Team-First Comets Charting Perfect Path

By Wes Morgan
Special for

February 6, 2018

When Coloma varsity boys basketball coach Paul Marfia was asked to dissect the Comets’ undefeated season up to this point, he said the bruises his players consider badges of honor tell most of the story.

The Comets, who are tied for 9th in The Associated Press’ Class B state rankings, may not be the most athletic or talented team on the west side of the state. But their tenacity, toughness, heart and unselfishness have propelled them to a 13-0 overall record and 8-0 mark in the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Lakeshore division.

The program hasn’t won a conference championship since 2004 and now is positioned end that drought, having already pulled off confidence-fortifying wins over SAC Valley powers Kalamazoo Christian (12-1) and Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep (12-2) after trailing the latter by as many as 16 in the third quarter.

This winter has been the culmination of five years of Marfia preaching that, in the words of Aristotle, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Of course, junior point guard Zach Goodline, who’s averaging 27 points per game this year and adding to the program’s career points record with every bucket, plays a particularly big part for the Comets.

“We know if we don’t play the way we should play, we can take a loss,” Goodline said. “But it’s nice finally winning a bunch of games.”

As do a host of others, including a core group of seven seniors, some of whom were on varsity in 2015-16 and experienced a five-win season. They endured some hard knocks.

“It’s a process; I’m an Italian and I grew up as a farmer. I know things take time, and it’s not done in a day,” said Marfia, who experienced a 13-9 first campaign at Coloma in 2013-14 with a solid senior class, though he started from scratch in Year 2. “I was actually finding kids in the hallway. ‘Hey, I heard you used to play in the seventh grade. Why don’t you be my power forward?’

“There wasn’t a culture there. In the past it was there. But it’s been a long time since then. There was a big dip because of the culture and understanding what it means to play basketball the right way and understanding what that commitment is. It’s starting to go in the right direction, and this group of seniors are the ones that are committed to that.”

It was only a couple years ago the Comets were hopelessly lost on the defensive end, sometimes showing as many as six different looks in a game in a desperate effort to find something effective.

Now Coloma sticks mostly to man-to-man and the basic principles of “attitude and effort,” holding opponents under 47 points per game.

Four-year varsity player Levi Wilkens is certainly committed, and he’s going to make sure everyone in a Coloma jersey is as well. Wilkens was asked to shoot less last year and focus on leading the team defensively. It took him a while to accept that role, he said, and now he revels in it.

“I think I’ve matured a lot more,” Wilkens said. “We’re going chapter by chapter. We’re on chapter 13. We don’t look ahead, and we focus on each team.”

“It’s awesome to see,” Marfia said. “Here’s a kid who was all-conference and only averaged 2.5 points per game. Levi is a kid who’s been a captain, a point guard and a defensive kid. I’ve never seen a kid score zero points in a game and yet control a game as much as he does.”

Just a few hours after being interviewed for this story, Wilkens left Monday’s game at Niles Brandywine in the first quarter with a broken nose and a gash that required 16 stitches.

“He’s a tough kid,” Marfia said of Wilkens after the Comets held on for a 73-65 victory. “He had a face for radio anyways. He’ll be back tougher and uglier than ever. He understands that’s what separates us from the other team.”

Seven players have scored in double figures this year for Coloma, proving they’re just as unrelenting on the offensive end of the floor. Goodline fouled out with a minute left against Brandywine after scoring 19 points. Junior forward Phillip Caldwell shouldered a bigger load and finished with a career-high 27. Prior to the contest, Caldwell was averaging eight points per game.

Sophomore forward Michael Dancer worked his way into the starting rotation and produced 72 rebounds, 15 blocks and 5.5 points per game prior to the matchup with Brandywine. Senior Robbie Schroeder is the team’s center and is averaging just a hair under 10 points per game with a disruptive presence on the defensive side.

“We’re focusing on the big goal and working toward one thing,” Schroeder said. “We’re not all good scorers like Zach, so we realize if we want to win, we have to do our part on the defensive end. That’s what we believe in.”

Senior Chris Brown has been an invaluable sixth man for the Comets, and fellow classmates Tevon Blazier, Brendan Lute, Willie Donald and Adam Hearn have helped reshape the culture.

“It’s been a long journey,” Hearn said. “I’ve been playing with some of these kids since third or fourth grade and have seen everybody grow. Coming together as one and being a solid team is amazing.”

“You have to have kids that understand what it means to be part of a team,” Marfia said. “I see that in these kids. They play the way you want them to.”

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Coloma's Robbie Schroeder puts up a shot in the post against Watervliet. (Middle) Leading scorer Zach Goodline elevates for a jumper for the Comets. (Photos courtesy of the Coloma athletic department.)

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.)