Reese Volleyball Heroes Hope to Have Rockets' Hoops Firing Next

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 29, 2021

Reese girls basketball coach Josh Pickell had never been happier to have low turnout through the first two weeks of practice.

The Rockets were down to four varsity players and had to combine with the junior varsity to run full sessions as the school’s volleyball team was making its Cinderella run to the MHSAA Division 3 Volleyball Finals title two weekends ago.

“As a coach, I just have to realize that the girls are going to need some time after doing what they did,” Pickell said. “It’s an incredible feat. It was kind of good for our entire program, with some other girls getting the extra practice time and seeing how cool it is for a girls team like the volleyball team to go that far. It was good for our freshman team and our JV team getting that time.”

All but two of the 11 players Reese took to Kellogg Arena are basketball players, including returning all-state honorees Maddi Osantowski and Aydan Dalak, who were at the forefront of the Nov. 20 title win against Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. 

“I’m just hoping the momentum we had in volleyball, because we have so many girls that play volleyball and basketball, that it would just shift into basketball,” Osantowski said. “Just having that many girls to be able to shift to different sports, I think it shows how athletic the whole team is.”

The multi-sport seniors are taking slightly different approaches to getting into basketball, but neither is taking much time. Osantowski planned to return to practice Friday, giving herself less than a week after recording 71 kills and attempting more than 200 attacks during the final weekend of the volleyball season. Dalak, meanwhile, was on the basketball court Monday. She had been at previous practices, too, just not participating.

Reese volleyball“I just sat and watched sometimes. I just wanted to see how the team was looking,” said Dalak, who was the setter on the volleyball team and plays point guard for the basketball team. “I was a little tired (Monday), and I’m usually not. But I’m not used to running back and forth for 30 minutes. I did OK. It was fine.”

Playing multiple sports is the norm at Reese, a school with fewer than 300 students. It’s necessary to keep multiple programs strong, and the coaches work together to ensure that happens.

“I really encourage doing multiple sports,” Reese volleyball coach Angie Compton said. “Last spring, I called the basketball coach and said, ‘Let’s do our youth camp together.’ That way, hopefully more kids will do both of them. Then, hopefully, you’re keeping more girls thinking that both sports are great.”

What Osantowski – who also plays softball – and Dalak – who has played softball but plans to run track next spring – are doing in terms of success, however, is not normal anywhere. 

Dalak was named second-team all-state by the Michigan High School Volleyball Coaches Association, a year after earning honorable mention in the sport. She was named honorable mention all-state in basketball as a junior.

Osantowski was a first-team all-state selection in volleyball this season and honorable mention in 2020. She was second-team all-state in basketball as a junior and honorable mention as a sophomore, and she was named first-team all-state in softball as a junior, as well.

“If not all of the athletes are playing (multiple sports), the teams aren’t going to be as good,” Osantowski said. “I actually do not play travel. I did travel softball and basketball in middle school, and I did one year of travel volleyball. It’s kind of hard to transition (from sport to sport). I just focus all on one thing in the season, because I know I have to do it for my school.”

Neither Osantowski nor Dalak have made a college choice, but their mindset is pretty similar. Both are leaning toward playing volleyball collegiately, which is a change from years past when they thought basketball would be the route to the next level.

Reese volleyballThey will juggle that process with what looks to be a promising basketball season. The Rockets are coming off a 12-2 finish, and while their postseason run was ended in the District Semifinal, the loss came against eventual Division 3 semifinalist Hemlock. A familiar connection will lead the way, as the passes from Dalak to Osantowski that proved so successful on the volleyball court are pretty common on the basketball court, as well, with Osantowski’s role as a shooter. 

“I’m like her little assister,” Dalak said with a laugh. “She stands in the corner and I’m good at driving and kicking it out to her.”

Just like in volleyball, they’ll be surrounded by a strong group of their classmates, including Josie Johnson. The Reese libero was an honorable mention all-state selection in volleyball, and is a standout guard on the basketball team. 

“We’ve already talked about it, we think we can do this for basketball, too, but we have to work hard like we did for volleyball,” Dalak said. “We need to have fun and keep that energy going into basketball.”

But the volleyball title has sparked belief in more than just the players who won it. That's a new feeling for a school that had one Finals title prior to Saturday – won in boys cross country in 1964.

“I think even for the boys basketball team, I was talking to them today, and said, ‘You know, you guys can win a state championship, too,’” Osantowski said. “I think people can see now that we can do this, so they think it can happen more, or at least they can go farther.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Reese teammates Maddi Osantowski (left) and Aydan Dalak are hoping to carry their volleyball success into basketball season this winter. (Middle) Osantowski serves during the Division 3 Final win over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. (Below) Dalak sets up another teammate against the Kestrels. (Top photo courtesy of the Reese girls basketball program; volleyball photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)