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.)
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.
But 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 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 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.