'Rock-Solid' Huron Earns Championship Chance

By Jason Schmitt
Special for MHSAA.com

April 8, 2021

EAST LANSING — Ann Arbor Huron head coach Waleed Samaha knew he was going to have his hands full Thursday with Warren De La Salle Collegiate in a Division 1 Semifinal matchup at the Breslin Center.

De La Salle head coach Gjon Djokaj knew Samaha’s team almost as well as the River Rats coach himself.

“Gjon is a hell of a coach,” Samaha said. “He’s really like family with our guys. He coaches some of them in the offseason, in AAU.”

That’s true. Djokaj coaches Huron seniors Devin Womack and Julian Lewis and he often coaches against seniors Kingsley Perkins and Tyson Edmondson on the circuit. 

“I’m very familiar with this team,” Djokaj said. “They’re actually like family to me. I knew these guys inside and out.”

Despite knowing all of the questions before the test, Djokaj’s Pilots had troubles containing the River Rats, inside and out, as Huron played stellar defense in a 55-39 victory over De La Salle.

Edmondson scored 18 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and Kingsley dominated down low, scoring 13 points while pulling down eight rebounds.

“It’s pretty difficult,” said Edmondson, talking about how tough it is to cover the River Rats’ inside-outside game. “We have threats outside and inside. We’ve played together so much that we know where we’re going to be and what we’re going to do. We’re like a well-oiled machine.”

The two teams battled back and forth for much of the first half, with Huron leading 19-15 at the break. The River Rats extended their lead to six points after three quarters, and then used a 9-3 run to open the fourth quarter — all but putting an end to the game. Perkins had a pair of putbacks during the run, which was capped off by a 24-foot 3-pointer by Edmondson, making it a 42-30 ball game.

2021 D1 Boys Basketball Semifinal - Ann Arbor Huron

“I had the confidence from my team and when I was open, I was hitting my shots,” Edmondson said. “I take those (long) shots in practice and I tell ya, practice makes perfect. It really does convert to the game.”

De La Salle senior guard Linden Holder led all scorers with 19 points. His drive to the basket and long 3-pointer gave his team an early 9-4 lead. But it was short-lived. Huron used a 9-0 run at the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter to move ahead 13-9. The River Rats would not relinquish that lead.

“They are a physical presence at every spot,” Djokaj said of the River Rats. “They’re obviously no stranger to the weight room. They’re tough and physical and this was the type of game where (the officials) didn’t make a lot of calls and let us play both ways. Typically we like that style, but today it didn’t work out well for us.”

De La Salle entered the game averaging nearly 61 points per contest. Huron, known for its defense, was allowing just 36 per game. The River Rats dictated the tempo that has worked for them all season long. 

“We knew if we could stay patient and run the play, run the clock, we might get that open layup or that open 3,” Samaha said. “We had our key guys making key plays in key moments. They played hard, and tonight we made a few more shots and hung on defensively 

“I’m really proud of our guys. We’ve been preparing really hard for this moment. The kids really stepped up to the opportunity that they had.”

Senior Brandon Rawls had 10 points and six rebounds for Huron (20-0), which will advance to Saturday’s Division 1 championship game. 

Sophomore Nino Smith had 10 points and sophomore Michael Sulaka added six for De La Salle (14-4), which will lose just three players to graduation. 

“Ann Arbor Huron, in my opinion, is the best team in the state,” Djokaj said. “They’re just so versatile and dynamic in a lot of ways, positionally, so sound at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center. They bring physicality, they bring togetherness and toughness. They’re a great example of what a rock-solid team looks like.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Huron's Devin Womack (3) defends against De La Salle's Nino Smith during Thursday's Semifinal at Breslin Center. (Middle) Huron's Brandon Rawls gets up a shot in the paint. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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 [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.)