The 2010-11 Saginaw High Trojan Boys Basketball team is on a mission. Their mission started in the summer of 2009 when the unthinkable happened. On June 12, 2009, during the dog days of summer, 14 year old Dorian Dawkins collapsed at the free throw line while playing in a summer basketball game on the campus of Michigan State University. Dorian is the son of Trojan head basketball coach Lou Dawkins.
The "Tom Izzo Spartan Shootout" is a summer basketball showcase for elite High School Basketball teams from all over the midwest. Dorian Dawkins was an elite basketball player who had just finished the 8th grade. Dorian had superb basketball skills that had already been noticed by at least one major College Basketball program. Ohio State University had already given Dorian an official visit to their school as a prospective scholarship athlete. Did I mention that Dorian was only 14?
It was the summer before his freshman year of high school and he already had one official college visit under his proverbial "basketball belt." To say the least, it was quite obvious he had great basketball skills. He planned to use these skills to put his own mark on a basketball dynasty that has been considered one of the top high school basketball programs throughout the state of Michigan for many years – a basketball dynasty that his father became part of as a talented player in the late 1980's. Lou Dawkins talent as a Trojan basketball player took him to Tulsa University where he became the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year while leading "The Golden Hurricane" to the sweet 16 of the 1994 NCAA division 1 men's Basketball Tournament.
Dorian collapsed a little after 8:00 PM on June, 12th 2009. He was rushed to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing where just after midnight on Saturday June, 13th 2009 he passed away. It was later determined that Dorian suffered from a rare heart condition that could not be detected by a typical Doctor examination. Acute Myocardial Ischemia is the technical term. Acute Myocardial Ischemia itself is not that rare, but the form that affected Dorian is only found in about 1 out of 100,000 people.
In Dorian's case, it was a condition in which he has two arteries that are normally supposed to have 1 of each on either side of the heart. In Dorian's case, the two arteries ended up on the same side of his heart. Having these two arteries on the same side of his heart caused blockage. The result was that after having played two games already that day, and well into his third game of the day, Dorian had multiple heart attacks. It was these attacks, that eventually took an amazing Son, Brother, and Teammate away from us way too soon.
Most of the players who were on the court that fateful summer evening on the campus of Michigan State University are now members of a powerful Saginaw High team that is ranked #7 in the State of Michigan's class A boys basketball rankings (as of Jan. 30th ranked by the Detroit News).
Dorian did not just have an impact on his teammates, he affected the whole Saginaw High family. I talked to former Trojan Annette Babers, who graduated in 1989 from Saginaw High. Annette was a USA Today and Parade magazine high school all American during the 1988-89 season and she was eventually named the girls high school basketball co-player of the year by Parade magazine.
"We are all like a big family here at Saginaw High," she said. Annette has had good reason to follow Saginaw High Basketball in recent years, her nephew is former Trojan superstar and current MSU Spartan Draymond Green. Also, as her son Travion "Trey" Babers is a Senior on this year's 2010-11 powerful squad. Trey was a Sophomore heading into his Junior year at "the High" during that fateful summer of 2009.
Annette recalls how much Trey admired Dorian. "Trey loved Dorian. In those (summer) games Dorian was like a coach on the floor, even to the older guys on the team. Even when Dorian was real little, I would be watching Trey play and Dorian would come by and whisper to me, ("Tell Trey he needs to get his left arm up more on his jump shot"), or he'd tell Trey, "You need to box out better and fight for those rebounds".
Hearing Annette Babers, who is a Saginaw basketball legend, speak so highly of Dorian and how he had leadership qualities at such a young age makes me realize how special this young man really was. She definitely had a very special place for him in her heart. This was truly evident in her praise as she continued: "He had great knowledge for the game for such a young man. Trey and I used to jokingly call him "the critic" because he knew so much about the game and he was passionate about sharing that knowledge to help make his teammates better, Dorian was a very special boy."
Dorian was indeed a very special boy.
On Monday January 17th I happened to catch the last game (of three) at the Dorian Styles Dawkins "Show your Heart" Memorial Classic at Delta College. This event was the 2nd annual held in Dorian's honor to raise money for the American Heart Association. This year Saginaw High was pitted against the #1 team from the city of Chicago, who were also the 22nd ranked team in the state of Illinois. Chicago's Orr High School had already beaten 2 of Michigan's top Basketball teams.
On December 27th, Orr H.S. beat Saginaw's "other" basketball powerhouse (my alma mater) Arthur Hill High School 61-44. Earlier in December, Orr also beat arguably the most talented team in the state of Michigan - the #1 overall ranked team in Michigan (according to the Detroit News's "Super 10" poll), Detroit Country Day.
The score of that game was Orr 71 and Country Day 67. Saginaw High had already beaten crosstown rival Arthur Hill in their first meeting by 22 points 80-58. The Trojans however had lost to the powerful Detroit Country Day team in their 2nd game of the season on December 12th by a score of 98-81. Knowing that the team that had beaten them in their 2nd game of the season had lost to this tuff Chicago Orr team was not a factor for the Trojans, because by the end of the 2nd annual Dorian Styles Dawkins "Show Your Heart" Memorial Classic, the final score was Saginaw High 91 and Chicago Orr 47! Can you say BLOWOUT???
The 2010-11 Trojan basketball team is playing some of the best basketball I have ever seen a team from Saginaw play, which is saying a lot considering some of the great teams this City has produced. Instead of playing with a "chip" on their shoulder, I am thinking they are playing with an "Angel" on their shoulder.
