House's Letters Spell R-E-C-O-R-D

By Pam Shebest
Special for

December 18, 2018

COMSTOCK — As a freshman, Abby House could not decide whether to play volleyball or golf, so she compromised and did both.

Little did she know that first dual-sport fall season would put her on track to Comstock High School history.

She will graduate in May with a school-record 22 varsity letters — 21 for sports and one for band.

The previous record, set by Robert Bellisle in 1943, was 17. Bellisle was inducted into the Comstock Hall of Fame in 2011.

“I just really like sports and starting freshman year with five, I didn’t really know there was a record for it,” House said.

She has four letters each in bowling, golf, basketball and softball, three in volleyball, two in soccer and one in band.

The school supports dual-sport athletes under specific conditions, athletic director Justin Ansel said.

 “Primary and secondary coaches have to agree on the details before it can happen,” he said. “If we don't have their agreement along with the player understanding of expectations, we don't allow it.

“I think it's important to just give the kids opportunity. It works best with picking a team sport as the primary sport and then an individual sport as secondary.”

House’s father, Rich House, said he and his wife have no problem with their daughter playing six sports a school year.

“It wasn’t really ever a plan; it just kinda happened,” he said. “She was always good at it and has always been a good student.

“We always told her as long as she could handle it and keep up – the school work is most important. She always seemed to do a good job at that.”

Schoolwork has not been a problem for House, who carries a 3.88 grade-point average.

This year, she has just one class at Comstock – band – but took psychology, physics and accounting at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Next semester, she will study sociology, chemistry and medical terminology at KVCC, working toward a degree in nursing.

Although House plays sports for fun, her dad said his daughter is a high-level competitor in all of them.

“She has multiple conference titles, qualified for state twice in golf, once in bowling, all-District catcher two years in a row,” Rich House said.

This year, she was Comstock’s top golfer and is the team’s top female bowler, carrying a 150 average.

Decisions, decisions

As a freshman, House earned varsity letters in golf, basketball, bowling and softball.

She played the same sports the next year, but also was moved up to varsity in volleyball, giving her five letters.

Her junior year, House added soccer, and is continuing to play six sports her senior year.

She chose volleyball because “I played (volleyball) with my teammates since middle school and I’ve enjoyed it when I played in season,” House said.

Golf is a family affair for the House family, including her brother, Mason.

“My parents are big golfers and we’re a big golf family and the coach was really into wanting me to golf, so she talked me into it and I thought it would be fun to try,” Abby House said.

Since she started playing basketball in elementary school; it was a no-brainer to continue in high school. She was called up to varsity after a month during her freshman year.

The bowling coach had an inside track to recruiting her – it’s her dad.

Softball was her only spring sport until her junior year.

“When I was younger, I played softball and soccer, but I chose softball because I liked it more,” House said.

“We had a softball coach who wanted us to concentrate only on softball, so I didn’t play soccer.”

Her junior year, the softball coach left and House decided to add soccer, giving her two sports in each of the three seasons.

Everything falls into place

House is an expert at time management.

“In school, whenever teachers get done with notes and we have homework I try to do it,” she said. “Or with any free time I’ll do it and what’s left, I do after practices.

“Freshman, sophomore year I did a lot on the bus.”

Choosing a favorite sport is not possible.

“Everybody asks me that,” she said. “I can choose one per season, but not one overall.

“Basketball, golf, softball have always been my top.”

House has stepped up this year, helping lead the basketball team to a 3-0 overall record, 2-0 in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red as a point guard, her fourth position in four years.

As a freshman she was a post player, as a sophomore she shifted to forward, and then to shooting guard last winter.

Last season, she averaged seven points and seven rebounds per game. This year, it’s 18 points, eight rebounds and nearly six assists on average, she said.

“Abby has always been a solid player even since fourth grade when (she and Daisy Ansel) started playing some travel ball together,” said Justin Ansel, who also coaches the girls basketball team.

“I think Abby has always been a very coordinated athlete, and it doesn't surprise me that she does so well in so many different things. She has contributed at a high level in a lot of sports.”

Ansel said he thinks House could be extremely good if she focused on a particular sport, but “I think she just loves competing so much that she would rather play all kinds of sports all the time.” 

Ansel said House complements leading scorer Daisy Ansel well.

“Abby's start to this season from an offensive standpoint has been tremendous,” he said. “Both girls are shooting very well from the outside, and both girls are able to attack so defenses can't just key on one of them – which is amazing for Daisy.”

House will not go into sports withdrawal once she graduates.

She hopes to continue to play in college, but just one sport, either basketball or golf, she said.

Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Abby House’s varsity letter jacket shows off many of her accomplishments over her first three-plus years of high school. (Middle) Abby House and her father Rich House. (Below) Abby House takes part in some of her sports – with her dad at the bowling center, golfing, and hitting in softball and volleyball. (Action photos courtesy of the House family. Head shots by Pam Shebest.)

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.)