After Detroit Western went 6-12 last season, some people might be taken aback seeing the Cowboys unbeaten and atop the boys basketball rankings, but Derrick McDowell isn’t one of them.
“I expected to be 6-0 even without the transfers,” said McDowell, Western’s coach. “There’s no surprise at all.”
The transfers are guard Josh McFolley and 6-foot-8 Gerald Blackshear, who both transferred from Mt. Clemens and signed with Detroit Mercy. They become eligible Jan. 20, but the Cowboys have been fine without them.
Western’s statement game came last month when it wiped out a 13-point halftime deficit and defeated Saginaw Arthur Hill, 69-57, by making it difficult to get the ball to stars Eric Davis and Brian Bowen.
“The players knew we were better than how we played the first half,” McDowell said. “It was just a matter of us getting a little more locked in on defense. They’ve got two stud guys that are hard to match up with. We made them work their way up the floor because we knew if they got in the half-court, we couldn’t beat them because we couldn’t guard them in the half-court.”
Junior guard Brailen Neely led Western with 21 points, and he has been outstanding all season, but he has not been a one-man show.
“Other guys have had their moments where they’ve played well — Karim Murray, Armanti Tinsley,” McDowell said. “One guy who has really stabilized us is Eferian Hobdy. He’s only about 5-11, but he plays the (power forward) spot. He does all the dirty work.”
The Arthur Hill game was an affirmation of sorts that Western would be a team that could do more than contend for the Public School League title.
“We knew going into the Saginaw Arthur Hill game that was the game that would change our program,” McDowell said. “Last year was supposed to be a big year for us, but it really wasn’t. We knew the Arthur Hill game is when people would start saying: ‘OK, they’re going to be good.’ That was the game we needed confidence-wise.”
Hurts to think about
Bob Anderson hopes his undefeated Ithaca girls basketball team makes a long state tournament run for more than just the obvious reason — a shot at the Class C state title.
He wants to delay having a neurosurgeon tear apart his skull.
Last summer, Anderson suffered a stroke during a round of golf. An aneurysm was found, and it is still in his brain.
“The doctor called me two weeks ago and said he was going to cut my skull in half and pull my skull off,” he said. “He said he will go in and move the folds of my brain, clip the aneurysm and sew the skull back on.
“He’s going to do it right after the season.”
Anderson said he takes a pill before each game and measures his blood pressure at halftime.
“I try to stay calm,” he said. “The doctor said I can finish it out this year, and then they’ll go in there, but it’s scary for me right now.”
Ithaca’s latest victory was the 1,120th game of Anderson’s coaching career, breaking the state record held by Paul Cook, the former boys coach at Lansing Eastern, who later coached the girls at Lansing Catholic.
A 1967 graduate of Ithaca, Anderson, 66, began coaching the girls at Gaylord St. Mary in 1979 and three years later added the boys team. He moved to Vanderbilt in 1986 and coached both teams before taking over the boys at Ithaca in 1992 while he coached the Alma girls for 10 years. After a two-year hiatus, he returned to coaching the Ithaca girls, who had won only three games the season before.
“The team was so bad … nobody would coach the girls,” he said. “We haven’t had a .500 season since 2001.”
Anderson has coached 51 seasons of basketball, and this one might be his best. The Yellowjackets are led by 6-foot-2 freshman Kayla Belles.
“We’re pretty good,” Anderson said. “We’re way better than we thought we were going to be.”
Anderson and the guys he has his morning coffee with have figured he has spent 261/2 days of his life coaching basketball games — just running time and not including practices or bus rides.
“It’s just an old guy that loves basketball and loves kids,” he said. “I have only four technical fouls … and they were all funny lines. I never got one for yelling at anybody, and I think the kids kind of respect me for that.”