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The High: The Trojans ‘Mission’ To Climb And Make History

Every sports Dynasty has two building blocks when it comes to a foundation.  A starting point and a turning point. The Saginaw High Trojans’ basketball program were no strangers to success before Lou Dawkins took over for Legendary Head Coach Marshall Thomas in 2004.  The school had been to 7 State Title games, winning three of them, the most recent being Thomas’s 1996 squad. The foundation was solid when Dawkins took the helm, which was the starting point for the ‘New’ Trojans Dynasty.  Starting points come with ups and downs, peaks and valleys and are almost always capped off by adversity, which leads into the turning point.

On March 8th, 2006, the Trojans rolled into the District Semi-Finals against arch-rival Arthur Hill, a 2X defending Saginaw Valley League Champ and with high expectations of getting back to the Breslin.  Saginaw High had been ranked as high as #1 in the state earlier in the season, led by Seniors Larry Wright and Kuddles Hopkins, along with a strong core of underclassmen. The Trojans started fast, going 8-0 out of the gates but found themselves down by 3 at the break.  The game turned into a defensive struggle in the 2nd half but a Larry Wright Three-Pointer put the Trojans up 1 with about 20 seconds to go. The events over the final moments of the game would dash Saginaw High’s hopes of a returning to the FInal Four and propel their rivals to the eventual State Championship.  A missed Arthur Hill shot, an offensive rebound and a putback, put the Lumberjacks up for good. The agony of that defeat actually became the turning point for the Trojans Dynasty. Coach Dawkins talked about that night. “Honestly, the shot that Arthur Hill made at the buzzer haunted me for a while.  I remember coming home from that loss and having a long night of reflection. I later remember sitting on my staircase with my son Dorian, he touched my shoulder and said, Dad, we’re not losing another game, my reply was, you’re damn right!”  

Coach Dawkins went on to talk about getting ready for the next year.  “As soon as the school year ended, I remember all my players reaching out in some way to begin preparation for the next year.  Draymond Green, Daniel West, Bobby Lewis and Mike Green would call before the sun came up asking, Coach are you ready to work? I believe that loss helped ignite the fire that would drive me, my players and staff to work hard to become one of the greatest teams in Michigan history.”  He also talked about changes he made after his first year of coaching, after making it all the way to the State Semi-Finals. “The mistake I made my first year of coaching Varsity was believing I could coach in isolation. I was young and inexperienced. After the season ended I took some time to self reflect and vowed that I would trust and include my coaching staff more.  I also felt the need to empower my student-athletes and model good and inclusive leadership for them.”

I asked Coach Dawkins; what was the hardest thing on that road, during the 2006-07 season, what sort of challenges did you guys overcome and made you stronger as a team as the season progressed?  “We were so determined and hungry to win the state title, I really didn’t have to do anything but control the outside interferences that all young teenagers face.  We worked so hard during the off-season and established a set of core values that we all believed in. More importantly we made a commitment and we were on a mission. The players, primarily  led by Draymond Green, Daniel West, Bobby Lewis, Mike Green and Josh Southern helped to motivate and lead the team in the classroom, practice and actual competition. As a matter of fact our theme for that year, MISSION POSSIBLE.”

 

THE 2006-07 SEASON

The re-focused and hungry Trojans started the 2006-07 campaign with 8 straight wins, 6 of those by 30 or more points, including a 16 point win over a Manny Harris led Detroit Redford squad.  Harris would go on to win Mr. Basketball that year and of course the two teams would see each other again in March. Game #9 would be Round I of The High Vs. The Hill. The defending State Champion Lumberjacks not only defended homecourt but handed the High their first loss and by a sound 18 points.   It would be the only time the Trojans would lose in 26 games that year. With not much time to reflect, The High would face Detroit Pershing just 4 days later. The 6 point win over a talented Doughboy squad was the first of 17 straight wins that year.  

