'Ville' Coach Driven to Make Difference

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

December 30, 2015

DETROIT – It’s unlikely. But if Juan Rickman ever gets bored, he would be a prime candidate to participate in a sleep-deprivation study.

Rickman, 32, spent five seasons as the boys basketball coach at Detroit Crockett, then became the coach at Detroit East English Village Prep when Crockett merged with Detroit Finney for the start of the 2012-13 school year.

His fulltime job is serving as an attendant agent for the Detroit Public Schools. In layman’s terms, he’s a truant officer. He also works for Wayne County in its juvenile detention department.

And if that’s not enough, Rickman and a partner are in the process of starting a medical transportation business. Rickman said he has the drivers lined up. Purchasing the vehicles is the next step.

Rickman also is a husband and a father. He and his wife Kateena have a 16-month-old daughter, Amira.

A graduate of Detroit Cass Tech and the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Rickman is driven. Achievement is the driving force that supplies the motivation for himself and his family, and for the students for whom he is responsible.

“I’m grinding, just grinding,” he said. “My wife and I have a budget.

“She’s totally into my life. You want a means to an end. We want to buy a house.”

A typical day for Rickman begins at 7:45 a.m. at East English. School ends at 3:30 p.m., and then study table begins a half hour later for his players and lasts an hour and a half. Practice runs from 5:50-8 p.m. His job with Wayne County begins at 11 p.m. and he’s off at 7 – then he’s back at East English.

Rickman isn’t Superman, so this routine isn’t played out every day. But there are weeks where he’ll work three nights for Wayne County, then work a Sunday.

“There are some days I don’t sleep,” he said. “This past week I got up Monday morning and didn’t sleep until 11 (p.m.) on Wednesday.

“When my wife wasn’t working, I had to (work extended hours). Sometimes I’ll take some time off (from Wayne County). The thing is, I know when I need to tone it down.”

Kateena returned to work for an insurance company soon after giving birth. Though this helps monetarily, it also forces the Rickmans to send their child to day care.

It can be a dilemma, and it is a balancing act. But they’re determined to create a good life for themselves and their child.

Juan Rickman said he planned on cutting back on his hours during the holidays to spend more time with his family.

Along with the rewards financially from their hard work is the satisfaction of knowing they are contributing to their community. Because of his jobs within DPS and Wayne County, Juan Rickman deals with many troubled youths. He knows he’s in a position to set an example as a positive role model, and there is a responsibility to fulfill these expectations.

“I take it seriously,” Rickman said. “A big part of my job is to get these kids into college. I’ve had six of my players go on to a Division I school, but what I’m most proud of is the others. I didn’t have to work hard to get the Division I kids in school. College coaches came after them. I’m more proud of the D-II and the (players who went to) NAIA (schools). Look at Jaylin McFadden. We worked hard to get him into Ferris State.

“And these players come back around. Even the ones I kicked off the team come back. It’s a good feeling.”

Rickman and others at East English also helped the team manager earn a scholarship. Devin Smith is a senior and he’s earned a scholarship to Madonna University in Livonia through a fund the university set up.

East English is off to a 1-2 start, but the Bulldogs are expected to be a significant factor in the race for the Public School League title.

“I’m content coaching high school basketball,” Rickman said. “I’ve had opportunities to go to the next level. I didn’t like the situation.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously 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) Detroit East English boys basketball coach Juan Rickman works with his players during a practice. (Middle) Rickman, with wife Kateena, holds daughter Amira. (Photos courtesy of the Rickman family.)

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.)