Bear Lake – Check. Onekama? You bet. Traverse City West? Yup.
Glen Lake? Absolutely!
Chances are if you played basketball at one of these schools over the last decade or so, you were coached by a very special educator named Bradford. Perhaps not the same Bradford, but it definitely was a member of the Onekama-raised family with a long line of special education teachers.
While growing up on the farm of parents Arden and Lynn in Onekama, the future educators picked up the love of the game of basketball. Some went on to play college ball, and all reportedly did some coaching.
March Madness has always been a lot of fun in the Bradford family.
“Our family has had a lot of success in March Madness, and it is fun to be able to talk about it with each other and with our kids,” said Nathan Bradford, currently the boys basketball coach, athletic director and special ed teacher at Onekama. “As a player, I also played at the Breslin Center and in the state Semifinals.
“It was an experience that I will never forget,” he continued. “My sisters have also made it to the state Semifinals.”
Nick Bradford joined Nathan’s staff as the junior varsity boys coach. The Portagers ended their season Thursday night with a hard-fought loss to Brethren after leading most of the way.
One of the sisters, April, had a long run as the Bear Lake girls coach. She still teaches special ed there.
Jason Bradford, whose undefeated Glen Lake girls squad plays for the District championship tonight against Elk Rapids, has fond memories of March Madness on the Bradford farm.
“The one that got into it the most was probably Nate,” Jason said. “We’d go back and forth picking different teams.”
“We were on the living room floor cheering – it was a friendly competitive thing,” he continued. “We were Michigan State fans. Whenever they were in the mix, we were always cheering for them.”
While the father of five doesn’t have the Spartans to root on any longer this year, he does have the Lakers. All the Bradfords will likely be cheering on the Lakers as they try to move on from last season’s abrupt end.
Jason’s oldest son, J.J., is now a freshman in college. He saw his senior season at Glen Lake come to an end with the pandemic outbreak halting tournament play last March as he was preparing for a District Final game.
His daughters, Grace, now a junior, and Maddie, a sophomore, advanced to the Regional Final against Manton last year and were pretty much boarding the bus when things stopped.
Season-ending losses have always caused sleep deprivation for Jason. They have a bigger impact when his own kids are on the team.
“It might be tougher on them,” Jason acknowledged. “Maybe I put more pressure on them. (The season ending) still hurts, but you learn to deal with it.
“You want the success for them,” he continued. “Maybe I am a little more anxious for games ... it’s the pressure.”
But it is a great and fun time of year, Nathan noted.
“I always look at throwing records aside and showing up, giving it your all because you always have a chance to win during tournaments,” he said. “I have experienced both ends of the spectrum with teams with high expectations and getting upset and teams with nothing to lose and making a run.
“You always hope your team is peaking at the right time and you can advance in the tournaments.”
Jason and Nathan have never coached against each other. They both have young boys so that could change. The sibling rivalry has presented some competitiveness.
They started coaching girls varsity basketball the same year and their teams were in different conferences at the time. Nathan moved to boys before Onekama and Glen Lake competed against each other in the Northwest Conference.
“We always set up a few (girls) scrimmages and I have to admit that Jason usually got the better of me at that time,” Nathan said. “I would say we really help each other out and talk coaching strategies quite a bit.
“Usually after games we call each other and get the run down on each other's games,” Nathan added. “It helps having another sibling in the family that coaches a varsity sport to talk to and bounce things off of.”
The summer breaks helped lure the Bradfords into teaching so they could help out on the farm. Their upbringing paved their way. Coaching is a bonus.
“While playing I always thought that it would be great to give back to the sport that gave me so many opportunities, and this led to me wanting to become a teacher and a coach,” Jason said. “Our dad taught us great work ethic and discipline growing up on a farm. Our mom is the most patient and caring individual you can meet and would do anything to help another individual.”
Tonight Glen Lake will take the floor without three seniors from last year’s team but with a lot more experience Jason hopes that bodes well for the Lakers.
“I feel we have a little more depth,” he pointed out. “We’re another year older, and it helps with confidence too.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Nathan Bradford (kneeling) and assistant and brother Nick Bradford huddle with their Onekama boys basketball team this season. (Middle) Jason Bradford guides his Maple City Glen Lake girls basketball team through an inbounds scenario, with daughters Grace inbounding and Maddie setting up to receive the pass. (Below) Clockwise from top left, Nick Bradford, Nathan Bradford, Grace Bradford, Jason Bradford and Maddie Bradford. (Onekama photos by Paul Cunningham. Glen Lake photos by Liz Moeggenberg.)
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.