Less than a month after losing to Arthur Hill, the two teams squared off again, this time with Saginaw High protecting their homecourt and prevailing by 6.  Two weeks after that, Saginaw High hosted Flint SWA for what was in effect, the SVL Championship game. It took a complete team effort to take down the Knights.  Saginaw High had built up a huge first half lead only to see it slip away before Bobby Lewis nailed the dagger, a three-point play late in the game along with Draymond Green sealing it at the line when the Knights were forced to foul.  Lewis not only finished with 19 points but became the glove on highly touted Ohio St. recruit Anthony Crater, holding ‘Noopy’ to just 2 first half points. ‘Big Josh’ Southern finished with a double-double, 14 points and 14 boards. Draymond finished with 17 and 8 to go along with Daniel West’s 17.  The win sealed the 3rd straight SVL Championship for The High and Coach Dawkins but it would be just the start of big things to come.  

Three weeks after the win over SWA, the Trojans were back in the District Final game and squared off against their arch-rival Lumberjacks for Round III at Heritage High School.  The game was one of the several games that Coach Dawkins talked about as the most memorable during Championship Run. “The staff always coached in suits but it was WARtime.  The previous year the Hill beat us at the buzzer. We all came out in black dress pants and black coaching shirts, relaxed and ready to rumble.  Mike Green was on FIRE and his teammates noticed it right away. Mike was 6-6 from downtown in the first quarter, our fans were going crazy, the Hill fans were in disbelief.  The game was over after the end of the first quarter we were up 26. You could hear the crowd chanting “GET YO HAT, COAT, & LEAVE! LIGHTS OUT, WE MOVE ON TO THE NEXT ROUND AND WIN THE STATE TITLE!  Unforgettable!”

The work was not done however, The Regionals and Quarterfinal matchups put the Trojans to the test.  Their win over Carman-Ainsworth in the Region Semi-Final along with (sandwiched around a 26 point Regional Final win over Mt Pleasant) the Quarterfinal win over Clarkston in the Quarterfinal were both knock-down, drag-out defensive struggles but both games proved to be tests that would help the Trojans at the Breslin.  

In the Class A Semi-Final win over Ann Arbor Pioneer, the Trojans locked down the Pioneers’ offense, opening up with a 13-4 lead after one.  Saginaw High had built up a 16 point lead after three and fought off a rally attempt in the final quarter. Draymond led the Trojans with 13 points, 6 boards and 5 assists, Big Josh finished with 11 points and 8 boards.  The trio of Tristan Calhoun, Bobby Lewis and Robert Clark all added 9 points a piece in the 60-43 victory. It was now on to face off against Redford, who they had defeated in the early part of the season, rather handily.  

The rematch in the Championship Game would not be much different, outside of a nice rally by Redford in the Third Quarter.  Manny Harris opened the game and gave Redford a 2-0 lead but after that the Trojans would never trail again. They led by 10 at the half and saw the lead shrink to just 5 in the third but answered that with a 13-3 run to close out the quarter, with perhaps the dagger coming on a three-ball from Deonte Wesley with 10 seconds to go in the frame.  The bulk of the run started after Coach Dawkins called a 30 second timeout to rally his troops. Draymond had 7 by himself during the game defining run.  

To summarize the end of the game and my thoughts that I wrote that Saturday Night 13 years ago, here is an excerpt from my article that day.

Just 2 and a half minutes into the final quarter, the Trojans had pushed the lead to 21 points.  ‘Big’ Josh Southern and D. Green were an unstoppable combo underneath and were piling on the points.  Manny Harris was doing his best to keep up with the Trojans but it was similar to the hit movie ‘300’, where the Huskies were just out-matched, out-numbered and out-gunned.  The Trojans had 44 points to the Huskies’ 14 in the paint. Redford had no quit in them but the points started to pile up for the Trojans. The last five minutes of the game saw the most points scored during any one stretch in the game, with 28 points.  Redford did a better job of scoring late in the game but were treading water as they were just trading points with the Trojans. Saginaw High did a great job of cashing in at the free-throw line. Speaking of free-throws, Harris was an incredible 16 for 17 from the line.  If it wasn’t for the conversions at the foul line for Harris, who knows how bad it could have been. After the final buzzer sounded, the Trojans held their hands in the air, realizing that a summer, fall and winter of hard work, tough practices and sacrifice, finally paid off with the pinnacle of Class A basketball. 

