GROSSE POINTE WOODS – Kim Ayrault and her husband Andy were careful not to overly encourage their children to play sports, specifically basketball, the sport they played so well for so long.
But if their children did decide to play, they would teach them to play the right way and be there every step of the way.
Julia and Joe Ayrault, juniors at Grosse Pointe North, are the first set of twins born to Kim and Andy. Annabel and Adam are the second. Born nearly four years apart, all four play basketball and the younger pair play multiple sports.
The Ayraults are a family whose lives often revolve around practices and games, and driving to and from said events. It can be simultaneously rewarding and tiresome, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kim recalls one of her first memories of Julia, a 4-year-old bouncing up and down the court.
“She went to the basket and scored,” Kim said. “Then she came back down with her ponytails flying and waving her hands up in the air, and I said to myself, no, no, no. I went up to her and said, you can’t do that. You can’t celebrate like that. She learned. She never did that again.
“She was competitive at that age. She was born ready to play.”
Julia Ayrault started bouncing a basketball just about the time she learned to walk. When her parents introduced her to the sport, she dove in head first and hasn’t looked back.
She tried soccer. That didn’t last. As a second sport she preferred baseball, but basketball was always first.
Julia and Joe, 16, both play varsity basketball and anticipate having more than just a good season. Their parents were also fine basketball players in the Pointes, Kim at North, Andy at Grosse Pointe South. The Ayraults’ other set of twins also play basketball, at Grosse Pointe Shores Our Lady Star of the Sea. Annabel and Adam are in the seventh grade and, yes, they’re good players, too. Annabel plays volleyball as well and Adam plays baseball. He was a member of the Grosse Pointe Shores/Woods Little League team that reach the World Series in Williamsport, Pa., this past summer.
After graduating from high school, the Ayraults began dating while playing basketball at Wayne State University. Andy was a junior, Kim (Reiter) a sophomore. Both had fine careers, both played four years and Andy went on to have a brief career professionally in Europe. The two are tall: Andy is 6-foot-7 and Kim is 6-foot, and, not surprisingly, their children are tall. Julia is 6-2, Joe 6-5.
It’s too early to tell, but Julia just might be the best. A three-year starter for longtime coach Gary Bennett, she has committed to Michigan State and is one of the state’s top players in the class of 2019. Bennett coached Kim in high school, and he first saw Julia play when she was in elementary school.
Andy has coached Julia, on and off but mostly on, since she started playing. Currently Andy is Bennett’s assistant coach. Andy also coached Julia at Star of the Sea and began coaching his two eldest children when they were in elementary school.
“From third to sixth grades I had her playing on the boys AAU team,” Andy said. “I used to put them on the same team because she was so good. In the seventh grade we switched out of AAU to the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization). Going on a weekend and playing four AAU games in one day wasn’t doing her any good. Playing two CYO games and practicing three days a week was better.
“Joe should have a breakout season. Julia had a breakout summer. She played more on the perimeter. She’s athletic enough to cover the post and take the ball to the rim.”
Andy has never stopped working with Julia, even if he wasn’t officially her coach. She developed a love for the game at an early age and Andy continued to teach, lending support as Julia’s game continued to improve.
“She blows our mind all the time,” Kim said. “We’ll say to each other later, did she really do that? When I watch, I see it from the stands and it’s a different look than what Andy sees. I’ll yell something at her during the game. Andy doesn’t like me doing that. I still do it.”
In addition to her playing basketball with the boys for three years, the athletically gifted Julia also played outfield and was a pitcher on a little league baseball team with her brother for two years. Also teaming up with Julia on that little league team was Evelyn Zacharias, one of Julia’s best friends and now a member of the North varsity basketball team as well.
One of Julia’s first memories of playing sports is a positive one.
“I remember when I was at Star of the Sea, we went a long way (in the playoffs),” she said. “It started to be a lot of fun. A lot of those girls who were on that team are at North with me. Evelyn and others. We have the memories.”
Kim and Andy have memories, too, and there are many more to come.
Right now, their lives are often discombobulated trying to give the four equal time. It’s a great goal in theory, but much more difficult to accomplish in reality.
A typical day will find Kim driving home after work as an elementary school teacher to pick up Julia from practice and get Adam to his game at Star of the Sea on time. One particular evening the MSU women’s team is playing the University of Detroit at Calihan Hall and Kim and Julia are going. Home by 10 p.m., there’s time for a snack before the good nights are said.
“People, many of our friends, tease us that we make them do this,” Kim said. “We’ve never done that.”
Kim keeps a schedule of all the comings and goings on a board hanging in the back of the house. She does it alone. She doesn’t trust anyone else to keep track.
Andy is in between jobs so his free time, if you can call it that, consists of completing Kim’s honey-do list.
“We were laughing the other day,” Kim said. “How did we do this before when (Andy) was working? I’m just trying to be patient.”
At the very least, 20 years of marriage will teach you that.
In addition to his work with Julia, Andy coaches Adam’s team at Star of the Sea, and he’s usually the one taking Julia and Joe on trips, whether it be sports-related or the occasional trip to check out a college campus.
Julia said with every member of the family involved in sports in one capacity or another, it helps keep them all together, at the dinner table, riding in a car or wherever.
“(Sports) is a big topic all of the time,” she said. “We have fun with it. We mess with each other.
“My dad has taught me a lot about the game. The biggest thing is to put others before yourself. My biggest thing is to get my teammates involved. Even if they’re not going to play in college, it should be a good experience for them. I try to make sure everyone has their role. I don’t want it to be about me.”
