Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pershing Falls By Two Different Scores

I'm not usually one to point out mistakes because a) they happen and b) they can happen to me as much as they can happen to anyone. However, with all accommodations to karma already being made, this is a big deal.

Detroit Pershing lost yesterday -- twice! The state's No. 1 high school basketball team going down is a big deal in any state and in the rugged PSL, where only the top two teams in each division make the playoffs, Southeastern's win over the Doughboys makes for huge headlines.

But what was the score? The Detroit Free Press and writer Mike Horan published a score that didn't match The Detroit News article written by Rod Beard. The Freep had the score 78-75; The News reported a 77-76 tally. Usually the two papers do a pretty admirable job in getting the mountain's worth of prep scores in all sports correct, but this isn't just a game. This is the No. 1 team in the state losing.

Now honestly, the score thing isn't that big of a deal. Yes, accuracy matters, but both papers and their respective staffs are going through a massive downsizing and staffers are being asked to do a lot more with a whole lot less, like every other industry. And neither paper got the outcome of the game wrong: Southeastern won; Pershing lost.

Here's what's really sad to me. Of the approximately five million people in metro Detroit that don't live within the city proper, I would bet less than 1% have ever seen a PSL basketball team, much less a PSL game. The concerns over violence and safety can be real in the PSL but the availability of staff and officials is a bigger problem. Regardless, some of the very best prep basketball in all of the state gets missed because the games are played at 4p.m. and too many suburbanites are clueless about the city's high schools, where they're located, what's safe and what's not.

To boot, the score is inconsistent, and while that means a copy editor at one or both of the papers is fretting, it also adds fuel to the fire that drives so many Detroiters. I'm oft-reminded of the opinion that only the suburbs get the wheat while the city gets the chaff. Of course it's not true but that idea gains ground when stuff like this happens.

I've refereed dozens of PSL football and basketball games without a problem. Further, I refereed the Southeastern - Pershing game last year at Pershing so I know it was a hell of a game yesterday. And I can tell you outside of Cass Tech and Renaissance, Southeastern's gym is as nice as they come to watch a game.

It's too bad so few get to see the best the PSL has to offer, and if anyone knows the correct score, can you help a brother out?

~T.C. Cameron is writing Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August of 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

What's Up With All The Discord?

Can't we all get along?

It seems the basketball season has been marred in recent weeks by fights, disturbances and a four-person shooting in Flint, a city already besieged with problems. It makes Rodney King's oft-quoted question ring prophetic, doesn't it?

The Detroit News reported today Detroit Community High Athletic Director Kevin Dargin accepted the resignation of basketball coach Tony Woods after Woods admitted to an altercation with another coach. Ferndale and Seaholm had to can the majority of the fourth quarter on January 9th after a non-student fight in the stands spilled onto the floor of a game already decided. Seaholm was declared the winner of a game they already led 69-46 with 6:45 to play in the fourth quarter. On January 13th, Detroit Cass Tech banned all fans except parents for their rivalry game with Detroit King due to concerns of possible violence that arose in the junior varsity game played earlier in the day.

That's the good news; Now the bad and ugly.Detroit Henry Ford, still suffering through a turf war and already struggling to ease tensions between the displaced students of now-closed Redford and Mackenzie, had a student shot and killed within eyesight of the school this past fall. Henry Ford has a proud football history but suffered the indignity of having to move home football games from Friday afternoons to Saturday mornings this past fall.

Outstate, Godwin Heights and Lee High will have to return to play the final 10 seconds after a fight ruined the potential finish of a game Godwin Heights was leading 71-68 on January 15th. Anthony Turley, 26, of Comstock pled guilty on January 16th to starting the fight that resulted in pepper spray being administered in the gym. The breathing problems from the spray resulted in the game's suspension.

Finally, four fans were shot on January 20th in the parking lot at Flint Beecher High last week after Beecher defeated Flint Hamady 53-50. Police have determined four different handguns were used in the Beecher High shooting. Beecher's school district garnered national headlines when Kayla Rolland, a six-year-old first-grader, was fatally shot in her classroom by a classmate in the winter of 2000 at Buell Elementary School. Buell has since closed.

