Reaching Higher Returns, Expands
June 19, 2019
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The annual Reaching Higher showcases of Michigan’s top high school basketball players will return for their 10th year June 23 at Milford High School in Highland Township, and for the first time volleyball players will take part in the Reaching Higher experience during a showcase July 18 also at Milford.
Nearly 200 athletes with aspirations to play basketball and nearly 80 with hopes of playing volleyball at the college level will train and scrimmage under the tutelage of high school coaches from across the state and in front of college coaches expected to represent a number of NCAA, NAIA and junior college programs.
For both sports, the Reaching Higher experience includes classroom sessions for student-athletes and their parents as well as on-court drills and scrimmaging. The events aim to give athletes a vision of what it takes to become a college player and also succeed in college life. Reaching Higher is a combined effort by the Michigan High School Athletic Association with the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan and Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association.
For both sports, participants were selected by a committee of coaches association members based on nominations by member basketball or volleyball coaches. A complete list of June 23 expected attendees can be found on the basketball Reaching Higher page of the MHSAA Website, while a complete list of expected attendees for volleyball will be posted closer to that event on the Reaching Higher page for that sport.
The boys basketball event begins at 11 a.m. on June 23, with scrimmages running from 1-3:30 p.m. The girls basketball event begins at 3 p.m., with scrimmages from 5-7:30 p.m. Speakers for the boys session include Reggie Butler, a standout at Southfield-Lathrup High School who went on to play at Xavier University and professionally overseas. Girls session speakers include Cassie Breen, who starred for Brownstown Woodhaven High and Central Michigan University and played professionally this past season in Spain.
Longtime coach Dave Ginsberg will speak with athletes; he coached at a number of Michigan high schools and also was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Central Michigan University for 16 years, and he currently serves as the secretary/treasurer of the National High School Basketball Coaches Association. Longtime high school and college coach Marc Comstock – currently the boys varsity coach at Grass Lake High School – and former Saginaw Valley State University and current Flint Powers Catholic athletic director Mike Watson will conduct sessions with parents during players’ drill and practice sessions.
The volleyball event begins at 9:30 a.m. on July 18. A schedule for the day including speakers will be added to the volleyball Reaching Higher page of the MHSAA Website closer to the event.
Below, State Champs Sports Network explains a little bit more about the history of the basketball Reaching Higher event.
Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995
By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com
April 13, 2023
Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.
But 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 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 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.