A good time was had by all Friday night as close to 700 spectators came out to Northville High School to watch the Mustang basketball alumni take on members of the Detroit Lions.
The Lions, six players strong, included former standouts Herman Moore, Cory Schlesinger, Rob Rubick and DeWayne White, along with current players Corey Fuller and Jordan Thompson,
Meanwhile, the Northville squad ranged from the class of 1982 through its current 2015 class.
The Lions, with a little help from some friendly officiating (a-la Harlem Globetrotter style), prevailed on the scoreboard, but there was another big winner as proceeds were raised to go toward Substance Abuse Prevention for the Northville Public Schools.
“I think this is awesome,” said ’82 Northville basketball alum Stephen Handley, one of the event’s organizers who battled addictions himself and now works as a drug and alcohol abuse counselor in Flint. “This is exactly what I wanted to happen. And I think people are going to get the message that we want them to get clean and sober, and avoid jails, institutions and death. And I believe this game has been a total Godsend to this community.”
And although the Lions prevailed, the Northville alums did throw down some crowd pleasing dunks led by 6-foot-7 Andrew Meacham (playing at Ferris State) from the 2014 class and 6-7 senior Ryan Roberts (bound for Northern Illinois on a football scholarship).
“All those squats help now during the off season,” said Roberts, who threw down a couple of rim-rattlers. “It was really cool to meet the guys and play against the Lion players. You get to see how cool guys they are and how down-to-earth the are. It was really fun to get out there. We also get to do it for a good cause.”
The game was stopped several times to let young fans come out onto the floor and show their stuff.
Moore, a standout wide receiver in the NFL for 12 seasons, who once held Lions career catches (690) and career receiving yards (9.174), has been involved playing with the Lion alumni basketball team since he was a first-round draft pick out of the University of Virginia.
“Believer it or not I’ve been doing this since 1991,” said Moore, who wore his customary jersey No. 82. “It’s been 23 or 24 years, and every year it amazes me just seeing some of the kids that are grown now that came to see me when I first starting playing like Corey Fuller. I appreciate those younger guys with the Lions that are coming out and giving their time. It’s a lot of fun as you can see. I love the fact that the community comes out and supports it, and that’s why we do it.”
Moore said there is some debate about who might be the best Lion ever to lace up basketball sneakers.
“Barry Sanders would probably try and claim that prize, but I think it’s me,” Moore said “No, I don’t know. We’ve had some pretty good basketball players for the most part. Calvin (Johnson) is a good player. I know I played a little bit in high school. Barry, though, he’s a pretty good player. He wasn’t bad. He was a point-guard and he could dunk. He was strong. Ndamukong Suh, before he left, wasn’t a bad basketball player.”
Thompson, a free agent tight end out of Ohio University who made his Lions debut Oct. 19 in a win over New Orleans, also showed he had some game as well. The Rockford, Ohio native dusted off some old shoes that he wore at Parkway High.
“Actually these are my basketball shoes from my senior year in high school,” Thompson said. “I pulled them out of the closet, a little reminiscing going on. This is the fourth one I’ve done. We tour around the state. There’s a total of 25 of them and we’re not quite halfway through season yet. It’s good fun and gets us out in the community and lets us meet a lot of people. And I think the people enjoy getting to meet us players.”
And despite their bench being a bit short, the Lions, led by now Allen Park school teacher Cory Schlesinger, muscled their way around the floor and to victory.
“There’s only six of us and I don’t know if you can count Rob Rubick as a player,” Thompson said. “He kind of likes to direct traffic from the sidelines. We have a good time with it. It’s a lot of fun. I think we enjoy it if not more than people that come and watch. It’s a good time.”
It was obvious that the 24-year-old Fuller, a back-up wide receiver that came to the Lions via the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech, was their go-to guy. The 6-foot-4 Fuller started his career on an track scholarship at the University of Kansas as a long jumper and triple jumper before switching to football.
Fuller’s brothers all played college football at Virginia Tech.
His older brother, Vincent, is a retired NFL safety who spent the most of his career with the Tennessee Titans. His younger brother, Kyle, was a first-round pick and plays cornerback for the Chicago Bears, while his youngest brother, Kendall, is currently a cornerback for Virginia Tech.
Fuller’s outside game may have suffered, but he was able to please the crowd with a dunk of his own after throwing it back to himself off the backboard.
“Outside of tonight, Corey Fuller is usually pretty good,” Thompson said. “Tonight he was a little off. He’s not shy about shooting, but a majority of the time they go in, so we keep feeding him the ball because he’s the one who gives us the most points.”
Children and fans were able to have the Lions players sign autographs before, during halftime and after the game. There were raffle prizes and merchandize available as well.
“It was a fantastic event, had a lot of support from Northville coming out,” 1982 Mustang alum Tim Wagner said. “And it was great to come out and play with one of my old teammates (Handley) … great time. Everybody came out and it was a really fun game.”