This is not what school sports are about, that much we all know. Is it the tough economic conditions? Is this the societal structure breaking down in front of our eyes? Or is it simply kids being kids, parents not being parents and leaders being the all-too-silent objectors? Certainly the economic conditions are a factor in some of this but seriously, how much can we blame on the poor job market and endless unemployment lines?

I don't have all the answers but I think it's fair to say a fight here and there is not news. The seemingly recurring story of fights, violence and shootings at Michigan's prep sporting events is getting tiresome to read and makes me wonder how much worse can it get in Michigan before it gets better.

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries from Arcadia Publishing. Cameron's 2nd title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, is due August of 2009

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

WDFN's Death Sealed With Poor Signal, Sassy Disposition

Metro Detroit's appetite for sports might have eyes bigger than its' stomach.

WDFN's abrupt, noon-time decapitation of all local programming on Tuesday, save for 90-second updates every 30 minutes and Pistons' play-by-play, reveals a lot about the local economy, the teams we zealously root for and a time-tested adage WDFN largely ignored in the station's 15 years of local programming.

Obviously the amount of advertising revenue and ratings' share, both procured and projected, didn't justify 1130AM's parent company, Clear Channel, keeping the majority of local sales and on-air talent on the company's payroll. The nationwide media malaise and local depression was too much to bear.

Another key component in the demise of WDFN was signal strength, already weak when 97.1 The Ticket went to a resounding dual AM/FM signal a year ago that combined 1270AM's WXYT with 97.1FM. Before that, it had been WXYT that looked like the fly-by-night competition for much of the time the two stations battled each other for sports supremacy. The station had gone through a handful of platform changes and renamed the station's handle two different times before finally settling on 'The Ticket'.

But the FM stereo upgrade at WXYT changed the tenor of the two-station sports fight. The Ticket gained an all-encompassing signal found nearly everywhere in the three-county metro area and beyond -- at all hours of the day -- while 'Da Fan was tough to find in Southfield after dark when the station powered down the signal. Once WXYT went to FM, the Tigers and Red Wings became crystal clear on FM in the car and WDFN lost a key arrow from the quiver when fighting WXYT for advertising dollars.

Finally, while it made for great radio at times, Detroit's downtown professional teams repeatedly snubbed WDFN when play-by-play contract rights were available for bid. Already leery of WDFN's truculent approach to on-air criticism of both in-game performance and administrative decision-making, the city's sports-minded Big Three tired of the station's oft-juvenile approach to culling fan reaction in promotion and programming and WDFN subsequently never made the breakthrough needed to secure radio rights. That allowed WXYT to remain a potential competitor for advertising dollars when the station was turning over multiple contracts for on-air talent and drawing abysmal ratings.

The Fan was brought to Detroit in 1994 as a mirror image of popular New York City sports radio station WFAN, and Detroit's Fan had the jump on any future competition had it been able to lock up any one of Detroit's three downtown teams. But instead of getting along before going along, WDFN implemented an adversarial approach to sports talk, pitting fans versus the teams without a major play-by-play contract to sustain it. That ultimately cost The Fan's staff of talent when Detroit's economy could no longer sustain two sports talkers.

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries from Arcadia Publishing. Cameron's 2nd title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, is due August 2009.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

The Need To Step It Up

If you've lived, worked and played in Oakland County for the majority of your life as I have, you might think you know a few things about the city and county you call home.

I'm brave enough to admit today I knew nothing 14 months ago. Of course, I thought I did, but as I researched my football and subsequent basketball book more and more, I discovered my knowledge base was lacking. Over the past 14 months, I've learned so much about the city of Detroit, Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties and our metro region as a whole. My sports knowledge has blossomed and my working knowledge from a socioeconomic standpoint is greatly expanded, too.

Here's what stands out to me today: Oakland County has a long way to go to catch up to other cities and counties in basketball prowess. If you think that's mean-spirited, baseless or otherwise foolish to say, consider what Oakland County's basketball history would look like without Pontiac Northern or Detroit Country Day. When Pontiac Central closes in a few months, a significant chunk of the county's basketball cache will close with it.