The 79-57 win for Saginaw High solidified their status among high school basketball’s elite in the history of Michigan High School basketball.  With the team accomplishments and top notch talent, what may be overlooked is the fact that we most likely saw the state’s top coach in action. Dawkins was the perfect general for the task at hand.  He used his ‘units’ and put the pieces where they had to go at the right time. Adjustments were none more evident then in today’s title game. When he saw something he didn’t like or a match-up he did, he immediately signaled over to his bench to plug in the correct piece.  The composure and respect that Dawkins carries not only in his games but in practice are a big reason why the Trojans were crowned today. Dawkins treats his players like family but also dishes out tough love when they need it. 

It was almost unfair.  The great players, the great coaching and the great ethic, created a masterpiece that culminated just before 6:00 P.M. Saturday night.  The turning point for this team was after their only loss of the season to rival Arthur Hill back in January. They learned from the loss and used it as motivation, beating the Lumberjacks the next two times they faced them.  Gone now are Southern, Lewis, Bobby Clark, Tristan Calhoun, along with several other key role players but the cupboard will be far from bare. Back are D. Green, Mike Green and Daniel West to name a few. The most important returnee suits up in a blazer and tie rather than a jersey and shorts.  As long as Coach Dawkins is roaming the sidelines, expect to see a title contender. It undoubtedly will be another exciting season next year around the state with Michigan again being one of the nation’s leaders in high school basketball talent, a talent pool that will be led by Draymond Green, the early favorite for Mr. Basketball.  Only 8 more months to the opening tip!

I guess it was easy to see what was still to come even back then but the games still had to be played in real life.  Enter … the next season.

THE 2007-08 SEASON

The 2007-08 season and quest to defend the title started off much like the previous year.  Blowout wins, victories over big names, an 8-0 start and then, the first meeting with The Hill.  This season, the first game was at The High. I remember thinking, going into that game, if they couldn’t do it with Dar last year, they were going to be undermatched but I was surprised by the Lumberjacks and the end result.  Led by two stars with bright futures in the next level, Sr. Latreze Mushatt, So. Maurice Jones and much more, Arthur Hill was able to take down Saginaw High in their first meeting yet again. Unfortunately for the Lumberjacks and fortunately for Saginaw High, the remainder of the season would also play out like the previous season.  The Trojans would not lose again and the next two meetings with Arthur Hill were not particularly close. The High was able to win the next rounds on Arthur Hill’s homecourt by 28 points and by 15 in the District Championship.  

I asked Coach Dawkins if the early season loss to Arthur Hill played a part in motivating the team or making them even more driven on their quest for the Repeat Championship.  “With both Saginaw High and Arthur Hill being in the same city and the majority of the players from both schools living within about a 5 mile or less radius from the High, I had to constantly remind my Trojans that we don’t have friends unless they suit up and wear that precious “Sweet, Sweet, Black and Gold”.  When you have a community like Saginaw, many of our student-athletes on the two rival teams grew up together and in some cases were related but during the season your friends and family shared the same locker room with you, period. When we stepped onto the basketball court regardless if we were at home or away, we always had to play against way more opponents then the opposing 5 players and because we knew that, we came prepared and ready for whomever played us.  We always mentally gave ourselves home court advantage.”

After winning another Conference Championship and dispatching their rival in the District Final, the post-season after that let up a little, aside from a good battle from a talented Carman-Ainsworth squad in the Regionals.  Then came the Quarter-Final against Clarkston, it’s the game I told Coach Dawkins this week, that it was most likely the best basketball game, I’ve watched/covered in person. Saginaw High saw a 5 point lead with 80 seconds left evaporate and the Wolves forced Overtime.  After 3 Brandon Pokley three-pointers gave Clarkston a 5 point lead with 1:45 left in the game, things looked sort of grim for the Trojans from my perspective but thankfully for the Trojans actually playing the game, that wasn’t the case. Their character and vaunted press got them back in the game in a heartbeat, scoring the final 5 points of the first overtime and forcing a 2nd.  In the 2nd OT, after both teams exchanged baskets, Saginaw High put the game away with 8 straight points and willed themselves back into the Final Four. Raymond Stepney was the unsung hero who stepped in when Draymond got into foul trouble and led the Trojans with 15 points. Will Marlow matched with 15 of his own. Draymond still managed to get 14, accompanied by 14 from sharpshooter Mike Green.  Draymond dominated the glass when he was on the court with 18 boards.  

