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.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)