Ferndale won a pair of championships under Roy Burkhart in the 1960s. Berkley had some good teams under Steve Rhoades, none better than the 25-0 edition with Bruce Flowers in the mid-1970s. Those Bears lost in the Class A quarterfinals to Pontiac Central, the farthest any Berkley team has ever advanced. The Chiefs went to four title games without bringing home winner's hardware. Southfield had some great teams, including the school's 1983 team that lost to Detroit Southwestern and Antoine Joubert's 44-point effort in the Class A semifinals. Their rival, Southfield-Lathrup, has also had a handful of great seasons in girls and boys' games alike, and save for the last two minutes of the Class A final about 15 years ago, the Chargers could have had a title in boys' basketball, too.

Obviously Pontiac Northern has earned a couple of titles as have the Eaglets of Orchard Lake St. Mary's. Country Day in girls and boys' basketball is a champion many times over along with Mary Lillie-Cicerone's Birmingham Marian teams. Her Mustangs have earned four titles in five finals appearances while neighboring Brother Rice had some good teams under Bill Norton in the 1970s.

There's a small handful of champions I'm omitting but you get the point. At face value that aforementioned list looks pretty good, right? But compared to Detroit, Flint or Saginaw, Oakland County schools, particularly the public schools, are seen within the MHSAA record books as often as the signs that tell you you're still 200+ miles from the Mackinac Bridge. Every so often you see an Oakland County school in the finals or semifinals. And before you get mad, understand that Macomb County's public schools are practically non-existent in this discussion.

What surprises me is one would think with the affluence in Oakland County, the ability to pay for and play AAU, quality coaching, gyms and weight rooms, Oakland County would have a better history. But money can't buy love, as I've heard more than once, and Oakland County school populations love football and baseball a lot more than they love roundball.

However, it's not all negative. Even as rumors swirl of the OAA's potential demise, one must look at the OAA and admit its' role in improving basketball in the O-C. The OAA gave Oakland County a look at Clarkston, Lake Orion and the two Pontiac schools on an annual basis. It forced the county's public schools as a whole to play a different brand of basketball.

Coaches familiar with the 'city game' have been populating Oakland County schools for the past 10-15 years. Not surprisingly, the tenor, tempo and energy of the game changed, too. Finally, when the OAA hired Mike Smith away from the PSL to assign games, the league gained officials who called a tougher, more physical game. It forced soft fouls and soft play out of the OAA. It also opened doors for an entire pool of officials who previously had not intermingled the two leagues to one another.

Obviously I'm starting to touch on some issues that get away from basketball and delve into culture and habit, so we'll stop here. It will be a fun last six weeks of the regular season. Can Clarkston continue an amazing season? Will Pontiac Central offer a final memory for her faithful fans? Pontiac Northern's final season as the Huskies is at hand, too. Will private schools like Country Day and Marian be holding hardware to end their season? Can any other Oakland County team step up and steal glory from a perennial contender?

Here's to a final six weeks of fastbreak, break-neck basketball!

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries from Arcadia Publishing. Cameron's 2nd title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, is due August 2009.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Decisions Abound In Pontiac Merger; Fight Not Ferndale's Black Eye

Pontiac Central High is closing in what's become the worst-kept secret since Major League Baseball's strike of 1994. Schools come and go all the time, but Central is more than a come-and-go school.

Pontiac Central is Pontiac's heritage, history and heartbeat. The school's nickname of Chiefs honors the city's namesake, Chief Pontiac. The school's colors of black and orange are as time-honored in prep circles, in some respects, as Michigan's maize n' blue. Finally, consider Central's premiere basketball history. Certainly city rival Pontiac Northern would stake a claim in any supremacy argument but the Huskies aside, what Oakland County school not named Country Day can make such a boastful claim?

