2005 Miss Basketball DeHaan Cherishing Newest Title: 1st-Time Mom

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

July 25, 2022

JENISON – Allyssa DeHaan-Clark remains one of the greatest shot blockers in national high school and college basketball history.

Recently, the former Grandville High School and Michigan State University standout became a  mother for the first time.

DeHaan-Clark, and her husband Aaron, adopted a baby girl last September.

Bradley Noelle Clark was born on Sept. 29, 2021, at 36 weeks.

When the Clarks found out about the impending delivery, they drove straight to the hospital from their vacation in Tennessee to meet her. They took her home a few days later.

“Parenthood is awesome, hard, wonderful and beautiful,” DeHaan-Clark said. “She’s 9½ months old, and she just lost her first tooth and is starting to crawl. She says, ‘Da, Da’ a lot, even though I’m with her most of the time during the day.”

DeHaan-Clark, who turned 34 last month, married in 2012. She and her husband had aspirations to raise a family.

Unfortunately, the road to parenthood was more difficult than they envisioned.

“We tried to get pregnant for six years,” DeHaan-Clark said. “We went through a lot of testing and different fertility procedures, but nothing took. We never had one positive pregnancy test.”

Although disappointed and frustrated, the Clarks pursued another avenue.

“Adoption was always in the back of our mind, and it came to a point where I didn’t know what to do,” DeHaan-Clark said. “One night we prayed to God for clarity and wisdom and just some direction. He answered that prayer the next morning with a text message, and that put us on a fast track to adoption.”

Grandville basketballThe Clarks went through the application process last June. Four months later, Bradley was born. She officially became a Clark in May.

“It was awesome for God to answer that prayer so quickly,” DeHaan-Clark said. “After six years of struggle, she was meant to be in our family. We love her so much and adore her to pieces.

“She’s loved by so many, and we are very thankful that the birth family chose us. After all that pain and suffering, God made something beautiful through that.”

DeHaan-Clark was a four-year towering presence at Grandville. As a junior in 2004, she set the MHSAA record for blocks in a single season with 236 and averaged nearly a triple-double (27 points, 13 rebounds and 9.5 blocks per game).

As a senior, she helped lead the Bulldogs to a 25-2 record and their first Class A Semifinal appearance. She was named the 2005 Miss Basketball Award winner by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.

DeHaan-Clark grew six inches during middle school and entered her high school freshman year at 6-foot-6. She was 6-9 as a senior before taking her talents to East Lansing.

“Middle school was tough for everyone, but it was extremely tough for me,” DeHaan-Clark said. “I was entering a new school system, and I had just started playing basketball a year or two before that and had a huge growth spurt. Learning how to be coordinated and play the game took a while.”

DeHaan-Clark was a part of three consecutive Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championship teams. The Bulldogs won District and Regional titles in 2005 before defeating previously-unbeaten Benton Harbor in a Class A Quarterfinal. Grandville’s run ended with an overtime loss to Southfield-Lathrup in the Semifinal at Breslin Center.

“My senior year was the best,” DeHaan-Clark said. “It was so much fun with the championships and all the wins. Playing with the same girls for four years and then finally having a successful team was amazing.”

DeHaan-Clark made the MHSAA’s single-season scoring list as a senior with 710 points, having averaged 26.3 per game that fall. She also finished with 718 career blocks, setting an MHSAA record later broken by Kalamazoo Central’s Asia Robeson (723) in 2014. Still, DeHaan-Clark remains seventh all-time nationally for career blocks, with Robeson sixth on the list.

DeHaan-Clark arrived at Michigan State with high aspirations.

“I had big goals of playing in the Olympics and playing professionally, but obviously those didn’t come to fruition,” she said. “I learned to dream big, so I set big goals from the beginning.”

DeHaan-Clark emerged as a dominating shot blocker for the Spartans, and was Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2006-07 as she set the conference record with 145 blocks.

As a sophomore she re-established the Big Ten record for single-season blocks with 150. She was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2009-10.

She ended her career as Michigan State’s all-time blocks leader with 503 – with that total also second in Division I history at that time and now third on the NCAA DI list – to go with career averages of 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

“It was a big transition from high school to college, but I wanted to be a contributor,” DeHaan-Clark said. “I had amazing coaches and teammates, and my freshman year turned out better than I thought it would.

“My big goal was to be a key defensive player and break as many records as I could with blocked shots because of my height.”

In 2009, DeHaan-Clark was the catalyst in Michigan State’s run to the Sweet 16. The Spartans upset top-ranked Duke in the second round before losing to Iowa State, 69-68.

But DeHaan-Clark suffered a back injury during the Big Ten Tournament that winter which ultimately ended her hopes of playing beyond college.

“I never recovered from that, so I didn’t enter the WNBA draft,” DeHaan-Clark said. “I ended up having back surgery and finished my remaining classes before graduating.”

DeHaan-Clark returned home and worked in the medical field while also helping lead a sports ministry program at Grand Valley State University.

Grandville basketballShe received an intriguing opportunity to continue playing college sports as part of the Lakers volleyball program.

“I needed to take more graduate classes, and I had one more season of college eligibility other than basketball,” she said. “My skill level wasn’t to the level of basketball, but it was still really fun to play and compete and be a part of a team because those are things I still love doing today.”

DeHaan-Clark changed her focus from medicine to continuing her work in sports ministry, as well as for a non-profit organization.

