'The Watcher' Becomes Must-See Star

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

February 1, 2018

DETROIT – David DeJulius is not your typical teenager.

DeJulius doesn’t eat junk food, he doesn’t drink carbonated soda and he attends yoga classes regularly.

He’s also one of the best basketball players in the state.

A 6-foot guard at Detroit East English, DeJulius, who has signed with University of Michigan, was rated as one of the top players before this season – and it’s safe to say that few players, in any class, are having a better season at this point. He’s averaging 28 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game, and his team is ranked in the top 10 in Class A by every news organization that releases weekly rankings.

The candidates for the coveted Mr. Basketball Award won’t be announced for about a month. But it’s difficult to imagine DeJulius’ name won’t be on that short list.

DeJulius, 18, might not be the best basketball player in what is a strong senior class, and he might not win Mr. Basketball. But it won’t be because he didn’t work hard enough or have the proper guidance from those close to him.

As for his nutrition intake, DeJulius credits his father, Dave, for the basics. The elder DeJulius also played basketball in the Detroit Public School League at two eastside high schools (Denby and Osborn).

“He told me to put the right food in my body,” DeJulius said. “I eat healthy. I haven’t drank pop in three years. It’s beyond basketball. I want to create a healthy lifestyle. I want to check every box.”

In addition to the workouts he receives from East English coach Juan Rickman, DeJulius works with three personal trainers to hone his body and improve his knowledge of the game. One of those trainers is former Detroit Pershing coach A.W. Canada. Another is one of Canada’s former assistants, James Cleage, and the third is Tony Harrison, who specializes in boxing and footwork beneficial in athletics.

During the season DeJulius watches game film with Canada, and the two go over nuances to improve DeJulius’ knowledge of the game. Cleage attends the majority of East English’s games, and the two talk afterward about what DeJulius did right and how his play could be improved.

“During the season it’s more to do with strategy,” DeJulius said of the time spent with personal trainers. “During the offseason it’s more physical.

“I do cross training with my boxing workouts. It helps me a lot. Conditioning-wise, you have to give it your all. With Tony, it’s more core work. I only spend about 15 minutes in the ring.”

On Sundays during the season, when many basketball players take the day off, DeJulius attends a yoga class. During the offseason he practices yoga three to four times a week.

“It stretches me out,” he said. “It keeps me limber. And it’s good for my hips.”

DeJulius spent the first two years of high school at Detroit Edison Public School Academy, a charter school located in the city’s Eastern Market area. He was a highly-publicized player when he enrolled at Edison, and his team reached a Class C Regional Final his freshman season and lost in a District Semifinal to Pershing when he was a sophomore. DeJulius was labeled a scorer who had yet to reach his potential when he transferred to East English.

“I knew of him vaguely before he got here,” Rickman said. “I remember him having a high skill set and a good work ethic, or so I heard. But when he came here I wanted him to put it all together. I wanted him to learn how to play a complete game. I wanted him to pass more. I don’t think he understood or knew how to get his teammates involved. He didn’t understand where the defense was at.

“He’s improved on his defense, and that becoming a better defender has improved his offense as well, because he’s now able to predict the positioning of the defenders which allows him to be more efficient and also allows him to make more plays for his teammates.”

Physically, DeJulius was developing. And with the help of Canada, Rickman and others, DeJulius was also gaining a better understanding of the game and what it took for him to become more of a complete player.

“The biggest change for me was here, at East English, its family oriented,” he said. “I’m getting tremendous support on and off the court.”

DeJulius also rid himself of an unflattering nickname given to him when he first came to East English.

“They called me ‘the watcher’ when I first got here,” he said. “As far as rebounding and playing off-the-ball defense, I used to watch a lot. (Rickman) told me I’m too strong, too fast not to rebound.

“Now, as a senior, I’m much better. I’m a senior. I have to get it done now. Physically, I’ve improved my jump shot and I rebound better. My passing has improved. I see the floor much better now, and I’m able to create for my teammates.”

Two current players have had a significant impact on DeJulius and his maturation process. One is his former East English teammate Greg Elliott, who plays for coach Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette University. The other is former U-M point guard Derrick Walton, Jr., who played at Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy, located just a few miles from East English.

As a junior at East English, Elliott helped the Bulldogs capture the school’s first PSL title.

“I learned a lot from Greg,” DeJulius said. “It’s the intangibles. At Marquette, he’s not their first option (offensively) but he’s their best defender. Derrick and I talked about a week ago. I can be that type of player at Michigan. He passes the ball better than I do. I shoot it better. I think I can affect Michigan much the same way he did.”

Should DeJulius win Mr. Basketball, he would be the first player from the PSL to win the award since Pershing’s Keith Appling in 2010.

Riding an 11-game winning streak, East English is 12-2 overall and, at 7-1, has clinched first place in the PSL East Division 1. The Bulldogs will have one of the top two seeds when the PSL playoffs begin next week.

“I believe my chances are very good,” DeJulius said of the possibility of winning the award. “First of all, we’re winning. There’s the stat line I’m putting up against some of the best competition.

“It would mean a lot to me. It would mean a lot to me and the school.”

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.

PHOTO: Detroit East English’s David DeJulius pushes the ball upcourt this season. (Photo by David Donoher.)

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

June 7, 2023

Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.

West MichiganNo one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.

No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.

And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.

“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.

“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”

The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.

Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.

Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.

That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).

“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”

Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.

Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.

“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”

Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.

During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.

Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.

Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II.“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”

Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.

Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.

One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.

That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.

But that was just the start.

This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.

“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.

And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)