Hall Sisters' Daughters Giving Hartland Next-Generation Boost

By Tim Robinson
Special for MHSAA.com

February 11, 2022

HARTLAND — Hartland girls basketball coach Don Palmer chuckles now when he talks about facing the Hall sisters 30 years ago, when they were at Walled Lake Western and he was at Milford.

“I never could beat them,” he said, recalling facing Valerie, Dianne and Michelle Hall, all of them 6 feet tall or taller. “That in itself was a rarity, and they were so athletic. We played against the Halls when I had some of my best teams (at Milford). We never beat them, and they never cease to remind me of it.”

A little less than 20 years later, Val and Dianne and their families moved to Hartland about the time Palmer was taking over the Eagles program.

“Whitney was in the third or fourth grade,” Dianne Sollom recalled. “He was like, ‘Oh, the Hall girls! I could never beat you guys!’ And I said, ‘I have Whitney and another one coming in. They’ll be playing for you one day.’”

Whitney Sollom played four years for Palmer and is now a sophomore on the University of Michigan basketball team, a second-generation part of the program as Dianne also played for the Wolverines.

Whitney’s younger sister, Lauren, is a senior starter for the Eagles. One of her teammates is her cousin Sarah Rekowski, Val’s daughter.

“I played with my sister and now I’m playing with Sarah,” Lauren Sollom says. “I know my family is out there with me on the court going through the same thing I am. It’s very special to me.”

Lauren, who has signed to play at Saginaw Valley State, is a senior starter, while Sarah is a sophomore.

They are both from a college sports background. Lauren’s father, Ken, was a quarterback at Michigan and Sarah’s father, Stephen, was a defensive tackle for the Wolverines during the 1990s.

Dianne, who graduated from Western in 1989 and played basketball for Michigan State, met her husband when visiting Val at U-M.

“They grew up in it,” Dianne Sollom said. “If I’m not telling them, (Val) is telling them.”

Like their mothers, Lauren and Sarah are tall. Lauren is a 6-3 forward, while Sarah is a 6-2 post player for the Eagles.

Dianne says she’s 6 feet tall, “but I’m as tall as you want me to be,” she jokes. Val, a 1985 Western grad, was 6-4 in her playing days, as was their younger sister, Michelle.

Val played all four years at Michigan, and Dianne three years at Michigan State.

Walled Lake Western basketball“With my mom being a post player and my being a post, it helps me to know what to do in certain situations, and she gives me pointers,” Sarah said. "She’s always helping me with my game.”

But both moms have their limits.

“We do watch film together,” Val says of her time with Sarah, “but not a lot. I let Coach Palmer handle all that. I know Dianne and Ken have that ongoing conversation and try to help when they can. But you have to back off. A lot of the time they don’t want to hear you at all. You have to give them some time, that 24 hours or whatever.”

Sarah enjoys the physical portion of the game and showed her potential in the season opener, when she had 13 points and eight rebounds. Lauren will get inside for rebounds, but plays mostly on the perimeter, hoisting up 3-pointers, something Sarah hasn’t done yet.

“Coach Palmer has not given her the pass yet,” Lauren pronounced as both giggled.

“Coach Palmer would probably lose his mind,” Sarah said, grinning.

“He definitely would,’ Lauren said, to more laughter.

Sarah played on the JV team as a freshman last season, although her winter was interrupted by 10-day COVID-19 quarantines on a couple of occasions.

“She’s a little behind in her development,” Palmer said of Sarah, “but she really is a talented kid. She’s a big kid who, when she gets a rebound, it really is a rebound. We’re working on her constantly on her footwork.”

Sarah has been alternating with 6-4 senior Kate Jacobs in the post.

“It’s been up and down,” she says, “but I’ve gotten a lot of experience. I’m getting a decent amount of playing time.”

Lauren, meanwhile, is a team captain.

“Lauren’s a team-first player,” Palmer said. “She’s having a great year for us, she’s our leading scorer, leading rebounder and she’s having an MVP kind of year.

“They’re good kids,” Palmer said of the cousins. “They want to win, and they don’t care about how they do it. That’s the thing about this team. They’re all unselfish kids; you know, if they get 15 one night and get two the next and the team won both, they’re fine.”

In addition, Lauren’s fraternal twin brother, Brad, plays for the Hartland boys basketball team and will suit up at Concordia University in Ann Arbor next year, where he will play football.

For now, Lauren and Sarah are enjoying their year of varsity basketball together.

“We talk a lot,” Lauren said. “Basketball brings us together. Practices are fun, and I drive her to school in the morning and home in the evening. That’s good cousin time, family time.”

Speaking of family time, when Dianne (for MSU) and Michelle (U-M) played against each other in college, it was not unheard of for one sister to let the other have the occasional free lane to the basket, or for one to congratulate the other on a good shot while both were on the floor.

Once, castigated for complimenting her sister, Dianne said to her coach, “But she’s my sister!”

Walled Lake Western basketballNow, Dianne and Val sit in the stands at Hartland games, cheering their daughters on.

“I enjoy watching her play,” Val said. “We’ve been watching Whitney and Lauren since they were young, and Sarah’s coming along. It’s fun to watch the light bulb come on and everything starts clicking. It’s really great when it all comes together for them.”

“I was on the court my entire life,” Dianne said. “I want to sit in the stands and watch my daughter and son. My husband is in the same boat. We’ve done it. We don’t have to shine.”

Hartland has been one of the top teams in the state this season, and the Eagles are looking toward a long run in the MHSAA Tournament, not unlike last year, when they reached the Division 1 quarterfinals.

To do so, the Eagles (14-1) are combining talent with togetherness, with nine seniors, including Lauren Sollom, looking out for themselves and a big sophomore in Sarah Rekowski who could play a key role down the stretch.

“She’s a very hard worker in practice and always has a smile on her face, even when Palmer is yelling at her,” said Lauren, joining her cousin with more giggles in a postgame interview, another shared moment in a season that already has produced memories for a lifetime and a special bond within a bond.

PHOTOS (Top) Dianne Sollom, far left, and Val Rekowski, far right, stand with daughters Lauren Sollom (25) and Sarah Rekowski (34) after a Hartland game. (Middle) Dianne Sollom, second-from-right, takes the opening jump against Canton while playing for Walled Lake Western. (Below) Val Hall (52) gets her hand on a shot while also starring for Walled Lake Western in this Novi-Walled Lake News clipping. (Top photo by Tim Robinson, middle and bottom photos provided by the Sollom and Rekowski families.)

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.)