Former Globetrotter, Detroit prep and Lawrence Tech star dies
Detroit Northern basketball star Blaine Denning died on Tuesday, Denning was 85.
Denning briefly attended Central State (OH) before transferring to Lawrence Tech. In 1951 he led the Blue Devils to the NIT at Madison Square Garden where Lawrence Tech lost to Dayton, 77-71. Denning scored 27 points in that game and averaged 20.1 points the following season.
Following his senior year at LTU Denning signed a contract with the Harlem Globetrotters. Denning was then selected by the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA draft. Denning was the first player from the Detroit Public School League to be taken in the draft.
Born Blaine Mitchell, Jr., on Sept. 19, 1930 in Fulton, Kentucky, Denning moved to Pittsburgh with an aunt and uncle in ‘32. The Dennings moved to Detroit in ‘42 with Blaine. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Denning legally switched his name from Mitchell.
At Northern Denning played for legendary coach Eddie Powers. Powers coached 44 seasons at the high school level. During the 1946-47 season, Denning’s junior year, Northern advanced to league championship against Detroit Miller. It marked the first time in Detroit history two all-black teams played for the PSL championship. Miller, with eventual Globetrotter and professional baseball player Sammy Gee, defeated the Eskimos, 52-21.
In ‘98 Denning watched his grandson, Blaine Denning III, lead Detroit Cass Tech to an overtime victory over Detroit Central in the PSL championship game.
(Note: State Champs would like to thank PSL historian Bill Hoover with his assistance in writing this article.)