Coach Dawkins felt that this was one of the most memorable games as well.  “Playing in front of 6,000 people, amazing atmosphere and the toughest tourney game we played.  We were winning the entire game then Clarkston got hot from the 3 point line and eventually took a 5 point lead with about 1:10 left.  During the timeout when we saw Clarkston coaches swinging towels and their bench celebrating, I believe we regained that Trojan Fight. Will Marlow goes out and steals the inbound pass, which created another TO and score. Then two overtimes, then VICTORY!!!  I was literally soaked through my shirt and suit!”

In the Semi-Finals against East Lansing, Saginaw High left no doubt and left it early.  They had built up a 15 point lead by the half and were up by 23 after three quarters before closing out the Trojans in Blue by 20 points.  Draymond poured in an absolute monster game on a court he would grace with a different uniform a year later, finishing with 30 points and 16 boards.  Cortney Washing finished with 13 and Mike Green 9. Daniel West did his damage with passing, finishing the game with a game high 8 dimes.

In the Final, they would square off against the Pride of Detroit, Pershing.  The doughboys featured an attack led by MSU bound stars Keith Appling and Derrick Nix, Nix would go on to win Mr Basketball the following year.  Much like the previous 3 games at the Breslin, the Trojans didn’t wait to get started and rattled off a 22-12 opening quarter, then stretched the lead to 18 at the break.  Both teams kept pace with each other in the 2nd half, with Saginaw High holding a 39-38 edge of the final 2 quarters but the damage was already done and the 2nd half was more of a formality.  The High had ascended to the highest plain for the 2nd straight year, staking a claim as one of the greatest teams in Michigan High School athletics. Draymond finished his High School career with another monster game, 21 points, 19 boards and 4 assists.  Mike Green led all scorers with 29 and Daniel West poured in 21. Mike and DWest combined for 10 triples in the Championship performance.

I asked Coach Dawkins if he could say something about his players and he took the time write about each one individually.


DRAYMOND GREEN

“The best player in the state, and one of the best in country.  Unstoppable underneath the rim, match up problems for bigger guys defending him because he was skilled from the outside, and heart of a warrior.”

DANIEL WEST

“One of the best PG in the Midwest and probably the best competitor.  He didn’t care who he was playing against, if he was playing against a top 10 PG in the country, D West was coming at you like a pitbull.”

Daniel was one of several former Trojans that answered the call to talk about his former high school squad.

Q1: First year on Varsity & Class.
“2005-2006, my Sophomore year.”

Q2: Describe your memories of playing on Varsity during your time at Saginaw High.
“Our practices because they were intense, competitive, fun and made our winning come easy because we went so hard at our practices.  My first dunk against Arthur Hill high school. My senior year 1st quarter, 2 hands very memorable.  Walking in the gym smelling the popcorn or hearing the band.”

Q3: Most Memorable Game During That Time Span.
“Mike Green scoring 21 points first quarter against Arthur Hill high school 2006-2007.”

Q4: What things did you learn or experience you gained by playing in those teams that you took with you after high school and applied to life.
“Cherish every moment, because good things don’t last forever.  Always stay focused and never let your attitude determine your future.”  Never stop grinding because you never know.”

 

BOBBY LEWIS

“The best man on ball defender in the state, we would always assign Bobby to defend the best player and he always wanted that job.  Not only was he the best defense player, he would always contribute 12 PPG, 8 RBS, and 3 steals per game. Extremely positive attitude and unselfish.”

“During the 2005 District Championship Game against Arthur Hill, Dar Tucker (Sophomore) was going into the 4th quarter with 36 points.  I grabbed Bobby Lewis and made it clear, I said, Bobby you have to STOP HIM!  Bobby said “Coach I got you”.  Dar started the 4th quarter with 36 points and ended the game with 36 points. Bobby Lewis was a defensive beast!”

Bobby was a huge help in working with me on this piece and getting guys to respond.  Here is what he had to say on his time at The High.

Q1: First year on Varsity & Class.
“My Sophomore year, I was playing little minutes off of the bench.”