Dorian is definitely smiling down on these guys. Senior Marquavis Ford is playing unbelievably. In the game against Chicago Orr, Ford paced the Trojans with 17 points and 6 steals. The story of the Chicago Orr game, and the story for Saginaw High's entire season for that matter, has to be their suffocating defense. They held the powerful Orr squad to just 41 points. Chicago Orr's top player is Mycheal Henry. He is ranked by ESPNU as the #70 overall player in the country and he is ranked 18th in the country for his position. Mycheal Henry will be taking his talents to the University of Illinois next year. I don't think he will want to make too many trips back to Michigan anytime soon after the mighty Trojans held Chicago Orr's superstar to just 8 points on this day.
The next big test for this Trojan squad came on Saturday January 22nd at SVSU's Ryder Center. The Trojans took on their Cross City rival Lumberjacks for the 2nd meeting this year. Arthur Hill put up a much more valiant fight this time, holding Saginaw High Star and West Virginia University bound Tommie McCune to just 7 points. McCune scored all 7 of his points in the last 3 minutes as well. The Hillites gave a great effort but fell to the Trojans for the 2nd time this year. This time the score was SHS-77 and AHHS-68. Once again it was the Marquavis Ford show, as he paced the Trojans with 25 points while hitting four 3-pointers. Trey Babers got into the action as well scoring 16 and Kevin Marshall pitched in with 14 points in the big win for the Trojans.
On January 24th The Trojans were tested a little by Flint Northwestern, but WVU bound, Tommie McCune stepped up big for the Trojans and scored 24 points in Saginaw High's 68-65 win. Trey Babers and Kevin Marshall pitched in with 11 points each in the victory.
In this writers humble opinion, the Trojan player with the most potential is senior Trey Babers. The Southpaw Senior with the Smooth Jumper has been coveted by many colleges, but the University of Michigan has showed the most interest. He has even made one official visit to the University of Michigan this year. I asked his mother, Annette Babers if she would approve of him wearing the "Maize & Blue" considering the rich tradition of Spartans in the Babers family. As mentioned earlier, Annette and Trey's cousin, Draymond Green are both proud Spartans.
Annette replied, "I am a Spartan through and through, but if Trey wants to go to U o fM then I am all for whatever is the best opportunity for my son." "I mean, hey... Free is Free right?" Wherever Annette's son ends up, that school will be much better for having him. In the brief moments talking to Ms. Babers, I got the feeling that she sees what a lot of people in the basketball world see - that Trey is an amazing talent with unlimited potential and like his mom and famous cousin, he also has the High basketball I.Q. to go along with that talent.
On January 28th I was fortunate to make it to the Saginaw High vs. Mt. Pleasant SVL game. Fortunate for a few reasons. Prior to the start of the game, the Trojans Super Senior, Tommie McCune was presented with his nomination to the McDonalds High School All American Team. The game itself was pretty much a blowout, but that gave me the opportunity to get a good look at Saginaw High's future. Let's just say that the future is looking very bright for the Trojan Dynasty.
The Trojans have two standout Freshmen on the varsity team. Jerry Smith and Joe Powell are both around 6'-6" Tall. Yes, they have TWO freshman who are six foot six inches tall! The pair of freshmen contributed on offense in the Trojan's 68-37 conference win, but more importantly they were playing valuable minutes and learning the Trojan's suffocating defense.
Dominique Jackson, who happens to be the nephew of former Buena Vista and University of Notre Dame star, Tory Jackson, is a 6'-2" Sophomore who could possibly be the most athletic player on this Saginaw High team. In the first game against Arthur Hill earlier this year, I witnessed Dominique go completely OVER an Arthur Hill defenders back without touching him and dunk a rebound that looked similar to NBA slam dunk champion Vince Carter's dunk, where he buried his elbow into the basket and hung on the rim by his elbow joint! Of course the ref called an over the back foul and disallowed the dunk, but that didn't matter. Anyone who was in SVSU's Ryder Center that night was blown away by this young man's athleticism.
Saginaw High is a team with rich tradition and year after year it seems that they're competing for a state title. I have watched Saginaw teams for many years and there is definitely something very special about this group of guys. Former and future players from Saginaw High have always been like one big family. It seems this way every year, every decade, and every generation.
I remember watching guys like Brian Morgan, Lou Dawkins, and Corey Holiday play in the late 80's. I can also remember watching Daniel West Sr. play. Years later I remember watching his son, Daniel West, win a championship for Saginaw High before he signed to play at the University of Tennessee, later transferring to Rhode Island.
This program has had its share of Championships and highlights. This is evident by all of the state Titles and the many players who went on to great College and Professional success. But just like any other big family that is very close, they have had their share of tragedies. Dorian's tragedy was devastating to the whole Saginaw High family, as was the loss of Maurice Burnett.
Maurice, who was a freshman basketball player at the time, sadly passed away a year before Dorian in a car accident. I have a very strong feeling that come this March the Saginaw High Trojan basketball team will be back on the campus of MSU in Lansing; only this time they will be cutting down the nets at the Breslin Center after winning another state championship.
I am sure that right next to the "chip" on their shoulders that gives this team the tenacity for such a suffocating defense, they will also be guided by a couple of Angels. Maurice and Dorian will be smiling down on Their Teammates and celebrating right along with them, High from the Heavens.