Performance: White Pigeon's Claycee West

January 16, 2020

Claycee West
White Pigeon senior – Basketball

The 5-foot-8 senior guard scored a school-record 41 points during a 58-39 win over Marcellus on Jan. 7, breaking her previous single-game school record of 38 points scored as a sophomore to earn the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.” West also became her school’s all-time leading scorer Dec. 17 against Bangor, breaking her coach Brooke McClure’s career points record of 1,224, and West is since up to 1,308 after eight games this winter.

For the season, West is averaging 21.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.4 steals, 2.9 assists and a blocked shot per game. She has led White Pigeon to a 6-3 start after the Chiefs finished 8-13 in 2018-19 – after which West was named to The Associated Press’ Division 3 all-state team. She was an all-region selection as an outside and middle hitter in volleyball this fall, and a league, county and Regional champion as a track sprinter last spring. She also ran cross country during her sophomore year, when she was featured on Second Half for her multi-sport success. West will continue to play basketball after high school for Taylor (Ind.) University, which made the NAIA Division II national quarterfinals a year ago.

West fills her time outside athletics as well. She carries a 4.0 grade-point average and is tied for first academically in her graduating class – and will bring 32 college credits with her to Taylor. She also serves as her White Pigeon class president. West plans to study kinesiology at Taylor, in preparation for becoming a physical therapist.

Coach Brooke McClure said: “I have had the honor of coaching Claycee since she was a freshman. She has had a huge impact on our basketball program and not only that, but on me as a coach. Her work ethic and desire to become a better ball player has also inspired me to put more work into the game and become a better coach for her and her teammates. In small schools like White Pigeon, it is rare to have an athlete as dedicated and as hard-working, along with (having) tremendous athletic ability, to play for our school. She is so smooth and makes the game fun to watch.  Sometimes she still surprises me when she does a certain move or makes a difficult shot. … She is such a good example on how to be a great leader. Even when things haven't gone her way, she has adapted and overcome any adversities she has encountered. We are truly lucky to have her be a part of our basketball program and our community, and I am so proud of the young lady she has become.”

Performance Point: “In the third quarter, I just shot the 3 a ton, and I couldn't miss,” West said of her 41-point performance. “I was just on target that game. It was close the whole time, so it didn't really feel like I was doing that much. I didn't notice I had that many until I hit 39 at the end of the third quarter. ... Coming in freshman year even, this was my goal, to break the (career scoring) record. I had a solid sophomore year, and then junior year too, so I knew coming into my senior year that it was going to happen. And so I wasn't really stressing about it, because the chances of it not happening were almost at zero. So this year I'm more focused on getting the team better, getting the team ready for when I leave. I've had a couple of big games this season, but that wasn't the focus. Just to break these records and be leading my team at the same time, that's the best thing ever ... to be able to accomplish my goals and accomplish team goals at the same time.”

‘When I leave,’ what I hope to leave: “I want (my teammates) to take the game into their own hands. For a while, they didn't know how to do that. They're so young, and someone's gotta step up and lead. I have a pretty competitive nature, and I want that to stir in them that they can accomplish anything that they set their minds to. Because they're an athletic group; they can play ball, but someone's gotta be leading that. And that's what I'm trying to instill. ... I'm a pretty vocal leader. When I see something, I say it. When it's time to be intense in practice, I let them know that's the time to be (their) best. In sprints, I'm trying to be the first one, and (I'm) coaching everyone to do their best. And just really being intense on the court, during games, during practice, building myself and others to our fullest potential. I think this year, it's starting to click.”

Play them all: “I think it's just the fact that (playing multiple sports) keeps me from getting burnt out on a single sport, and playing volleyball makes me better at basketball, and basketball does the same (for volleyball) in different aspects. It makes me all-around such a better athlete and just makes me compete at a higher level, I think. ... I'm very sad that these next four years I won't be playing volleyball. Track's a little different – it's not my favorite thing. But if I could, I'd play both (basketball and volleyball).”

I love to compete: “I love to win. Just to compete ... I've been raised all my life to be competitive. I get it from my mom. She's a very competitive person. She's instilled it just throughout life. I strive to be the best in anything I can be in at all, whether that be in school, in sports or life in general. My mom really pushes me to be that person. She's my volleyball coach now, and at a young age she was my coach too. I don't know if it was just her doing that or her interaction with me. She just holds me to a high standard and doesn't let me slack, and I appreciate that. She's always been a big part of volleyball and basketball for me; both of my parents have. … Not being able to play volleyball (in college) will be hard. But not being able to play with her is going to be even harder.”

President West: “I started off doing student council in middle school. And just leading – I love to lead. I love to make sure everything is done right. … It keeps me busy. It keeps me doing something active. I get to learn everybody's names. I get to know everyone, be part of everyone's life. I just really like to be that influencer, I guess.”

– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Past honorees

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) White Pigeon's Claycee West prepares to shoot a free throw against Bangor. (Middle) West pulls up for a shot just inside the 3-point arc. (Photos courtesy of the White Pigeon athletic department.)

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.