Q2: Describe your memories of playing on Varsity during your time at Saginaw High.
“Playing at the High and on varsity is a honor.  I mean every kid in Saginaw dreams about wearing that sweet black and gold.  During that time there was a lot of talent in the city of Saginaw so to be part of that team, it was a honor.  My sophomore y ear we made it to the semi-finals and fell short.  My Jr. year was really a heart breaker because we lost to our arch-rival and they went on and won states.  By my senior year we were out on a mission and anything other than a STATE Championship would of been another fail year.  We set a goal and we went out and accomplished it.  Also I will never forget coach Dawkins had every college coach in America at Saginaw High school.  It was a golden era for high school basketball in the area.”

Q3: Most Memorable Game During That Time Span.
“My most memorable game was vs Arthur Hill, two of the best teams in the state.  Any time we played them we knew it was going to be battle.  During that time people were considering the SVL district game the state title.  Everyone knew who ever won that game was winning states that year.”

Q4: What things did you learn or experience you gained by playing in those teams that you took with you after high school and applied to life.
“The main thing I learned from playing varsity basketball at the High was Seize The Moment because you will never get those opportunities back.  You don’t want to think back 5 years later and think back “what if”.  I’m glad my teammates and myself took advantage of the opportunity we had.  Not just winning states but also everyone on my team received a basketball scholarship at some level of college.”

Q5: Anything you would like to add about life today, family, etc.
“Right now I’m coaching high school basketball at the Junior Varsity level at Nouvel High School.  The knowledge and skills I learned from high school and college, I apply to my players now.  I also remind them if you put the work in and take advantage of your opportunity some school will find you.  It doesn’t matter what level it is, you’re going to school for free to do what you love.”

 

JOSHUA SOUTHERN

“6’10 250lbs gave us a double double every night and on top of that he was always the last line of defense.  He gave us a presence in the paint in which a lot of teams in the state did not have.  His best all around game was his junior year at Detroit Country Day when they had Alex Legion and Dashonte Riley, Big Josh had 22 pts and 12 rebounds.  He was a quiet storm and helped to keep the team spiritually sound.”

Here is what Joshua had to say about his time donning the Black & Gold and how life is going today.

Q1: First year on Varsity & Class.
“My first year on varsity was the 2003-04 season where I started off on the freshman team for half the season.  Then I moved up to varsity where my older brother Emmanuel Southern(Jr) was the starting center.  Accompanied by Demarcus Laury PG(Sr), Isaiah Thomas SG(Sr), Teryn Miles SF(Sr) and Mark Barnes PF(Sr).  Coached by Marshall Thomas.  The ironic part about my first game on varsity was it being one of the biggest games in the state.  The Saginaw High vs Arthur Hill rivalry Pt2 of the year.  I just remember how shocked I was to see all those people in the stands at Arthur Hill.  It was electric.  I actually played a few minutes of that game because my brother got in foul trouble early.  On the bench you had myself (Fr), John McKinney(So) John Norwood Jr.(Jr) Robert McDuffy(Jr) Jermaine Jenkins(Jr) Kenny Ward(Jr) Jamar Hibbler(Jr) and Jamaal Hibbler(Jr) from what I remember.  My second game on varsity I made the paper by having a double double, 12pts and 12 rebounds.”

Q2: Describe your memories of playing on Varsity during your time at Saginaw High.
“I have great memories from playing varsity ball at the High.  We put in a lot of hard work and sacrificed a lot to achieve our goals.  Like 6am practices on Thanksgiving day.  Practices on Christmas Eve.  I remember we spent the night in the gym and just did some team building.  We played ball all night.  We played video games and ate pizza.  Then coach Dawkins cooked us breakfast in the morning on a hot plate.  We had a walk-through and went home.  The sense of Tradition was very evident to me even before I got to Saginaw High.  I learned a lot being the water boy on the 99’ State Championship Football Team.  So actually having the opportunity to play for the High and winning a championship made everything that much sweeter.  I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to have played for Saginaw High.  Lastly Playing with my older brother was surreal.  Almost winning a championship with him was a great thing.”