Pontiac's public school leadership has a scant eight months to avoid the mistakes Royal Oak made, mistakes it had three years to overcome. When Royal Oak announced in 2004 that Kimball and Dondero, described by The Detroit News as 'historic rivals', would merge as one high school in 2006, a war of cultures ensued. The Dondero contingent, heartbroken their school would shutter in favor of hated Kimball, embarked to destroy the cultures at both schools, ensuring Kimball's legacy died, too. The 'new' Royal Oak High, with new nickname, school colors and traditions, hasn't overcome the legacy of its' former Kimball name.

The Royal Oak rivalry had been dead for years because Kimball dominated the final 15 scholastic seasons, but instead of making the combined school colors blue, gold and white or hanging banners from each former school in the new school, Royal Oak choose to bury their prep sports history of the past 100 years.

Central and Northern in basketball was very much like Kimball and Dondero for 35 years in football. Do you think the kids in Pontiac will have more than a few verbal and physical battles over their former school's legacy? Let's hope the 'new' Pontiac High School represents the contributions from each former school instead of shuttering their considerable past, as was done in Royal Oak.

FIGHT NOT RIGHT: Birmingham Seaholm's 69-46 win at Ferndale last week was marred by an ugly fight that prematurely ended the contest. Game officials declared the contest complete with 6:45 remaining in the fourth quarter after fans not representing the participating schools commenced a fistfight in the bleachers and risers that spilled onto the court, says Ferndale Athletic Director Shaun Butler.

"This was the result of non-students from either school -- it was not a problem between students of Ferndale or Seaholm," said Butler, who declined further comment except to say only Ferndale students with current, valid student identification cards will be admitted into Ferndale home games for the remainder of the season. There's a long history of good relations between both schools for over 50 years since Ferndale opened in 1958 to replace outdated Lincoln High. Birmingham High was remaned Seaholm in the early 1960s. The two cities paired their public schools against one another in all sports for over 80 years.

Butler and Seaholm athletic director Aaron Frank have plenty of experience hosting marquee events that will draw larger-than-usual crowds for prep sports. Ferndale has annually hosted one of the most prominent MHSAA boys' basketball quarterfinals in the history of the Class A or Division 1 bracket, and Seaholm has hosted one of the biggest quarterfinals in baseball, as well as some of the biggest prep football games in metro Detroit's history.

It's safe to say neither of these men are candidates to fall asleep at the wheel in their duties of stewarding their school's athletic department. The perpetrators of this fight have only hurt themselves and prep fans around them who don't have family-related interest in Ferndale's basketball team, and that benefits no one.

RIVALRY REPORT: Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries might not have changed much in the present except improving memories of prep football's past, but I can say I've noticed a slight change my book may have cultured.

Most metro newspapers big and small now make a concerted effort to highlight the rivalry games between inter-city schools, league foes and tournament tilts, even in the roundup, agate-like listings. While I would never be so bold to claim anything more, I'm proud that my book, in an innocuous way, brought a bit more cache and attention to prep rivalries in metro Detroit.

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries from Arcadia Publishing. Cameron's 2nd title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, is due August 2009.

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Another Country Full Of Opportunity Awaits Kyle

New York's outdated LaGuardia Airport is no one's favorite destination in the snow-laced dead of winter but today it's a stepping stone of sorts to the possibility of a better life for my step-son.

I'm attending a copy writing class Monday evening in midtown Manhattan. I'm taking my step-son to visit Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut during the day. The writing class is for me; the better life is for Kyle. I'm not saying I've given up on Michigan, nor am I saying I don't believe the best schools in Michigan to be good enough for Kyle. I'm saying there's another world out there for him to discover if he so chooses.

I truly believe one of metro Detroit's greatest downfalls is the lack of knowledge or understanding within its' surplusof residents of how the rest of the country operates, how it lives and how it defines itself. Too many companies believe Detroit and the surrounding suburbs simply are too far behind the times in so many key categories to catch up in this lifetime and therefore, don't consider the region a viable candidate for business location or re-location. Sadly, I think we all know job gain/loss statistics back up my beliefs.

