Performance: Renaissance's Kailee Davis

February 20, 2020

Kailee Davis
Detroit Renaissance junior – Basketball

The Phoenix’s guard scored a team-high 34 points with seven 3-pointers to lead Renaissance past Detroit Cass Tech 81-55 in Friday’s Detroit Public School League Tournament championship game, earning the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.” The PSL overall championship was Renaissance’s first since 2011, and Davis has set the pace as the team has since improved to 17-2 with one more game next week before the postseason begins.

Phoenix coach Shane Lawal called Davis the best junior in the state after the Cass Tech win, and he has plenty to back that up. The 5-foot-4 Davis was averaging a team-leading 16.8 points per game on 50-percent shooting from the floor heading into Wednesday night’s win over Flint Carman-Ainsworth. She had made 35 3-pointers and also was averaging 3.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. Her numbers have come against a schedule loaded with MHSAA title contenders – Renaissance’s opponents have a combined .643 winning percentage – and she often defers to a talented group of teammates, which include four other starters already holding college basketball scholarship offers. The Phoenix’ only loss came to reigning Division 2 champion Detroit Edison, 54-52 on Feb. 1, and Davis scored a game-high 22 points against the Pioneers’ star-studded lineup. She should get a chance to show her skills on the playoff stage over the next month; Renaissance currently is ranked No. 3 in Division 1 in the MHSAA's Michigan Power Ratings.

Davis also played baseball growing up and is considering playing softball at Renaissance as a senior. She’s been on the basketball varsity since freshman year and continues to be all hoops right now, and has made a variety of campus visits and picked up eight Division I scholarship offers with interest from a number of other programs. She is interested in studying criminal justice after high school with aspirations of becoming a detective. 

Coach Shane Lawal said: “Basketball is a game of height. So height is always measured into talent, unfortunately. (But) as far as shooting off the dribble, shooting off the catch, finishing with her left or right hand, finishing in traffic, ball-handling – not just bringing the ball up but under pressure, her shiftiness, her passing ability. ... There's a lot of great juniors in the state, but a lot of them have that height that's added to their attributes. I think if she was four inches taller, everybody would be saying the same things I'm saying. She can score on all three levels. That's something that a lot of high school kids can't do – rim, mid-range and 3-point. Defensively, she’s really underrated; she leads us in steals, covers lots of ground. Her IQ offensive and defensively is extremely high. She just sees the game, and she knows how to make reads and just make the right play. ... I have five great starters. I think if she's playing for a lot of teams she's averaging 25 points a game. She averages 17 because she only needs to average 17. She has so much talent around her that she doesn't have to be superwoman.”

Performance Point: “Coming into the game, I didn't really think I'd have to score a lot of points and take over in the game,” Davis said of the PSL final. “But the way the game was coming to me at the beginning, I just had a feeling that I was going to have a good game. Then my coach just told me to keep shooting, so in the third quarter and fourth quarter I was just shooting the rock when I was open, and just taking good shots. ... (Early) I was getting my points off of playing defense. My shots were just falling. I was going to the rim and to the free throw line, getting my teammates the ball. ... We just work hard every practice. We practice to get to the bigger picture, because our goal is to win a state championship. And we know we've got what it takes to beat any team that's in front of us, so we just came in wanting to play hard.”


Energized: “I feel like our energy is different, like energy from the coach and the coaching staff. And we just all want it more this year because we know we could've had it the last two years, and we know we were good. We just didn't have the drive. … A lot of (the energy) came from our coach. When he first came in, he came in telling us that our goal from the beginning of the season was to win a state championship. Every practice we just set our goal, and we just practice hard all the time and play hard all the time.”


Big game: “I feel like me being shorter, or smaller, gives me an advantage because I'm quicker than most people. I just try to show people that even though I'm small, I can still do all of the things that anybody bigger than me can do. (Bigger players) think they either can shoot over me or block all of my shots. So I like the challenge when I play against them.”


Finding her groove: “Right now the best part (of my game), I’m letting the game come to me. Playing hard, so I don't have to force my shots. I get my teammates involved first, and then I'll get my groove going. (And) each year my shooting has gotten better. I shoot a lot at practice, and the advantage is me shooting with more confidence.”


All shark: “We learned that we have to play hard every game. We can't just turn it on when we want to. We have to go out playing hard every game, no matter who we're playing against. (That idea) kicked in in the beginning of this year. On the back of our shooting shirts we have this slogan that says "#ClownsAndSharks" And it's like, which one are you? So we treat all of the teams the same way. We don't underestimate any team.”

– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Past honorees

Feb. 13: Jamison Ward, Carson City-Crystal wrestling - Report
Feb. 6:
Elena Vargo, Farmington United gymnastics - Report
Jan. 31:
Michael Wolsek, Trenton swimming - Report
Jan. 24:
Kensington Holland, Utica Ford bowling - Report
Jan. 17:
Claycee West, White Pigeon basketball - Report
Jan. 10: 
Seth Lause, Livonia Stevenson hockey - Report
Dec. 5: Mareyohn Hrabowski, River Rouge football - Report
Nov. 28:
Kathryn Ackerman, Grand Haven swimming - Report
Nov. 21:
Emily Van Dyke, Southfield Christian volleyball - Report
Nov. 14:
Taylor Wegener, Ida volleyball - Report
Nov. 7:
Carter Solomon, Plymouth cross country - Report
Oct. 31: 
Jameson Goorman, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Oct. 24:
Austin Plotkin, Brimley cross country
- Report
Oct. 17:
Jack Spamer, Brighton cross country - Report
Oct. 10:
Kaylee Maat, Hudsonville volleyball - Report
Oct. 3:
Emily Paupore, Negaunee cross country - Report
Sept. 26: 
Josh Mason, South Lyon soccer - Report
Sept. 19: Ariel Chang, Utica Eisenhower golf - Report
Sept. 12: Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt swimming - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Renaissance's Kailee Davis makes a move toward the basket against Detroit Cody this season. (Middle) Davis prepares to pull up for a jumper during last week's PSL final against Cass Tech. (Photos courtesy of State Champs Sports Network.)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.