'If you want it, go get it.'

July 31, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

SOUTH LYON – "If you want it, go get it. It's out there."

Annette Babers has lived on both sides of that message, as both the pursuer and achiever. And she explained how today's high school players can do the same last week in speaking to more than 200 athletes, parents and coaches attending the MHSAA's Reaching Higher girls basketball clinic at South Lyon High School.

Reaching Higher, in its fourth year and in coordination with the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, provides the state's elite basketball prospects with a day not just of basketball training, but also instruction in what it takes to succeed both academically and socially at the college level.

And becoming a well-rounded athlete – physically, mentally and spiritually – was a main point of emphasis for Babers, considered one of that nation's top high school players in 1988 while a senior at Saginaw High (she averaged 24.8 points, 21 rebounds and 15 blocks per game) before going on to start at Michigan State University and playing professionally in Turkey.

She's also the aunt and a major influence in the life of Draymond Green, who finished his career at MSU this spring and was drafted by the Golden State Warriors. 

Mixing in the lessons she'd learned while telling the story of her basketball career, Babers provided these nuggets:

  • "Listen (and) be obedient. If you're obedient, you're going to have that drive. You're going to have that determination – if you've got love for the game."
  • "If you want that next level, it's right there. Go get it. ... It's out there. You don't realize how much you can do ..."
  • "You know there's more to this than just playing. You've got to get your body physically fit. You've got to get your mind ready."
  • "Whatever you do, please, (mind your) attitudes. You never know who's watching."
  • "Your parents have given you the tools of life. You've got to use them."
  • "You've got to find the circle you're going to be in. And make sure your parents are part of that circle."

Combined, 280 of the state's top boys and girls players were invited to Reaching Higher, as chosen by a selection committee made up of coaches from all over the state. The boys came to South Lyon on July 18, followed by the girls on July 26.

The six-hour sessions included skill training and three 36-minute games, plus a variety of speakers including current and former players Babers, University of Michigan standout Zach Novak and former Wake Forest and current German League standout Kyle Visser, who played his high school basketball at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central. Also providing valuable insights were coach Marc Comstock, Childress Sports Consulting, Dave Ginsberg of Management and Motivational Strategies and University of Michigan NCAA compliance officer Elizabeth Heinrich.

Total, 81 coaches from 55 college programs attended either the boys or girls sessions, representing all three NCAA levels and the NAIA. Games were reffed by MHSAA officials, who also participated in training sessions throughout both days.

PHOTOS: (Top) Battle Creek Central senior Kayla Freeman (with ball) cuts through a haze of opponents on her way to the basket. (Middle right) Annette Babers speaks to the more than 200 players, parents and coaches at South Lyon High School. (Middle left) Salem senior Chris Dierker launches a shot during a drill at the boys clinic.

PHOTO: New Boston Huron sophomore Hailey Richardson (92) and Utica Ford senior Cris Harper (15) lead a group through an agility drill.

PHOTO: All three rounds of games during both Reaching Higher sessions were officiated by MHSAA referees, who also received instruction and evaluation. Left, Kendal Smith from the Metro Detroit Officials Association talks technique with a group during a break in their game.







PHOTO: Reaching Higher participants return to the South Lyon High School gym after receiving instruction in the school's cafeteria. Standing tall is Ann Arbor Skyline junior Tristan Wilson (37).


PHOTO:Richland Gull Lake sophomore Alexis Ahlert prepares to shoot a free throw during her team's game Thursday.

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.

Greater DetroitBut 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 monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.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 DunlapKeith 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.