I haven't given up on Michigan -- in part because like everyone else, I can't sell my property -- but I'm worried, almost panicked, about what Michigan will look like in another ten years. If the next decade is anything like the last decade, we're in real trouble, as if we're not already. I don't have confidence in Governor Jennifer Granholm's presence, moxie or ability to lure whole industries to the state to replace the many mountain's worth of jobs that have crumbled into dust over the years. The southeastern Michigan region is mired in racial gridlock, something that disgraced politician Kwame Kilpatrick did nothing but exasperate while losing his position as Detroit's mayor. And while I found president-elect Barack Obama's election-night triumph to be an energizing moment for the country and a departure from politics per usual, anyone who thinks Obama will be the magic elixir for Detroit's ill, much less the country, is a punch-card's hanging-chad dreamer.

As if one needs additional evidence of Detroit's lack of cache within its' signature industry, check out Nolan Finley's piece in this morning's Detroit News lamenting the lack of energy, spirit and pride for the annual auto show that kicks off tonight.

This is less about Yale and more about a better chance, a better place, a better life. Yale's simply one of the Ivy League schools. There's Harvard in Boston, New Jersey's Princeton and New York City's Columbia University, too. We'll look at her buildings, touch her doors and walk her hallways. Hopefully, the visit will inspire a desire within Kyle to be an achiever first and a dreamer second. The days of hoping for a Motor City renaissance have long since floated downstream of the Detroit River.

It's time to remake Detroit completely -- that much is fact -- the real question is can this region's car-first mentality be overhauled before it's too late? I'm not waiting to find out on my child's behalf. Today is about the future, so it's on to LaGuardia, to the Metro-North train, to New Haven, Connecticut and back.

All Aboard!

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries from Arcadia Publishing. Cameron's 2nd title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, is due August 2009.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

OAA Looks Ready To Dissolve Into Two Smaller Leagues

Tonight Berkley High School, a school long known for boys' basketball above all else, rolled into the parking lot at Rochester High School off of Livernois for a north-south Oakland County tilt. The young coaching staff at Berkley have molded the Bears into a scrappy, hard-nosed bunch while Rochester is well-versed in the heavy-handed competition the OAA offers.

The wrench in the game? The Bears were an hour late, and when you're playing a freshman, jayvee and varsity game back-to-back-to-back, it makes for a long night. As far as the game went, it was worth waiting for, as Rochester fought off the Bears to the very end, surviving a half-court heave to tie at the buzzer to win 63-60.

Oakland County's sprawling traffic, available bus service to the Berkley teams and a pancake batter snowfall made punctuality all but impossible. This isn't an isolated incident within the OAA and it's not because the member schools don't have reliable transportation, qualified leadership or dedicated employees. It's because the league has outgrown it's usefulness. As one OAA athletic director put it this week, "Conceptually it's a fabulous league; Speaking practically, it's a nightmare."

Word has long been out that the OAA might be ready to follow the MEGA and dissolve. Ironically, the OAA and MEGA were also within a couple of years of each other's inception, too, back in the early 1990s. Now comes reliable information the I-75 corridor schools of the OAA might be poised to branch off together and soon. With Pontiac's impending consolidation of Central and Northern into one high school all but a forgone conclusion by the final half of this school year, the OAA athletic directors are meeting more regularly to address the changing landscape of the league.

It appears imminent that Clarkston and Lake Orion could merge with Troy and Troy Athens, Rochester, Rochester Adams and Stoney Creek to form a smaller, more manageable league. That would leave the southern Oakland County schools like Royal Oak, Birmingham, Berkley, Hazel Park and Ferndale to reconvene the defunct Southeastern Michigan Association.

The question unanswered? Where does that leave Pontiac and Avondale? Some have openly wondered why Grand Blanc joined the Kensington Lakes, and those questions would intensify if a north Oakland County league as aforementioned were to emerge. However, to even consider poaching Grand Blanc while leaving Avondale and Pontiac aside would evoke quick memories of the MEGA Conference disaster when a handful of schools successfully sued the original lineup of MEGA schools to gain inclusion into the league. Could Avondale be part of a northern-based county league? Will Pontiac be considered for a southern-based county conference?

And where do the 'Bloomfields' park themselves? West Bloomfield is on a bit of an island while Lahser and Andover have also been rumored for consolidation.

