As a co-founder of Romulus Summit Academy, Leann Hedke was intent on creating an atmosphere conducive to academic achievement.
Summit opened its doors in Flat Rock in 1996 for grades K-5, soon expanding to K-12 once the school moved to Romulus the following year. According to Hedke, in the last 10 years 100 percent of those graduating were accepted to a college or university.
Also, according to a 2017 report, Summit had the highest graduation rate among charter schools in Michigan and was ranked in the top 50 by graduation rate during the 2015-2016 school year. Summit, rated No. 17, had a graduation rate of 98.58 percent, nearly 20 percent better than the state average of 79.65.
But something was missing: a competitive athletics program. Often a viable athletic program will enhance academics. A competitive athletic program can generate enthusiasm and give students a reason to be proud of their school, in addition to academics.
Summit Academy North High School didn’t sponsor varsity sports until the early 2000s and, frankly, they weren’t very good, particularly in the sports of boys basketball and football. From 2004-2016 the football team boasted three winning seasons and made the playoffs once (2007). Until the 2019-20 season, the most wins the basketball team totaled was 10.
“Our focus has been on the scholar-athlete,” Hedke said. “We focus on academics. Our GPA (grade-point average) requirements are higher than what the (Michigan High School Athletic Association) requires.”
Hedke said there’s been quite of bit of turnover in the coaching ranks in boys basketball over the years. Part of this is due to the lack of success, as far as wins and losses, but some of this can be attributed to the high standards Hedke and her fellow administrators demand. Swearing is taboo, and a coach is expected to be a stickler for discipline, and must adhere to a strict decorum.
With the backing of Summit athletic director William McKoy, veteran coach Mark White, less than a month before the start of the season, was hired in November of 2018. Summit was 9-12 during White’s first season before showing vast improvement last winter finishing 16-4. Highlighting that season was the school’s first division title (within the Charter School Conference) and a spot in a Division 2 District Final against Flat Rock. Summit has never won a District title so this game loomed as the most important in school history.
Then COVID-19 hit, ending the season.
Summit returned four starters from that team and is off to a 15-0 start with the MHSAA Tournament less than a week away. Most of its victories have been by double digits including last Saturday’s 71-53 victory over Taylor, a Division 1 school, and Tuesday’s 72-46 victory over Detroit Community in a conference tournament quarterfinal. Summit’s semifinal is scheduled for Thursday.
Two wins stand out in particular, and both came on the road. Summit defeated Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy, 54-51, on March 1 and then upset No. 3-ranked (in Division 2) Detroit Edison, 49-46, on March 8. Edison’s only other loss this season was to Warren De La Salle Collegiate, a Division 1 school, 72-68. Both Chandler Park and Edison are Charter School Conference members and have had strong programs over the years.
White starts one senior, guard Jamel Johnson, who’s averaging 10 points per game and was selected second-team all-conference. Sophomore James Wright averages 17 points and nine rebounds. White’s top player is junior and three-year starter Orlando Lovejoy, Jr., a 6-2 guard who was selected conference player of the year. His 23 points led Summit in its victory over Community. Lovejoy averages 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists per game.
“All of our players got better during the offseason,” Lovejoy said. “(White) is an intense coach. He’s demanding. He’s constantly pushing us. He’s a perfectionist.”
Much of the credit goes to White for the recent success, but one can’t overlook the talented players within the school. Take the recent success of the football program for example. The football team was 0-9 in both 2015 and 2016. The Dragons went 5-4 the next two seasons before finishing 8-3 in 2019, a run which included an 18-12 victory over Redford Union in a Division 4 District opener, the program’s first playoff win. This past regular season was shortened to six games because of the pandemic, and Summit won two playoff games finishing 7-2.
“Summit is an excellent school,” White said. “They’re in line with what I want to be as a coach.
“There are more accolades for a team that hasn’t been that good in the past. (Winning) has never been done before here. I feel the best is yet to come, and not just for the team, but for the school as well. Gaining recognition in basketball helps promote the school. People will find out about how good Summit is as a school.”
Winning is anything but new for White. His first season as a head coach was at his alma mater Detroit Renaissance in 1998. In 2000 Renaissance, which had never played for a Detroit Public School League title, won the PSL defeating Detroit Redford, 41-37, in the championship game. Renaissance won the title again in 2002 and 2003. Renaissance then won two MHSAA Class B titles (2004, 2006) under White.
White left Renaissance after the 2005-06 season to become head coach at Adrian College, another alma mater. He spent seven seasons there before returning to the high school level at River Rouge. White guided River Rouge to the Class B Semifinals in 2017 and 2018.
White said he couldn’t be happier, at this time in his professional life, than he is now at Summit. In addition to his duties as the boys basketball coach, White is also the school’s academic interventionist and assistant athletic director.
Lovejoy is aware of the success his coach has had at other schools. And even though Summit hasn’t achieved that type of success, he said anything is possible.
“We want to win our conference tournament, a District and Regional title, and the states,” Lovejoy said. “To some that’s farfetched, but it is realistic. We’re with a coach who’s done it before.
“This is special. (Summit) has never won a District, and here we are undefeated. We’re soaking it all in. We want to give the school something to cheer about.”
Lovejoy and his teammates recently gave Hedke a gift from their hearts. It’s a poster, a collage of sorts, with photos of the team in addition to pictures the players painted. This was in response to Hedke being a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer this past November and now is cancer-free.
“Mark is a wonderful coach,” Hedke said. “He focuses on what (the players) do well. He talks about who they are and what they represent. He teaches them to be aware. When I was going through my cancer, he told the players that we’re fighting on the court to win a game. She’s fighting for her life.”
The players have since dedicated their season to Hedke.
Tom Markowski is a correspondent for the State Champs! Sports Network and previously directed its web coverage. He also covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Raevon Thomas (10) gets up a shot during Summit Academy’s Senior Night win over Taylor. (Middle) Summit’s Orlando Lovejoy makes a move to the basket Saturday. (Below) Dragons coach Mark White huddles his team. (Photos by Aaron Goodman.)
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.