Familiar Faces Ready to Mold Lenawee Christian's New Look

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

November 9, 2021

ADRIAN – A new era began Monday in girls basketball at Adrian Lenawee Christian, but no one is expecting different results for the Cougars. 

LCS tipped off the season with an early evening practice, holding the first round of tryouts.

Head coach Jamie Salenbien, now in his sixth season leading the Cougars, will eventually welcome back nine returning players from last year’s team that advanced to the Division 3 Regional Semifinal. He has another strong group he hopes to mold into contenders in Division 4 this season.

What he is missing is his daughter, 6-foor-4 Bree Salenbien, a four-time Michigan Associated Press Player of the Year, who is now at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. She scored more than 2,000 points, broke nearly every school record and made her mark on prep basketball in Michigan during an outstanding four-year career, culminating in being named the Gatorade Michigan Player of the Year a year ago.

“It’s going to be a process, like every year,” Coach Salenbien said. “This team will be finding their own identity. They may do things a little differently. We will have that talk along the way. It is a long season – over four months. We’ll get there.”

While it will be hard to miss the talent that Bree brought with her on the court, Salenbien said this year’s team still feels like family.

“I’m so close with all of these kids that it hasn’t felt much different so far,” he said. “It was really exciting to be back out there. We had 11 kids Monday. We still have some volleyball players going strong in volleyball, so we missed them, but they will be here eventually.

“I’m excited. We have the same coaches, five seniors and a lot of experience. Some of these girls have been on the varsity since they were freshmen. We might have to change our approach a little bit, but these girls are talented.”

Adrian Lenawee Christian girls basketballSeniors Lizzy Scharer, Cara Anderson and Kylie Summer all played on Class D/Division 4 championship teams in 2018-19. 

Summer averaged 8.1 points a game last year and Scharer 7.8. Scharer made 23 3-pointers, Anderson, 21, and Summer, 18. Another returning senior, Kelsie Lilly, was second on the team in rebounding. They all bring different talents to the table.

“Obviously, there are some different aspects to this season, some different players,” said Scharer. “We’re different. We have a different style. We are all super thankful for being back on the court.”

Scharer helped the Cougars cross country team place in the top 15 in the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final last weekend. Now, she turns her attention to basketball, her favorite sport. She is a fourth-year varsity player and hopes to continue in college. 

This past summer she played for a couple of different travel teams, taking her to Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin and across Michigan for tournaments. 

“I really like playing good competition,” she said. “It helps me be better prepared for anything.”

Playing good competition has been Salenbien’s mantra at LCS. Over the last several years, the Cougars have maintained one of the top schedules in the state regardless of class.

This year’s schedule is no different as LCS will play several larger schools, such as Temperance Bedford, Chelsea, Michigan Center, Onsted, and Brooklyn Columbia Central along with similar Division 4 powers Portland St. Patrick and Lansing Christian.

“I think it helps us,” Salenbien said. “We’re not in a league, so we can go out and play anyone. These girls have been through so many big games, and big practices to prepare for big games. I feel there’s nothing wrong with sort of exposing what your needs are to get better.”

Scharer concurs.

“I think just playing with good talent helps prepare you because you play to the level you are playing against,” she said. 

Adrian Lenawee Christian girls basketballSalenbien is a Hudson graduate who played college basketball at Siena Heights University. He coached Onsted to three straight Lenawee County Athletic Association championships, took a couple of years off as his daughters Dani and Bree honed their skills, then took over at LCS in 2017-18. His first two teams – led by Dani and Bree – went 26-1 and 26-2, respectively, winning back-to-back Finals championships, the first in Class D, the second in Division 4 after basketball switched from Classes to Divisions. The 2019-20 team went 20-3 and reached the Regional Final before the season was suspended due to COVID-19. Last year LCS went 13-4, losing to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in the postseason. 

Salenbien stresses fundamentals, family, and fellowship. No matter who is playing for him on the court, that never changes.

“I love playing for him,” Scharer said. “He is strict, but he knows how to make the game fun. We know when we have to put in the work and when we can have fun.”

By coincidence, Salenbien opened practice with a FaceTime call from Dani, now a sophomore on the Hillsdale College team, and ended it with a FaceTime call from Bree, a couple thousand miles away in Washington. 

“I don’t even think they knew we were practicing,” Salenbien said. “The girls on the team were happy to say hello. It is a nice feeling to know these girls are so connected. We miss everybody who we lose from one year to the next.”

The Cougars open the season later this month. How deep they play in March is something that Salenbien will figure out later. Right now, it is the start of another journey, but one familiar to most of the players on the team.

“That experience and knowledge of how to manage stress and the limelight helps so much,” Salenbien said. “We’ve got some long, athletic kids that can jump right out of the gym and some cross country girls that like to get out and run.

“It will take some time, but I think some really cool things can happen with this group.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Adrian Lenawee Christian girls basketball coach Jamie Salenbien talks things over with his team last season. (Middle) Lizzie Scharer makes a move to the basketball during a Regional Semifinal against Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. (Below) Cara Anderson (31) drives the lane against the Gators. (Photos by Mike Dickie.)

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

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)