Bowers' Balance Paying Big for Kent City

December 20, 2018

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

KENT CITY – Kenzie Bowers’ mother made sure her daughter wasn’t going to grow up to become just a scorer.

An extra incentive did just the trick.

“When I was younger my mom would record my games, and she would give me a dollar for every five or 10 points, but then she would also give me a dollar for every assist, too, because she didn’t want me to go out there and think that I was just going to score,” the Kent City standout sophomore said. “That was my way of thinking I was going to score, but I’m not going to be selfish with the ball because I wanted money both ways.”

Bowers, a 5-foot-10 guard, is still doing her share of scoring and distributing, and she’s picking up where she left off after a sensational freshman season.

In her debut campaign on the varsity, Bowers averaged 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while also leading her team in assists and steals en route to being named to the Class C all-state first team.

Bowers also helped spark Kent City’s historic postseason run to the Class C Quarterfinals.

“I’ve talked to Coach since seventh grade, and he told me if I kept working hard then he would have a spot for me on the varsity,” Bowers said. “He wanted me to be a leader, and I knew I was going to have to be a leader. I was ready for it, and I expected it.”

Kent City girls basketball coach Scott Carlson has known Bowers since first grade and helped coach her at every level leading up to high school.

He knew early on that she had a bright future ahead.

“By third grade you knew she was going to be a ball player because she was playing with our fifth and sixth-grade travel players at that point,” Carlson said. “She could handle the ball, and she loved the game. She was a baller from the word go.”

Bowers’ passion for the game developed from watching her two older brothers, and she started playing with older girls when she was in third grade.

“I was the only third-grader, and I think it was definitely good to have that experience going into my fourth and fifth grade years when I was playing against girls my own age,” Bowers said. “You could tell I had played recently, and I was the second or third tallest girl on my team, but I was very skinny.”

Bowers’ overall skill set quickly progressed. She attended multiple basketball camps and started playing AAU.

As middle school began, college coaches became aware of Bowers’ rare abilities.

“Seventh grade was the first time someone told me that college coaches were watching me and they thought I was pretty good,” Bowers said. “I was like, ‘College coaches are watching me?’ It was definitely surreal.”


A highlight of Bowers’ first high school season was a 37-point performance in a Regional Semifinal win over Beaverton.

Kent City went on to win its first Regional title in 29 years before losing to Pewamo-Westphalia in the Quarterfinals.

“She certainly surpassed what I expected of her as a freshman, but it didn’t surprise me in how hard she works,” Carlson said. “She’s very athletic, and she’s a quick study. If you show her something once she gets it quick, as quickly as anyone I’ve ever seen, and she’ll work on it until she perfects it.”

Bowers already has received several scholarship offers from Division I college programs, including Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Illinois State, Davidson and Oakland.

“It’s been really cool knowing I can go play college basketball at the next level,” Bowers said. “It makes me feel blessed and happy because I know I don’t have to spend all that money and I get to do something I love.”

Kent City is 4-1 this winter with its lone loss coming to Detroit Martin Luther King, 40-39.

Bowers is one of eight returning players from last season’s 22-4 squad.

“We didn’t lose anybody, so we know we are going to be a good team,” Bowers said. “We’re working to get better and make it further this season.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kent City’s Kenzie Bowers drives to the basket against White Cloud during a Dec. 7 win. (Middle) Bowers works to get past a Detroit Martin Luther King defender during their Dec. 8 game at Okemos. (Photos courtesy of the Bowers family.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)