Twins X 2 Boost Unbeaten Mattawan

By Pam Shebest
Special for

January 22, 2019

MATTAWAN — With two sets of twins on his team, seeing double is nothing new for Mattawan boys basketball coach Ward Helakoski.

Jaden and Kelby Mabin are fraternal twins, but Matthew and Luke Pelak are identical. Telling the latter two apart was never much trouble for Helakoski, a Mattawan Middle School counselor who has known them since sixth grade, because Matthew and Luke were different sizes.

Then this year happened.

“Matt’s caught up (to Luke) this year, so that’s created some confusion,” Helakoski said. “They came in off the summer both tan from golfing,

“Hair was exactly the same. You’d almost have to look at them to see which was which. That was tougher for a while.”

Helakoski has figured it out, and the two sets of twins have found their best ways to contribute to Mattawan’s 10-0 start this winter.

The twins are four of eight seniors on the team and keys to the Wildcats’ success so far, said Helakoski, in his sixth year coaching the team. The Mabins and Matthew Pelak are starters, while Luke Pelak is first off the bench.

Between them, the Pelaks average 14 points, five rebounds and three assists per game. The Mabins combine for 13.2 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

And being a twin has its advantages, all four say.

Jaden Mabin said it is not so much the double looks he and his brother get, but “It’s just fun having a brother who’s been there with you for years right by your side.

“We always want to see each other do the best. We’re always competing. I want to get more points than you, I want to make more shots than you. It’s kind of a friendly rivalry.”

Kelby Mabin, quick with a quip, does not quite agree.

“He might think we have competition, but we don’t,” he said of his twin. “It’s a one-sided battle if it is.

“I do outscore him; I do outplay him. It’s not competition,” he added, laughing.

The Mabins have three older siblings, and Kelby is the youngest of the two by three minutes. The Pelaks are the middle two of 11 children and the only twins, with Matthew the older of the two.

The Pelaks use their friendly rivalry to keep each other sharp on the court. “We always guard each other in practice and take it at each other,” Luke Pelak said.

But being identical can be confusing to opponents and referees.

“It’s obviously a lot of fun,” Luke said. “Even my parents confuse us sometimes if we’re facing the other way.

“Kids on the court actually confuse us, too. They’ll get in arguments about who’s guarding who.”

Mattawan is anchored by 6-foot-10 Division I college prospect Nolan Foster, and has been augmented this season by the addition of 6-4 senior guard Dexter Shouse, another Division I recruit whose father Dexter played a season in the NBA and overseas.

Mattawan has a one-game lead on Stevensville Lakeshore in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West and finishing second to Kalamazoo Central in the SMAC East last winter. Jaden Mabin said a key is the team has really stepped it up on defense – the Wildcats have allowed only Lakeshore to score 50 points, and that was in a double overtime win earlier this month. He added that the team has upped its tempo as it looks to improve on last season’s 15-7 finish.

Luke Pelak adds a boost off the bench, and brother Matthew said he admires his brother’s composure as the sixth man.

“It was kind of tough seeing him not being able to start because I know how good he is, but I think he took it really well and he’s playing his role this year,” he said.

While all four enjoy the twin thing, all four are going to different colleges this fall. Of the four, only Kelby Mabin is hoping to play basketball.

“I love the talent it requires,” said Mabin, who has not yet settled on a college destination. “I feel that unlike other sports, you have to play defense and offense but you also have to have the IQ.

“It’s not just running the ball up and down the field and whoever has the most endurance, but who has the most skill and talent and athleticism.”

Jaden Mabin grew up thinking he would play basketball in college and beyond. But he opted for a football scholarship to Grand Valley State University instead although he received Division III basketball interest.

“It would be cool (to go to the same school as Kelby), but I want to be myself,” said Jaden Mabin. “I don’t want to be referred to as ‘Jaden-Kelby.’ I want ‘Jaden.’ I’ve been with him long enough.

“It’s been 17 years, so I think it’s time for us to be apart. A lot of twins dress alike. That’s not us. I want to be as opposite him as possible.”

The Pelaks are both headed to college on golf scholarships, Luke to Wayne State and Matthew to Eastern Michigan.

“It will be the first time we’re separated,” Matthew Pelak said. “It was more just wanting to have our own experiences with college, but we’re still close enough where we can hang out sometimes.

“We just wanted to have our own individual college experience.”

Tanner Knapp and Thomas Unold are the other two seniors on Mattawan’s boys basketball team. Juniors are Michael Lampos, Drew McNulty, Jalen Jones and Parker Miller. Luke Kerrins is the lone freshman on varsity. Assistant coach is Josh Brown.

Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mattawan’s Jaden Mabin (32) looks to make a move in the post. (Middle) From top left: Matthew Pelak, Luke Pelak, Kelby Mabin and Jaden Mabin. (Below) Luke Pelak works to get a shot up Friday against Portage Northern. (Action shots by Erfan Pirbhai, head shots by Pam Shebest.)

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.)