Step by Step, EGR's Brown Climbs to Miss Basketball Award, College Future

By Steve Vedder
Special for

March 16, 2023

EAST GRAND RAPIDS – Macy Brown remembers spending her Saturday mornings with her older sisters scrambling around gymnasiums when she was no older than a first grader.

The long and winding journey from those early days to a sterling career at East Grand Rapids is one chronicled by overcoming the gangly body of a middle schooler, surrendering interest in two other sports in favor of basketball, countless hours of AAU, critical advice from two older sisters, a misfortunate accident to a teammate as a junior that necessitated a position switch and eventually to sorting through scholarship offers from a handful of elite college programs.

It's a path that concluded this week with the Pioneers’ point guard not only becoming one of just 1.3 percent of high school players to accept a Division I scholarship, but also being named winner of the prestigious Miss Basketball Award as the state's top senior player.

It's a long way from those weekend mornings to becoming the school's all-time leading scorer, a four-year starter, all-stater and Miss Basketball winner – and a story that Brown says exceeds anything she could have imagined.

"It's been amazing, magical at times," Brown said. "You don't realize how you've spent your time until it's over. There were a lot of sacrifices, but you also gain so much with the relationships you've had through basketball."

The journey started at the East Hills center in Grand Rapids with older sisters Oliva and Jillian, both of whom are currently playing Division I college basketball, and their mother Noelle, who ran an AAU program. It was the first time Macy Brown recalls taking an interest in the sport and began taking stock of what it would take to play basketball at the high school or possibly even college level.

By the time Brown entered middle school, she was all of 5-foot-9 with skills that while encouraging, were far from a guarantee that a long basketball bloodline would be extended by one more daughter. In fact, it was the first time Brown was spotted by EGR coach Troy Hammond, who recalls her as anything but the player who would become the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,537 points while starting all 86 of the team's games over four varsity seasons.

"She was a tall, lanky kid who was just figuring her body out," Hammond said, "She was a tag-along with her sisters. She was always smiling, a happy-go-lucky kid who loved being in the gym. But I would be lying if I said she would be as good or better than the experiences I had with her sisters. That was no foregone conclusion."

Still, Brown stuck it out and slowly made progress, both mentally and physically. Boosted by advice from her sisters, Brown's on-court talent began to take shape. She also grew about three inches and began hitting the weight room to gain strength. As she entered middle school, she elected to give up lacrosse and soccer to spend more time playing basketball. Armed by having additional time for basketball, she threw herself into even more AAU ball. College coaches who constantly mine the AAU circuit for emerging talent began to notice Brown, who received her first scholarship offer from Loyola of Chicago following her eighth-grade season.

Macy Brown and her sisters celebrate her Miss Basketball Award.Despite the interest, however, Brown knew she had to become a better player.

"I was pretty good, but you don't realize how big of a leap it is from middle school to high school," said Brown, who had no second thoughts about becoming a single-sport athlete. "I grew up around basketball, it was always my first sport. I couldn't see playing lacrosse or soccer past high school."

Brown was good enough to make EGR's varsity as a freshman, She averaged 11.7 points per game in her inaugural season and gained additional attention from playing on a 22-1 team that would have been in contention for a Division 1 title if the season hadn't been cancelled because of COVID-19.

Brown continued to hone her game, averaging 13.5 points as a sophomore. She made all-conference for a second time and also made her college choice: she would become a Michigan Wolverine.

"When you know, you know," she said. "I knew I would wind up at Michigan because when I went other places, I would always compare them to Michigan. It just felt like home."

Brown said she relied on her sisters to know what required her utmost attention during the recruitment period. Olivia started at St. Bonaventure and now plays at Valparaiso, while Jillian is at Northwestern. Both offered crucial advice on how to pick a school.

"It definitely helped playing against them. I would get beat on, but it helped me," Macy said. "It was all for the best because it helped me become a better player."

It was after picking her college that Brown's career took another significant step forward. The Pioneers' senior point guard, Ally Carlson, who now plays at Western Michigan, suffered a season-ending ACL injury before senior-year practice began. The injury meant Brown, who had been a shooting guard her first two seasons, would have to move to point. She had to transition from becoming the team's second or even third offensive option to someone counted on to score points. She responded by averaging 22.4 as a junior and tossing in 25 points per game this season.

"I watched her develop into a leader, both as a person and on the court," Hammond said. "To see that development as a coach, it was wonderful."

Brown's improvement as a player included serious self-reflection. She admits to being the kind of athlete who maps out goals and then isn't satisfied until she reaches them.

"Every year was a checkpoint for me," she said. "I worked hard every offseason, and I would always notice what it took to play the game."

While the book on her high school career closes with the Miss Basketball Award, another door is opened in Ann Arbor. Brown said if she were to speak to a room full of young basketball wannabes, her advice would be simple. Brown was once in their position, and better than anyone else knows what it takes to conquer the next step in moving up the basketball ladder.

"It's definitely step by step, and you have to learn from your experiences," she said. "You make sacrifices, but you can gain so much."

PHOTOS (Top) Macy Brown is this season's Miss Basketball Award winner. (Middle) Brown and her sisters celebrate her award this week. (Top photo by Steve Vedder. Middle photo courtesy of the East Grand Rapids athletic department.)

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.)