Q3: Most Memorable Game During That Time Span.
“Besides the State Championship in 07’, which was the sweetest for me because I was able to end my high school career with my brothers on top.  I have a lot of memorable games but I guess I’ll mention a few.  Sophomore year had a lot of good memories.  After losing to Flint Northern early in the year, we were both tied for the regular season valley championship and we got our revenge.  But also, I had two dunks in that game.  One dunk came from an assist from my brother for a one hand slam.  The other was my first high school two hand dunk in a game which came from Rob McDuffy.  Next tipping in the game winning shot after my brother missed the front end of a 1 in 1 against Traverse City.  Lastly hitting the go ahead free throws against Arthur Hill in the District Championship.  Junior year the most memorable game to me was the triple overtime game against Detroit Pershing when they had Deshawn Sims who went to Michigan.  We ended up winning the game.”

Q4: What things did you learn or experience you gained by playing in those teams that you took with you after high school and applied to life.
“I learned a lot from being on those teams.  I learned how set goals, I’ve learned how to persevere and never give up.  I learned that hard work and sacrifice pays off.  I learned that in the midst of adversity, you can either break or overcome.  There will be hard times and days but just know that if everyone sticks together we can make it through anything.  The last thing I would say is the most important lesson I learned in life is that if you trust and believe in the most high God you can make it through anything.”

Q5: Anything you would like to add about life today, family, etc.
“Right now I live in Lansing, MI(Holt) after moving back from Nashville, TN a couple years ago.  I am a Quality confirmation supervisor at General Motors.  I’ve been married almost 7 years to my high school sweetheart Alicia Southern.  I have a 4 year old son Joshua Southern Jr. and one on the way.  In my free time I’m a music producer for my company Risky Music Group and I’m helping my wife with her T-shirt business, Southern Family Customs.  I attend church at Advancing God’s Kingdom Ministries in Holt, MI.  I just enjoy spending time with my family and friends. That’s where I’m at peace.”

 

DEONTE WESLEY

“7 footer, if he was at any other school in the state he would of been in the starting 5.  We had Draymond and Josh that took up the majority of the minutes at the 4 & 5 positions. This young man battled against those two everyday in practice & got better everyday! Most memorable game was in the 07 Finals in which he came down and hit a 25 footer.”

 

ROBERT CLARK

“6’5 long arms, great leaper, good rebounder and played every second, & minute like it was his last game. His ability to defend 2-5 was a attribute he possessed that our opposing teams did not have.  He was a Junk Yard Dog!  He was tough as nails!”

 

TRISTAN CALHOUN

“(RIP) 6’6 long arms, great leaper, scrappy player and could defend 3-5. I could put Tristan on top of my 1-2-1-1 press or he could defend the last line of defense.He was such a bright light to our program, he always new how to make everyone smile.”

 

WILL MARLOW

“Best athletic body in the state, played varsity for 4 years, could handle the ball, good mid-range shot, and could hit the 3 point shot.  Best memory of Will is when he stole the ball in the quarterfinals against Clarkston, he jumped 8 feet in the air, tumbled, rolled, and stole the ball in one motion.  Play of the game! One of the quickest players that I’ve ever coached.”

 

CORTNEY WASHINGTON

“Long 6’3 quick hands and feet, he was able to defend some of the best guards in the state.  Most memorable game at home vs. Flint Northwestern in which he knocked down (11) 3 pointers.  Solid shooter!”

 

MIKE GREEN

“One of the best 3 point shooters in the state, hit (6) 3 pointers in the 08 championship game.  Best game 2007 High vs. Hill district championship game, Mike had 6 triples in the first quarter probably finished with 28 for the game.  Most memorable game 07 vs. Detroit Northwestern (Eric Evans) Mike was passing up shots, I threatened him at halftime if he did not shoot the ball, he would be playing JV for the remainder of the year.  He came out in the 2nd half and scored 18 points.”

Mike caught up with me to weigh in on life as a former Trojan and today.

Q1: First year on Varsity & Class.
“I started as a guard on varsity in 2006-2007 as a sophomore.”

Q2: Describe your memories of playing on Varsity during your time at Saginaw High.
“The practices that we would have consisted of a lot of running, defense, and a lot of shooting.  They were enjoyable and very intense practices.  We had a ton of fun competing against one another.  This made playing in the real game fun and winning came easy. (First two years on varsity) I also remember walking into school gyms realizing the game was already won before they were ever played.  And of course, winning B2B state championships bringing a sense of pride and happiness back to the community.”

