Sunday, March 8, 2009

We're Evolved Humans, Not Big Birds

OK, short post here to get back on the straight and narrow. I'm on deadline to deliver the book and I'll be offering vignettes this week of an Oakland County championship featured in my basketball rivalries book, due in August 2009.

But first, we humans are not birds and as such, we do not have wings, making the term 'wingspan' a complete oxymoron. I cannot stand the collegiate recruiting writers who insist on using this term. "So-and-so prized recruit has an 84-inch wingspan..."

Caw-caw! Cue Bette Midler as well.

CONGRATS: Michigan State University is definitely back on the map after today's 62-51 win over visiting Purdue University to close out the Big Ten's regular season as the conference champions for the first time since 2001. With 12 wins over teams ranked in the RPI Top 50, Coach Tom Izzo is a strong candidate for conference coach of the year, and likely several Spartans might be in line for conference players awards, too.

But perhaps most impressive about MSU's sustained success is the great majority of it has been manufactured by players and coaches from Michigan.

Izzo's story from Iron Mountain is already well-documented. Each of his assistants have roots in Michigan's already strong reputation as prep and collegiate basketball hotbed. Dwayne Stephens, a former Spartan and Ferndale High All-Class A selection from the 1980s. Mike Garland, who coached Belleville High for a long stretch before embarking on a first collegiate coaching stint with the Spartans, is back for a second term of service. Garland began his coaching career at Detroit's Cody High. Finally, Inkster native Mark Montgomery, himself a former Spartan standout, was an outstanding performer at Southgate Aquinas, where he also coached after his prep career but before the school closed in 2000.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of memorable Spartan players have been from Detroit, Flint and Saginaw over the past 30 years, and especially so in Tom Izzo's last 11 years, an outstanding run that dates back to Michigan State's win in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament over Earl Boykins, Derrick Dial and Eastern Michigan University in Hartford, Connecticut.

The Spartans are still one first-class product manufactured in Michigan.

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

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