BROOKLYN – The gymnasium at Brooklyn Columbia Central High School has been the site of some intense battles among two high-energy post players for the past three years. But only a handful of people have been in attendance to watch.
That’s because most of them have come during the Golden Eagles’ practices.
It is at those practices, run by Columbia Central coach Codi Cole, where 6-foot-2 junior Zoie Bamm and 6-3 senior Tadessa Brown have scrapped, battled, and molded themselves into future Division I college basketball players.
“It doesn’t do me a lot of good to practice and post up against someone 5-2,” Brown said. “Zoie and I have had some great battles. I love going against her. She’s strong and has some muscle. We battle hard, usually until the coach makes us stop.”
Those battles have launched some great success for Columbia Central, which clinched its fourth-consecutive Lenawee County Athletic Association championship Thursday with a win over Dundee. The Golden Eagles had a streak of 37 straight conference wins snapped earlier this season but have rebounded nicely and are eying a deep tournament run.
Cole is a basketball junkie who graduated from East Jackson in 2003. He was coaching travel basketball through the Michigan Sports Facility in Jackson, where he works, when he applied and landed the Columbia Central job.
“One of the parents encouraged me to apply,” Cole said. “I wasn’t their first or second choice and when I got the job. I was told they wanted someone with more varsity experience.”
It didn’t take long for Cole to bring a championship attitude to the program.
CC went 10-11 in his first season in 2017-18. Since then, however, it’s been championship after championship. Over the last four years, the Golden Eagles have gone 15-5, 20-3, 16-4 and they are 14-4 this year. In the LCAA, Columbia Central is 49-2 since the start of the 2018-19 season.
“I’m blessed to be at a school where there are some people obsessed with basketball,” Cole said.
He has as familiar face on his bench – his high school coach Jim Nelson has been an assistant the last four years. Nelson has coached basketball for 40 years in the Jackson area.
“When I came to coach, I asked him to coach with me,” Cole said. “It’s great having him with me.”
This season some of the younger players on the team had to grow up faster than expected. The team lacked experience other than Bamm and Brown, and Bamm was slowed at the start due to an injury.
“We played (Parma) Western in the first game and lost and scored 17 points,” Cole said. “Frankly, that’s not what we are used to. We didn’t have Zoie and had a lot of inexperience. It took a second to get going with the new crew. There were some struggles.”
After the season-opening loss, Columbia Central won three games, then ran into Onsted. The Wildcats ended up winning, 46-34.
“That was a big eye-opener for us,” Cole said. “After that, we started rolling.”
Since the Onsted loss, Columbia Central has lost only to 2021 Division 3 champion Grass Lake and Division 1 Temperance Bedford.
“I’d say we came together as a team,” Bamm said. “We were young coming into the season, and we needed to make things work. I expected us to develop as the season went on.”
Bamm eased into the season. She tore her ACL last April and spent the entire offseason rehabilitating her knee. When this season started, she didn’t get the approval from her surgeon to play right away.
“He didn’t think I was ready,” Bamm said. “He wanted me to keep practicing.”
After the opening-game loss, however, Bamm returned to the court. At first her minutes were limited, but that didn’t last long. Now her and Brown both average about 14 points a game. In Thursday’s win over Dundee, Bamm had 25 points, 19 rebounds and nine blocks in one of her best games of the season. Junior Anna McCollum leads the team in 3-pointers and is third on the team in scoring.
“There is always room to grow,” Brown said. “There’s so much more we can do to get better. We want to keep playing for as long as we can.”
Besides the practice battles between Brown and Bamm, the Golden Eagles also spend time watching film to get better.
“We watch a lot of film,” Brown said. “I watch film with Coach. We are always looking for things that can make us better. We try and change the small things, especially with the younger girls on the team.”
Brown, the only senior, and Bamm, started playing together when Brown was in eighth grade on a travel team.
“We became friends even then,” Bamm said. “We’ve been training together a long time.”
Brown said the duo has enjoyed their practice battles.
“She’s so great to practice with,” Brown said. “She’s going to be a Division I player too.”
Brown had some college offers, but she couldn’t quite find the right fit. That’s when she assembled some of her film and sent an email to Division I coaches around the country.
“Clemson was one of the schools that contacted me back,” she said. “We started communicating and I made an unofficial, virtual visit and I loved the campus and everyone there. It is such a family atmosphere there. They accept you for who you are, and their coaches are amazing. I cannot wait to get my career started there.”
Before college, however, Columbia Central has more work to do. The Golden Eagles open the postseason as the No. 2 seed in a Division 3 District that includes Big 8 Conference champion Jonesville. They have a final regular-season game tonight to try and wrap up a 13-1 LCAA campaign.
“The other day in practice I started looking around and thought we only have a few practices left,” Brown said. “It was truly like, ‘Where did the time go?’ moment. On senior night, I realized this was the last time I am going to play in this gym. It’s so surreal. I’m happy with everything that happened here.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Tadessa Brown, right, and Zoie Bamm take a photo together during Brown’s college signing event. (Middle) Bamm and Brown’s friendship goes back to middle school. (Below) Bamm calls for the ball during a game against Hudson. (Photos courtesy of Amanda Bamm.)