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The top 100 high school athletes of all time: Peoples-Jones, Chet Walker among athletes Nos. 81-90

By: Tom Markowski, July 8, 2017, 9:11 am

(Photo Credit: Dave Donoher)


The following is another installment of the list of the top 100 male athletes in the history of Michigan high school athletics. This list was created after hours of compiling facts and opinions. In analyzing data and comparing athletes of the 1920s to those of the 1990s and beyond we found difficulty in imagining how the athletes of the past would compare and compete against the present-day athlete. The adage, ‘bigger, stronger, faster’, must be applied but one cannot overlook the records and achievements of those in the 1930s, ‘40s and earlier.

It is the intent of State Champs to expose and honor the achievements of athletes, some of whom our readers might not familiar with and to create conversation on just who were some of the best. 

We have a few guidelines for athletes to be considered for this list. One is they had to attend high school, for at least one school year, in Michigan. They also had to compete in sports at the high school they attended. Playing for club teams and travel teams outside of the school does not meet these guidelines.

Athletes like boxers Joe Louis and Chris Byrd, for example, did not, as far as our research could ascertain, compete in athletics, at least in boxing, their main sport, in high school.

Other athletes, like hockey standout Mike Modano, who did not compete in the sport they excelled at in high school.

State Champs would like to thank Wikipedia, MHSAA historian Ron Pesch, Detroit area historian Bill Hoover and others like Michigan sports writers Denny Grall and Bill Kahn for their expertise. These, and others, provided so much of the information and opinions about these athletes that made this project possible.  

It must be noted that much of the information obtained, especially on some of the Negro League players, was sketchy.

The following is a list of the athletes ranked 81 through 90. Next week we will release the athletes ranked 71-80.

  1. Chet Walker, Benton Harbor, Bradley, Bulls, 76ers (NBA): Regarded as the best basketball to come from the southwestern part of the state, Walker is a two-time all-state player and an All-America. He led Benton Harbor to a Class A final (1958) and was a two-time All-America in college. Walker played 13 NBA seasons and was a seven-time All Star. Paired with Bob Love at the forward position, Walker helped the Bulls reach the Western Conference finals in 1974 and ’75, It was during the 1966-67 season that Walker averaged 19.3 points and was part of the Philadelphia team, led by Wilt Chamberlain, that won the NBA title, ending Boston’s seven-year title run. Nicknamed, “the Jet”, Walker was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
  2. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Detroit Cass Tech, Michigan: One of the best receivers in the last 25 to 30 years. Peoples-Jones could have been a star on the basketball team but chose to concentrate on football. He became a YouTube sensation for a dunk he had during a dunking contest. His senior season Peoples-Jones had 44 receptions for 1,007 yards and 17 TDs. He added 114 rushing yards, four interceptions, one fumble recovery, two TDs defensively and three punt returns for TDs. He caught the winning touchdown in a Division 1 semifinal victory and had six receptions for 118 yards and two TDs in Cass Tech’s 49-20 state final victory over Detorit Catholic Central. As a junior he had 39 receptions for 1,012 yards and 14 TDs.
  3. Clay Youngquist, Battle Creek Lakeview, Texas: Holds state records in the 50-yard free style, 100 free and 200 free. Also won titles in the 500 free and 100 butterfly. After a stellar collegiate career, Youngquist swam at the 2012 Olympic Trials, where he advanced to the semifinals in the 200 free. He posted a 1:49.55 in prelims, then broke his personal record to finish 12th in the semis (1:48.42).
  4. Joe Barksdale, Detroit Cass Tech, Louisiana State, Raiders, Rams, Chargers (NFL): Barksdale was a two-way lineman for coach Thomas Wilcher. He recorded 73 tackles (17 for losses), 14 hurries, seven sacks, one interception and three forced fumbles as a senior, and received High School All-American honors. He was the No. 1 Blue Chip prospect awarded by The Detroit News and also participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. By selecting LSU Barksdale became the first athlete from Michigan to sign a letter of intent with LSU for football.
  5. George “The Gipper” Gipp, Calumet High, Notre Dame: Gipp was a multi-sport athlete in high school and the legendary halfback was Notre Dame’s first All-American in 1920 under coach Knute Rockne. The Gipper scored 83 touchdowns in 32 college games and is enshrined in the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
  6.  Curtis Jones, Detroit Northwestern, North Idaho Junior College: A playground legend, Jones was also a dynamic high school player. A three-time all-PSL selection, Jones had some legendary performances against Detroit Pershing, including a win over Pershing in the PSL finals that was broadcast live on Detroit television and a regional semifinal game against Pershing that was also broadcast live. Jalen Rose has been quoted as saying that Jones was “Magic Johnson before Magic Johnson,” and George Gervin said that Jones was the “best player he ever played against.” 
  7. Walt Owens, Detroit Northwestern., Western Michigan, Globetrotters, Negro Baseball League:  Last minute fill in on thr track team at Western Michigan and three relay teams set two school records.  Barnstormed professionally in Canada on his own team with Bill Buntin (NBA) and Murphy Summons (Globetrotter), played Negro League baseball and competitive fast pitch softball. (One son, Mel, had long NFL career.)
  8. Andy Greene, Trenton, Miami (OH), Devils, (NHL): Greene was named Mr. Hockey his junior season, the first player to be so honored in Michigan, at Trenton and, as a freshman, helped the Trojans win the Class A title in 1998 by scoring a goal in the 3-2 victory over Grosse Pointe South in the final. Greene played three seasons at Trenton and earned high praise from his coach, Mike Turner. Greene played four seasons in college and was named All-America. As a defenseman, he totaled 114 points in 159 career games, scoring 27 goals while adding 87 assists. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award his senior year. He just completed his 11th season with the New Jersey Devils.
  9. Rudy Tomjanovich, Hamtramck, Michigan, Rockets (NBA): A legend in Detroit area basketball, Tomjanovich was named Retro Mr. Basketball for the 1966-67 season, Tomjanovich still holds rebounding records at U-M. Was named All-America in 1970. Was the second overall pick in the NBA Draft that season by the San Diego Rockets. A five-time NBA All-Star, Tomjanovich’s career was cut short after being punched by Kermit Washington. Tomjanovich also coached in the NBA and the Olympics.
  10. Charlie Justice, Hamtramck/Detroit Northern, Negro League Baseball, Globetrotters: Arthur Ashe’s book, Hardroad to Glory, Ashe calls Justice "the Babe Ruth" of fastpitch softball. Negro League Baseball and played pro basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters, Abe Saperstein Boston Brownskins, and his own Charlie Justice All-American Whiz Kids. He also played professional football in Toronto.

Here are Nos. 91-100

  1. George Goeddeke, Detroit St. David, Notre Dame, Broncos (AFL/NFL)
  2. "Jumpin’ Johnny" Kline, Detroit Northwestern/Detroit Northeastern, Globetrotters
  3. Earl Brown, Jr., Benton Harbor, Notre Dame (basketball, football)
  4. Harry Kipke, Lansing Central, Michigan, Globestrotters
  5. Gary Hoogeboom, Grand Rapids Northview, Central Michigan, Cowboys (NFL)
  6. Steve Beck, Southeastern, Arizona State (basketball)
  7. Wilbert "Wilbur" King, Detroit Pershing, Negro League Baseball, Globetrotters
  8. Steve Fraser, Hazel Park, Michigan (Olympics)
  9. Phil Regan, Wayland Union, Western Michigan, Tigers, Dodgers, Cubs (MLB)
  10. Mike Kadish, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Notre Dame, Dolphins, Bills (NFL)