In Play with Tom Markowski


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Disparity in enrollment for Class A schools begs the expansion from four to five classes in basketball

By: Tom Markowski, February 8, 2015, 6:14 pm



Stevensville – It is often said that all change is good. Change brings one out of their comfort zone and forces one to learn new habits, and adapt to different surroundings.

But change just for the sake of change can defeat the purpose.

Sean Schroeder, and many of his peers in the coaching ranks, believe it’s time for a change in the basketball tournament. The reason for the proposed change is enhance fairness and equity.

Schroeder coaches the boys team at Stevensville Lakeshore, a Class A school located on the shores of Lake Michigan in the southwest part of the state. Schroeder has enjoyed much success there but the odds are stacked against Lakeshore winning a Class A title, in boys or girls basketball.

Lakeshore is a small Class A school. It has 887 students. In 2012 it had 906 students and competed in Class B, and reached the state final before losing to Lansing Sexton.

The dilemma that confronts schools like Lakeshore and others, like nearby St. Joseph, is that there is a great disparity in enrollment of Class A schools, a disparity that doesn’t exist in the other three classes.

Schools like East Kentwood, Macomb Dakota, Rockford, Utica Eisenhower, to name a few, have enrollments that approach 2,800 students. East Kentwood is just under 2,600, Rockford has 2,550 and Eisenhower has just over 2,700. Dakota has the most (2,814).

The cutoff for Class A is 882. Schools with enrollment between 424 and 881 are in Class B, 215 to 423 are in C and the rest are in Class D.

Schroeder calls it a “competitive imbalance”. It does seem unfair to ask a school that has 1,700 fewer students to complete on the same level. This type of situation doesn’t take place in the other classes. Not even close.

This is his 13th season as Lakeshore and the school has 140 fewer students than it did when he took over. Lakeshore was a Class B school then. There are a number of reasons for what seems to be a contradiction. One is Michigan is not keeping pace with other states in population growth. Another is the advent of more small schools and one can point to the influx of charter schools as the main culprit. This has pushed schools like Lakeshore up into a higher class.

A solution would be to add another class and call it what you will, Class AA or Class E. This would not set a precedent. From 1941-60 there was a Class E.

The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan has given its support for such a change. What is needed now is for the athletic directors, principles and school superintendents to lend their backing.

The logistics can be worked out. Under the current tournament structure two classes hold semifinals on Thursday of championship week and the other two are held on Friday. Three semifinals could be held on Thursday, starting earlier than the current 1 p.m. starting time, say 10:30 a.m. for instance. Sure it would be a long day but it could be done.


Speaking of the state tournament…

The best opening round game in the boys tournament could be will this same Lakeshore team against No. 7-ranked Kalamazoo Central (14-1). Central is the host team.

Lakeshore is 13-1, unranked, and Schroeder uses an eight-player rotation. Last season Lakeshore had its troubles. Injuries contributed to a disappointing 10-12 season.

“We’ve stayed from injuries this season,” Schroeder said. “And we’ve had balanced scoring. Four players have scored over 20 points in a game.”

Rubin Conway, Jimmy Gathright and Braden Burke all averaged in double figures in scoring. Burke, a 6-11 junior, draws most of the attention from college coaches. Oakland has already offered him a scholarship. Central Michigan and Western Michigan are also recruiting Burke. He averages 14 points and 11 rebounds.


Another matchup many would like to see would take place in a Class A quarterfinal at Calihan Hall on the campus of the University of Detroit. Barring an upset or two, No. 5-ranked U-D Jesuit (13-1) would play No. 6-ranked Clarkston (14-0).



Historical season

East Kentwood defeated Grand Haven last Friday, 65-53, and is 14-0. Last season East Kentwood started 13-0 setting a school record for the best start.

Coach Jeff Anama said he’s having a blast coaching this team. And why not? He said he has 10 starters, that’s shows the depth of his talent pool.

“When we start a game, I know who’ll start,” he said. “I just don’t know who will finish.”

 East Kentwood is ranked No. 3 in Class A and, in December, handed No. 4-ranked and defending champion Muskegon (13-1) its only loss.

Few teams can match the Falcons’ depth. Micah Rosser is a 6-5 wing. Andrew Madison is a 6-6 post player who is being recruited by Ferris State though he’s just a junior. Brent Kimbrell is a 5-11 shooting guard and Brandon Fuller is a 5-11 point guard.

This list goes on.

These players have won in the past, too. This junior and senior class did not lose a game on the freshmen team or as members of the junior varsity.