Times change, schools close, leagues come and go. As the death of the super-sized conference begins to play out, how Oakland County's schools re-invent themselves for athletics in today's recession-based economy will become the face of a new age in prep sports.

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries, released in August 2008 from Arcadia Publishing. Cameron's second title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, is due in August 2009.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Did EMU's Recent Hire Fuel Future Failure?

Derrick Gragg oversees one of the most successful athletic departments in the Mid-American Conference but what defines Eastern Michigan University, to the frustration of the school's athletic director, is the failures in two sports instead of the success of the many others.

Specifically, football and men's basketball have earned the very definition of futility for the past 10 years in Ypsilanti, with football struggling ever since the ill-fated Huron decision was quietly broached in the fall of 1990. Add an administrative train wreck prior to Gragg taking the reins of athletics and Dr. Susan W. Martin assuming the president's position and you can understand why Eastern's recent football hire was so important.

But did Eastern hire the right person for their long-term future? I'm not saying the man who got the job, Ron English, isn't the right man for right now, nor am I saying he wasn't the most qualified candidate. If anything, Ron English is probably over-qualified, a charismatic man who's on-field success and passion for football supersedes the most fervent coach you could imagine.

But was Michigan State running backs coach Dan Enos the better candidate for the long-term viability of EMU football? Is it possible the right man was passed over because he didn't exude of the aforementioned qualities English possesses while remaining the most viable candidate for long-term success?

Yes, I'll concede that sounds a bit naive, so let me explain.

EMU has been a springboard for too many coaches and athletic administrators for too long. Eastern needs its own company man, a Bo Schembechler, Eddie Robinson, Duffy Daugherty or Herb Deromedi-type man to accompany a Don Canham-type athletic director. Moreover, Eastern needs a man content with building a successful, long-term program that will succeed him for a couple generations. I could see Ron English, the dynamic, hard-nosed, smart coach winning more than a handful of games next year, and eight or nine games in Year Two only to be poached away from Ypsilanti for a jackpot of dollars and a conference affiliation that starts with the letters B-C-S.

Where will that leave EMU? The same place it was was when Ron Cooper, another dynamic, hard-nosed, willful leader left after two years for the green pastures of Louisville after a 4-7 season was followed by a 5-6 campaign in 1994. Cooper had been head assistant coach at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz before being hired by another golden domer when Gene Smith tabbed Cooper to replace Jim Harkema in 1993, his final year as EMU's athletic director. After Cooper left EMU was 6-5 under Rick Rasnick in 1995 but that was a bit of a faux record. EMU didn't earn a winning mark in the MAC that season and hasn't notched a noticeable ledger in the MAC since 1989 when the then-Hurons lost to Ball State on the last day of the season in a winner-take-all scenario for the league's title berth to the California Bowl.

The school hasn't had a winning record since. If you think EMU doesn't matter in the big scheme of college football, consider that 20 young men with ties to metro Detroit populate the EMU roster, 11 of whom either lived or prepped in Oakland County.

Dan Enos interviewed for the job at Eastern. He's a Dearborn product, a former Edsel Ford Thunderbird who also led MSU to their last Big Ten title, when the Spartans earned a share of the championship in 1990 under the former Spartan quarterback. Like English, he's got Big Ten coaching experience and has children he's not willing to uproot. It was rumored that Enos was already building a staff that included George Perles' son, Pat, and former MSU standout receiver Courtney Hawkins.

I'm absolutely certain EMU hired the best candidate it was afforded in its search. I simply wonder if EMU missed hiring the best candidate as it relates to EMU's long-term success.

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries, available from Arcadia Publishing.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

UDM's Basketball Blueprint Found At Cleveland State

DETROIT -- No one familiar with the University of Detroit-Mercy's lackluster basketball fortunes this season would attribute the Titans' struggles to anything other to the usual growing pains of rebuilding a once-proud program from the ground up. Titan coach Ray McCallum faced an opponent Saturday afternoon in Calihan Hall led by a coach well-versed in turning the task of rebuilding into an art.

