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.)

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.