DeBoer Looks to Steer Sailors to Breslin

February 18, 2016

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

CUTLERVILLE – Jenn DeBoer remembers the thrill of playing in the MHSAA Class B Final when she was a sophomore.

The South Christian standout would like nothing better than to revisit that feeling in her final season.

DeBoer, a 5-foot-7 point guard, is currently leading the Sailors toward what they hope is another extended postseason run.

South Christian is 16-1 with three games remaining in the regular season before Districts tip off in March.

“That was a lot of fun, and obviously it was different because I was a sophomore and I knew that I had two more years after that,” DeBoer said. “But this year it’s a big goal for all of us seniors. We’ve talked about how we want to get back there and end our senior season strong.”

Led by DeBoer and a cast of veteran senior teammates, the Sailors have displayed the potential to make some noise in the MHSAA tournament.

They’re seeking an Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold title and currently own a perfect 7-0 mark in league play. Their championship hopes hinge on upcoming showdowns with Wayland and Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

“It’s been a blast so far,” DeBoer said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior season. Our team chemistry is so amazing, and the other seniors and I get along so well. Obviously, winning has been fun too, and it’s probably one of the best teams I’ve been on.”

DeBoer, a four-year varsity player who committed to Division II Grand Valley State University before her junior season, has been the floor general of this year’s squad.

She has contributed in every aspect of the game, averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 steals per contest.

First-year South Christian coach Kim Legge has watched DeBoer improve and mature throughout the past years.

“She has made strides because of her work ethic, and she always wants to learn,” said Legge, a longtime assistant under recently-retired coach Jim DeBruyn.

“She’s like a sponge, and she’s been to a point guard camp the past two summers. That has really helped with her decision-making and leadership skills.”

DeBoer recently established two new school records for her 3-point shooting prowess.

During a recent win over Hastings, she set a new mark for career 3-pointers that had stood since 2003 while also surpassing the single-season record.

DeBoer toppled Leah Pettinga’s career record of 93 3-pointers made. She currently has 45 on the season.

“It’s a huge honor to have the record now,” DeBoer said. “I knew I was pretty close because I focus on shooting 3s. It’s my favorite thing to do, and that’s just what I do. I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it, so it is definitely really cool to know that I have the record now.”

Legge didn’t know DeBoer was approaching the milestone until a few weeks ago, but she wasn’t surprised by the accomplishment.

“Anything that girl puts her mind to she seems to get done,” Legge said. “I got clued in a couple games before that she was getting close, but she would have never said anything to me. That’s how she is. She is so humble. It was a goal of hers, but it never would’ve come out of her mouth.”

DeBoer said the transition from DeBruyn to Legge wasn’t a difficult one.

“They both have similar coaching styles, but coach Legge is a lot more centered on defense so our defense this year has really picked up,” she said. “We have done a lot of the same things we’ve been doing in the past.”

DeBoer’s early commitment to the Lakers has allowed her to enjoy a stress-free final two seasons. It’s allowed her to focus strictly on helping her team succeed instead of lamenting over which college to choose.

“The pressure has been off, and I’ve been able to focus on my last basketball season at South,” DeBoer said. “The last four years have gone by pretty fast, and it doesn’t feel like I’m a senior until I think about it and look at old pictures. In a couple months I will be graduating, but I’m trying to enjoy high school while I’m still here.”

DeBoer is anticipating the jump to college, but is committed to ending her career on a high note.  

“I’m definitely looking forward to playing in college next year, but I would really like to have a good ending to this season,” DeBoer said. “If we keep working hard, then I think we will do pretty well in the postseason.”

Legge isn’t one to look ahead, but with a starting line-up consisting of all seniors, expectations are high for the remainder of the season.

“We have a hard road ahead of us the last week of conference (play) and I don’t feel like we have peaked,” she said. “I really focus on what my team needs to do to grow on a day-to-day basis. Every coach in the state hopes their team makes a tournament run, and at this point of the season, it’s a goal of ours.”  

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) Grand Rapids South Christian's Jenn DeBoer defends against Grand Rapids Catholic Central earlier this season. (Middle) DeBoer, 4, is one of a cast of experienced teammates hoping to finish with another Finals run; she takes the floor with Markayla Vander (24) and Sydney DeYoung (22). (Photos by Tracy DeYoung.)

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.)