As painful as the present was, the promise of the future offered the best medicine for Thomas Kithier.
A 6-foot-9 junior at Macomb Dakota who has committed to Michigan State, Kithier and his teammates could only watch in dismay as 6-1 Clarkston junior point guard Foster Loyer almost single-handedly ended their state title dreams in a 68-48 Clarkston win Monday in a Class A regional semifinal at Grand Blanc High.
Loyer, also an MSU commit for the 2018 recruiting class, scored a game-high 31 points and every single made shot was a figurative punch to the gut for Dakota.
It was a crushing scenario for Kithier at the time, but it also was a double-edged scenario that offered some awesome comfort when reminded that he and Loyer will be teammates in East Lansing.
“It sucked that we went off on us like that,” said Kithier, who had 12 points and six rebounds. “But just knowing he can light up the floor like that gets me all excited to play with him. He’s going to be a great point guard at Michigan State and we are going to have a great connection when we play.”
Indeed, while Loyer and Kithier were roadblocks to each other’s pursuit of a high school state championship and will be again next year, they are already plotting traveling the same path together as AAU and college teammates.
For the first time this summer, Loyer and Kithier will join forces and be on the same AAU team, All-Ohio Red, an AAU organization current MSU freshman Nick Ward played with when he was in high school.
Ever since the two committed to Michigan State last year – Kithier in August and Loyer in November – they have bonded more and gotten to know one another better through attending games at MSU and simply conversing.
“We knew each other pretty before,” Loyer said. “AAU nowadays, you know people pretty well. We definitely gotten to know each other better as we both have committed to Michigan State. We have spent a lot of time up there watching games. It’s been a great friendship we have built up at Lansing and it’s something we are looking forward to continuing.”
Kithier echoed those sentiments.
“We talk on the phone all the time, we text and communicate,” Kithier said. “We feel like we are getting a stronger relationship every time we talk to each other or see each other.”
Monday was the third year in a row Loyer and Clarkston clashed with Dakota in the regional round of the tournament.
Loyer was the dominant player two years ago in a 63-58 win over Dakota, scoring 35 points as a freshman.
Last season in a regional semifinal at Dakota, Loyer didn’t shoot particularly well but still finished with 27 points, while Kithier was dominant inside, posting 20 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in a 68-66 double-overtime win for Dakota.
Kithier ultimately got to play at his future college home when Dakota advanced to the state semifinals before losing at Michigan State to eventual state champion Detroit U-D Jesuit, which was led by last year’s Mr. Basketball winner and current MSU freshman Cassius Winston.
When AAU season begins and their team starts staying at hotel rooms before tournaments, Kithier said he is looking forward to finding out more of what Loyer’s hobbies are, with one ulterior motive in mind.
“I’m not sure if he wants to play me in video games, but we have to figure something out,” Kithier said. “I have to get back at him for beating me somehow. I just don’t know yet.”
Odds are there will be a fourth playoff matchup next year when the two are seniors, and then after that they can officially unite as teammates at Michigan State.
Until then, though, Loyer has Michigan State on his mind for a different reason, that being to follow in Kithier’s footsteps and play with his high school team there in the final four.
“There will be more to come (with Kithier) once we get up to East Lansing,” Loyer said. “But for now we are focused on our group of guys at Clarkston, getting the job done and taking the steps to go to Breslin.”