Q3: Most Memorable Game During That Time Span.
“A lot of people would say 2007 District vs Arthur Hill.  But I’d say 2008 Quarterfinal vs Clarkston.  That game showed all who watched what Saginaw High Basketball was all about; true grit, hard work, being a “DOG”.   I appreciate that game the most because that game was really a team effort.”

Q4: What things did you learn or experience you gained by playing in those teams that you took with you after high school and applied to life.
“Playing on varsity I learned to respect the grind and have fun doing it. If you do, success will be much more enjoyable.  It also reminded me never to take things for granted.  To take advantage of what you have when you have it.”

Q5: Anything you would like to add about life today, family, etc.
“Success for me now isn’t in the form of winning basketball games. It’s being a devout husband and a role model for my two boys.”

 

RAYMOND STEPNEY

“6’4 wing, long arms, could slash, drive, and finish in traffic, good offensive and defensive rebounder and he would surprise you knocking down a 3 point shot.”

 

MARIO ROBINSON

“6’4 wing, long arms, good mid-range jump-shot, and a very good 3 point shooter.  Mario was another good defender in which he could defend 2-4 and he wouldn’t back down against bigger players.”

 

CHRISTIAN DAWKINS

“Christian competed with these guys everyday in practice, when the upperclassmen graduated, he earned a starting spot his senior year and averaged 14PPG. We considered him the ” professor”, high basketball IQ.”

 

DEMARIO WILSON

“One of the fastest guards in the state from baseline to baseline, good mid-range jump-shot, and could knock down the 3 point shot. Memorable game 07 against Detroit Pershing at Joe Louis arena, standing room only, we were down 4 with 20 seconds left.  Rio jumped 20 feet in the air and got a steal at mid-court.  One of the best defensive plays for us that season.”

 

BRENT CANTU

“Hustler, scrappy defender, he was always ready to play when his number was called.”

 

TODD JONES

“6’5 post, strong, quick, and would defend anyone I assigned him to. Memorable game for Todd was when he got his only dunk while on varsity the last home game of his senior year.”

 

TOMMIE MCCUNE

“6’8 freshmen a player that got better everyday competing against Day Day!!!  Tommie was always ready to play when called on, he got a big time tip in the ’08 Finals right before halftime.  Hard worker & by the time he graduated he earned a scholarship to West Virginia.”

 

MIKE POWELL

“6’2 strong bodied guard, would dunk on you if you attempted to challenge him in transition.  Memorable game Michael destroyed Detroit Country Day when he scored 14 points off the bench.”

 

A CONNECTION TO THE PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

I was also able to catch up with current Head Coach Julian Taylor, who served on both the 2007 and 2008 Championship squads as Coach Dawkins’ Assistant Coach and led the Trojans to the promised land in 2012 with a a State Title as the Man at the Helm.  Coach Taylor and Dawkins’ time as friends and working together go way back to their time as former Trojans and AAU teammates.  Both also excelled with their play at the next level and under legendary coaches in their own right, Lou with Tulsa under Tubby Smith and Julian at SVSU under Robert Pratt.  Coach Dawkins was there in East Lansing to watch his ‘Brother’ and team hoist the trophy in 2012, when The High defeated Rockford in the Class A State Championship.

I asked Coach Taylor what his most memorable games were as an Assistant with Coach Dawkins during the back-to-back run.  “Both championship games, but the games that really stood was the game against Flint Central 06/07 @ Flint Central and we beat them by 50.  They were a really good team and did not let up the entire game.  I knew this group was special and could win the state championship.”  He also had fond memories of my favorite game.  “The Clarkston game in 07/08 at Davison in the quarterfinals. We were down by 5 with about a minute to go in the first OT. Will Marlow made some key plays to help tie the game up (two steals: made a bucket and second steal an assist to Draymond) and sent us into double OT.”

On what Coach Taylor learned as his time as an Assistant and carried into the Head Coaching Role when his time came.  “I learned how to use the depth of my team.  Watching Coach Dawkins, he used a lot of guys to wear the other team down.  I learned not to be stuck in a routine.  Coach Dawkins wasn’t afraid to change up his strategy depending on who we were playing or the plays their coach was running.  And I learned how to embrace the moment …Coach Dawkins knew the team he had and put them in position to be successful, he utilized players’ strengths.”