She also got her real estate license in 2015, and she and her husband began flipping houses on the side.

“It brings me a lot of joy to cast a vision of what a home could look like after a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” she said. “I love that kind of work.”

The projects allowed the Clarks to spend meaningful time together.

“It was a lot of nights and weekends, and we just had to learn things as we went,” DeHaan-Clark said. “The one thing we learned is we cannot do drywall. It’s not our skill set, so in order to save our marriage and our relationship we would hire it out.

“We did a lot of it ourselves, and we like seeing the transformation from old to new. It’s really fun, and hopefully we can do it again.”

The Clarks currently reside in Jenison and have been embraced by their community and friends. They live on a lake, enjoying water sports in their free time. Allyssa was inducted into the Grandville High School Athletic Hall of Fame in March.

As for the future, DeHaan-Clark said nothing is set in stone.

“We take it one day at a time,” she said. “I still have my real estate license, so we’re hoping to renovate and invest. I’m sure in the future there will be more kids added to the Clark clan, but right now we’re very happy and content with just one.”

2021-22 Made in Michigan

July 21: Championship Memories Still Resonate with St. Thomas Star Lillard - Read
July 14:
Portage Central Champ Rolls to Vanderbilt, Writing Next Chapter in Alabama - Read
July 12: Coaching Couple Passing On Knowledge, Providing Opportunities for Frankfort Wrestlers - Read
June 30: Hrynewich's Star Continuing to Rise with Olympic, Pro Sports Arrivals - Read

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Allyssa DeHaan puts up a shot during Grandville’s 2005 Class A Semifinal against Southfield-Lathrup. At right, the Clark family including Allyssa, husband Aaron Clark and daughter Bradley. (Middle) DeHaan looks for an open teammate while playing her high school finale at her future college home, the Breslin Center. (Below) The Clarks enjoy a moment together. (Basketball photos from MHSAA archives; Clark photos courtesy of Allyssa DeHaan-Clark.)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

April 13, 2023

Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.

Greater DetroitBut what happened last month at Breslin Center made her even more of one on a statewide level.

A referee and assigner for 20 years in the Detroit area, Little is a female boys and girls basketball official who mentors both male and female referees – no matter the gender or level, as she officiates high school and college games.

Officials often go to Little for guidance, direction and assignments, which has made her respected for years throughout Metro Detroit in the prep basketball community. Then, her status as a trailblazer grew even more.

Little was assigned as an official for the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis, and she became the first female referee to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since Traverse City’s Barb Beckett 1995.

“It was a very good feeling to know I was the one selected,” said Little, who officiated the Final with Matt Olson and Zach Porritt.  

In fact, while attending a Semifinal game the Friday before the Final, Little received a phone call from an area code she didn’t recognize.

She answered, and it was Beckett.

“At first I didn’t know the name,” Little said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t know you, but that’s fine.’”

Beckett then explained she was the first female referee to be assigned a Boys Basketball Final, and just wanted to offer support to Little.

At that point, Little became excited and thankful she answered the call.

“It was very nice to hear from her because she wanted to reach out and if not pass the torch, to congratulate me,” Little said.

Little, 51, said she found out she was going to be refereeing the Division 3 boys championship game just before the start of the postseason when she received an email from the MHSAA.

“I’m looking at the email and I’m like, boys?” Little said. “I was shocked.”

But she was shocked in a good way, and obviously excited for the honor.

Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.Little didn’t find out until a couple of days before the St. Francis/Beecher contest that she would be officiating that specific championship game, but the Monday of boys championship week was when she really started to receive congratulations from friends and colleagues.

That’s when an article came out in the Detroit News detailing her selection, which led to countless calls, texts and congratulatory messages on social media.

“I couldn’t even (keep up with the comments),” she said. “That’s how overwhelming the actual tags were. It came from all across the state with officials, men and women, because I do women’s college (games). Some of the college ladies were reaching out. I was getting all the hoopla before the game.”

Little said she normally doesn’t get nervous for games, but not having some nerves became a bit harder once so many people knew of her achievement.

However, she settled into a normal routine quickly once the game started.

“I wanted to get it done, get it over with and do well,” she said.

Little did do well, which is no surprise to everyone who knew her before she officiated on the boys championship stage.

It was just another feather in the cap for Little, who in 2016 became the first woman to officiate a boys Detroit Public School League championship game.

“Delonda is one of the top officials in the Detroit area, and our staff doesn’t look at Delonda as a female working a boys game – we see one of the top officials in Detroit working a basketball game,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are females officiating in the NBA and female officials in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The aspect that made Delonda’s selection for this MHSAA championship game nearly unique will soon be the norm at all levels of athletics.”     

Little graduated from Detroit Osborn in 1989 and starred on the basketball court at Wayne State, earning induction into WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Her day job is as an officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections, but her passion is officiating. She’s been an MHSAA-registered official for basketball for two decades and also was registered for volleyball for four years. This past fall she registered for football for the first time.

“I get something from it because it keeps me in shape, I love the people I work with and I like the kids,” Little said. “You are always teaching, and I like training the newer officials. I just enjoy it. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t refereeing.”

Going forward, Little hopes her championship game assignment will now be an inspiration for other female referees.

“There aren’t very many women who would like to work boys basketball or feel comfortable,” Little said. “If that’s something they desire, I’m hoping more women are selected to work the games if they feel comfortable.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Delonda Little takes her position on the court during the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final on March 25 at Breslin Center. (Middle) Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.