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) The Ayrault family, from left: Annabel, Adam, Andy, Kim, Julia and Joe; inset: Julia and Joe suiting up for Grosse Pointe North. (Middle) Julia and Joe celebrate a birthday together in 2012. (Below) Julia and her dad/assistant coach Andy anchor the right side of the team photo after last season’s District title win. (Photos courtesy of the Ayrault family.)
Another girls basketball season is underway, and the best from 2022-23 are wasting no time seeing how they match up this winter.
Every Monday through the MHSAA Finals in March we’ll look back at the previous week’s results that were most attention-grabbing across the state, highlight a few programs in every division on the rise and glance at some of the games coming up that pop off the page most. One week in, and we’ve already had our share of headline-grabbers with more immediately on the way – read on for details.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
2. Detroit Renaissance 53, Lansing Catholic 46 The Phoenix (2-0), a Division 1 semifinalist last season, earned the headliner for opening week by edging the reigning Division 2 champion Cougars (0-1).
2. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep 45, Maple City Glen Lake 38 The Irish (3-0) reached the Division 4 Quarterfinals last season, and highlighted the first week of this one with this win over the reigning champion Lakers (2-1).
3. Lake Linden-Hubbell 48, Baraga 45 The Lakes (2-0) went a combined 1-2 against Baraga (1-1) last season – with a District Final loss as the Vikings went on to finish Division 4 runners-up.
4. Howell 60, Farmington Hills Mercy 59 Gabby Piepho scored 34 points to lead Howell (2-0) past Mercy (0-1), a Division 1 Regional finalist last season.
5. Frankenmuth 53, Freeland 51 On a night when Frankenmuth honored late star Keri Frahm, a 2016 grad who died in a car crash in October, the Eagles (2-0) held on for what no doubt will be a key league win over the Falcons (1-1).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Bloomfield Hills Marian (2-0) A rough start last season turned into a 10-14 finish for Marian, but the Mustangs did win six of their last seven games and picked right back up with a 2-0 start last week. Marian opened with a 57-44 win over Imlay City, avenging a six-point loss from last winter, and then defeated Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest.
Milford (2-0) The Mavericks are off to a quick start under new coach Tim Olszewski, who came to Milford after a successful run at Howell. They edged Fowlerville 27-23 and then defeated Waterford Mott, after ending last season with a District Semifinal loss to Olszewski’s Highlanders.
Detroit Country Day (2-0) Past star Amber Deane’s first season as coach ended impressively with a 17-7 record and triple-overtime loss to Goodrich in a Regional Final, and she has Country Day off to a fast start. The Yellowjackets doubled up Birmingham Groves to open and defeated Tecumseh 66-52 at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep’s Ice Breaker Classic; Tecumseh finished 20-5 last season.
Shepherd (2-0) After building from seven wins two seasons ago to a 10-13 finish last winter, Shepherd may be on the verge of another advance. The BlueJays opened by edging Beal City 42-40 – Beal City won 14 games last season – and then defeated Gladwin 55-50 in double overtime.
Evart (2-0) The Wildcats’ matchups with Lake City last season had Highland Conference and statewide implications – Evart won the first, but Lake City won the next two to claim league and District titles. Evart has the early upper hand again, following up last week’s 20-point win over Reed City with a 42-41 victory over the Trojans.
Perry (2-0) The Ramblers have improved from zero to four to six wins over the last three seasons, respectively, and are well on their way to increasing that total again. Perry opened with a 38-37 win over Morrice (after losing to the Orioles last season) and 44-27 victory over Byron, and have another fresh start moving to the Central Michigan Athletic Conference this winter.
Colon (2-0) The Magi finished 21-5 last season, reaching the Division 4 Regional Finals before falling to Hackett (highlighted above). Colon began this one with a 52-33 win over Adrian Lenawee Christian, which made the Semifinals last winter, before defeating Battle Creek St. Philip big to finish the week.
Lutheran Westland (2-0) The Warriors are another team quickly pursuing an improvement over last season, when they finished 10-14. They opened with a 44-24 win over Ann Arbor Greenhills, then defeated Whitmore Lake 28-19 – Whitmore Lake downed Westland twice last season on the way to winning the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red title.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Wednesday – Kingston (2-0) at Goodrich (2-0) – These two finished a combined 49-6 last winter, with Kingston reaching the Division 4 Quarterfinals and Goodrich playing in the Division 2 Semifinals.
Thursday – Salem (2-0) at West Bloomfield (0-0) – This is a rematch from last season’s Division 1 Semifinals, won by West Bloomfield, and headlines the Kensington Lakes Activities Association/Oakland Activities Association Challenge.
Friday – Rockford (2-0) at Muskegon (1-1) – The reigning Division 1 champion Rams travel to take on the Big Reds, who are looking to avenge last season’s 19-point loss after which they went 15-5 to finish the winter.
Saturday – Detroit Edison (0-0) vs. Detroit Country Day (2-0) at Belleville – This is arguably the most intriguing matchup from the Best of Michigan Holiday Classic and matches teams with high aspirations in Division 2.
Saturday – Midland Dow (1-1) vs. Salem (2-0) at Belleville – This Best of Michigan game matches a Dow program that’s regularly among Division 1 contenders with a Salem team that joined the elite last season.
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PHOTOS (Top) Flint Powers Catholic and Davison face off in a season opener, won by the Chargers 73-41. (Middle) An Otsego player puts up a shot during her team's 44-35 loss to Portage Central. (Top photo by Terry Lyons; middle photo by Gary Shook.)