Coach Taylor had this to say when I asked him about the future of Trojans’ basketball.  “The future is bright. We still have talented players that want to learn and be a part of the tradition of the most winning-est program in the state of Michigan!”

 

 

IN CLOSING, MEMORIAM & ONE LAST LOOK BACK WITH A SMILE

With all of the success, all of the achievements and with the building of student-athletes into men, like in most families, at one point or another, you have adversity and tragedy.  In June of 2009, Dorian Dawkins, 14 year old son of Lou and Latricia left us all too soon.  One of the best and brightest around, just an all and all great kid, who loved his family, friends, ice cream and basketball was what they referred to as the ‘future’.  Dorian was not only destined to lead the Trojans the next 4 years of high school but was on a path to big time D1 basketball as well.  While a rare heart defect caused Dorian to ascend above sooner than anyone could of imagined, he left memories that will last a lifetime, you don’t have to look any further than the Turning Point of the Saginaw High championship runs of 2007 and 2008.  There’s not much more I can say about this since most of us know the story and it’s hard to really do justice if there is such a thing in this case but I just remember my own feelings when I heard the news in the Summer of ’09.  I had just got back from camping and gotten a text from one of my friends on the AAU circuit.  Everyone was genuinely devastated and it hit me hard as well.  I was a new Father to a 1 and a half year old son and it just makes you think about what’s important in life, perspective to us all.

In January of 2014, we lost another Trojan well before his time.  Tristan Calhoun had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 25.  ‘Bull’ was the one that could put a smile on everyone’s face, typically because he was wearing one of his own.  Tristan’s passing had inspired his old college teammates at Kellogg Community College to have a reunion in his honor and raise money for his son.  The memory of both of these young men will continue to live on, with lasting images of their smiles while they were here.  Today, Easter Sunday, is a great reminder of hope and that we will see them again …

I asked Coach Dawkins one last question, to sum up his thoughts reflection on those Championship Teams.  “I want to thank my players for loving me, caring about themselves, and every player on the team.  They policed themselves which took a lot of pressure off of me.  They wanted to be champions and in order to do that a lot of sacrifices had to be made by them and the coaching staff.  I want to also thank Coach Marshall Thomas for giving me an opportunity to continue the Trojan tradition and being a mentor and supporter of me.  Most importantly, I want to thank the Trojan fans/Saginaw community for being their during the ups and downs, traveling with us from Traverse City all the way to Ohio and of course to the Breslin in East Lansing.  Mr. John Pugh for preparing the team training table meals before every home game. I also want to thank my beautiful wife Latricia A.K.A. – Ms. Tish who adopted everyone of my players.  She took the initiative to always prepare Superbowl parties for the team and supporting me at every game home or away.

The most memorable day of my life was during the ’07 state finals when I was able to celebrate with my parents.  They gave me life, they nurtured me, disciplined me and they loved me and I shared those characteristics with every one of my players.

I WILL ALWAYS BE A TROJAN!”

I want to thank Coach Dawkins, Coach Taylor and all of the people I had the pleasure to talk with over the past week, in putting this together.  This team won me over as it did much of the city back in 2007.  That wasn’t an easy task.  My Grandfather and Father are former Trojans; my Dad played on one of the best (Football) teams in the State in the late 60’s along with Future Hall of Fame Head Coach Jim Eurick among others.  While they used to done the Sweet Black & Gold, I along with my brother went to that school on Mackinaw Street to the West.  While my Lumberjack Pride runs deep there were some things I learned along the way, growing up, living on both the East and West side during different times in my life.  Football was my true love but they wanted us to run track to stay in shape.  I remember my Freshman year at one of the final meets.  The Seniors from both Saginaw High and Arthur Hill would pull for each other and that caught me by surprise.  For at least a short period, we were united in one community.  Thankfully, 9 years after I graduated, I was able to set aside my ‘True Blue-ness’ and appreciate greatness for what it was.

 

 

Co-Founder of the Varsity News Network, Web Designer, Amateur Photographer and Creative, Football Connoisseur and Administrator of a few thousand sites across the country.

matthew@fridaynighttitans.com