichtel went on to compile a 389-197 record in 27 years as the Cougars girls basketball coach. He uses countless City League contacts as both a player and coach to identify athletes. In all, Schichtel taught in the Grand Rapids school system for 34 years.

He also uses the game itself to identify the photos. For instance, he can pinpoint some photos simply by the styles of the uniforms worn by players. He also figures out who is who by other clues such as what the players are doing in the photo. If a player is taking a set shot in the photo, it's likely pre-World War II. The beginnings of the jump shot, or what Schichtel calls "elevation while shooting," is probably mid-1940s. In addition, Schichtel can identify photos through pure basketball athleticism. Players can look a bit awkward in shots from the thirties as compared to players from the late 1940s who were beginning to play with a more obvious flare.

Put all the information together and Schichtel, who has uncovered more than two dozen personal connections to subjects in the photos, believes he has a reasonable shot at identifying them.

Since he signed on with the project, Schichtel figures he's identified about 10 percent of the photos he's viewed. Among the City League athletes he's found shots of Central's John Lavan, who was born in 1890 and played Major League Baseball during the Babe Ruth era and became a military hero who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery; Creston basketball player Roger Wilkins, an assistant United States attorney general during the Watergate hearings; Art Spoelstra of Godwin, a former NBA player and member of the Grand Rapids Hall of Fame; and Grand Rapids native Bill Cutler, who turned a chance post-World War II meeting with then-American League president Will Harridge into a position as commissioner of the Pacific Coast League,

Schichtel said gaining information through photos on the people who became the bedrock of Grand Rapids should be celebrated.

"I think it's a great approach for the community; they shouldn't be forgotten," Schichtel said. "Who else is going to do this? Why do I do it? I see a certain, for lack of a better word, a nobility. These kids played for the love of game, and they became the “Greatest Generation.” These kids did great things. It's not just, 'Well, there's No. 58,’ in a photo.

"You want to know more about them. That's the real intrigue for me."

Schichtel identified Grand Rapids South High’s “Fireman Five” of, from left, Fred Esslair, Lee Morrow, Jack Carroll, Bob Youngberg and Bruce Bigford. Tim Gloege of the Grand Rapids Public Library said the collection of photos – and their identification – is continually growing. As more people log onto the library's website, more people want to either add to the collection or have information that leads to an identification. The library estimates about 1,200 photos are searched monthly. But as time grows, many of the original photos are disintegrating. The library is in a constant state of preservation, Gloege said.

"It's a massive project, and we're working to get as many photos online as possible," he said. "The numbers (of photos) we have are rising pretty significantly as people post them on social media.

"When you think of the past and now, you need to realize these are people, kids who used to play basketball and did other things. The work is hard and very time-intensive, but it brings a whole new dimension to history."

Schichtel said he's "kind of picked the low-hanging fruit" on many of the easy photos to identify. But the work will continue.

"Yes, it can be frustrating," he said. "There are limitations if you want it to be accurate. Sometimes you look at a photo and you know it's not going to happen, and you move on. But this a chance to learn about people who made Grand Rapids what it is. That's important to me."

PHOTOS (Top) Two Grand Rapids Union basketball players stand for a photo taken Dec. 12, 1941. (2) Longtime area coach Bob Schichtel researches hundreds of photos that are part of the Grand Rapids Public Library archive. (3) Schichtel has identified these 1941 Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills basketball players as James Horn (left) and Chuch Reynier. (4) Schichtel identified Grand Rapids South High’s “Fireman Five” of, from left, Fred Esslair, Lee Morrow, Jack Carroll, Bob Youngberg and Bruce Bigford. (Historic photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Library.)