Gary Waters and the Cleveland State Vikings ventured into the Motor City and earned a 53-44 decision over UDM, one of Waters' 607 wins as either an assistant, associate or head coach in the venerable coach's path through college basketball that dates back to Ferris State University in 1974. Waters left Ferris in 1989 and joined Ben Braun at Eastern Michigan. In his second season with the Hurons, Waters was followed Ferris State to Ypsilanti by former Troy High standout Marcus Kennedy, who transformed a Mid-American Conference contender into an undisputed league champion in 1990-91.

Three years alter Waters helped recruit Royal Oak Dondero center Theron Wilson to EMU. Wilson, who had previously been at Detroit King, lived with John Bancroft's family at the corner of Catalpa and Maplegrove in Royal Oak and turned the Oaks into Oakland County's best team. With Ben Bancroft, who later played at Albion, and Jason Beverlin, who went on to pitch for the Detroit Tigers, Dondero found itself in the state's Associated Press Top Ten poll. Later Wilson would lead EMU to a 1996 MAC title. Eastern became the first school in 55 years to top Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament when the Eagles defeated the Blue Devils 75-60 in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. John Bancroft, now retired, is best remembered for the many years he coached track & field in the Troy school district. Ironically, Troy High basketball coach Gary Fralick is a former Oak.

But I digress. Before Braun left EMU for California in '96, Waters accepted the head post for five seasons at league rival Kent State, followed by another five-year stint at Rutgers. For the past two seasons, Waters has led the Vikings, who defeated Syracuse in the Carrier Dome earlier this season on a 60-foot three-point heave released before the game's final buzzer to break a tie score. Last season Waters flipped a team that had earned a 10-21 mark the year prior into a 21-win squad that earned an NIT appearance. Now McCallum is being asked to do the same thing at UDM.

"Ray's already got some things in place," Waters said after the contest. "I think he'll be good next year, frankly. There's three things you have to do when you take a job. You have to change the culture, which means making sure kids know they have to work. You have to bring in some talent, which he's started to do, and third, sometimes you have to get rid of some people, clean house a little bit."

Waters has witnessed 405 losses to accompany his 607 wins mark in his various roles as a bench leader in college basketball. Waters worked his 1,000th game in Cleveland State's fourth game of the season, a 72-62 win over Saint Leo on November 24 in Miami, Florida.

REPLAY'S SAVING GRACE: Saturday's contest saw CSU with a 34-20 halftime lead, but only after a UDM basket at the buzzer, initially flushed down as good by official Tim Fogarty, was waved off. UDM guard Thomas Kennedy drove the left side of the lane and floated a soft running lay-in attempt that fell short of the basket. Titan forward Michael Harrington clutched the errant attempt and tossed in a bunny.

The interesting aspect wasn't that the shot counted in the face of a apparent red light prior to the shot leaving Harrington's hands, but rather the reasoned, even calm response from the Cleveland State bench. In the era prior to replay, the reaction would have predictably been one of near-unanimous rancor to the decision, but because the CSU coaches knew the officials would use the replay resources available to them thanks to SportsTime Ohio, the coaches actually walked off the floor without knowing the shot would be waived off.

FOUL BY NUMBERS: As an official, writer and overall fan of the game of basketball, I've never subscribed to the theory that team fouls must be even or near-even to represent a fairly-called game from the crew of officials assigned to working the game.

Saturday UDM was on the short end in the first half of the fouls, first by a 7-4 count and later by a 9-6 tally. The UDM faithful behind the team bench belabored the point against the silence of the arena, filled with a few hundred fans for the contest. What floors me is how the foul count has become the harbinger of fair officiating standards. To me, this illustrates the level of paranoia that accompanies basketball. Nine-and-six is just one scant call away from eight-and-seven, as close as the count can be to being considered even.

In the second stanza it was the Titans that benefited from a 10-6 foul count in the first 15 minutes of the half. Not surprisingly, it was the UDM following that offered little critique of the officiating while the CSU contingent assumed the role of the vocal victims. For the game, Cleveland State was whistled for 21 fouls to UDM's 18.

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August of 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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