Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of a weekly series looking at the college-basketball scene in Michigan.
It’s going to be a very emotional Saturday at Oakland and Detroit Mercy.
At Oakland, which will play Chicago State at 3 p.m., the Golden Grizzlies will honor long-time athletic trainer Tom Ford, who retired in May and announced he has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
At Detroit Mercy, which plays Western Michigan at 2 p.m., the Titans will hand out the inaugural Reggie Hall Spirit of Detroit Mercy Award, an homage to the program’s biggest fan, who died following a car accident in late 2015. He would’ve turned 60 this week.
Ford arrived at Oakland in 1988 and worked mainly with the men’s and women’s basketball programs, and since has worked with many of the other programs, including women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s golf.
Tom Ford is an institution at this university, Oakland athletics director Jeff Konya said. He is always welcome within these walls and we owe him and his family a debt of gratitude.
Former student-athletes can purchase a $30 ticket package — (248) 370-4000 — that includes a game ticket, a Tom Ford Bobblehead and a donation to the Team TFord Strong Foundation. Bobbleheads will be for sale for $20, with proceeds going to Ford’s family.
Ford has kept his spirits up, particularly on Twitter (@TFordATC), despite the disease’s progression. He plans to be in attendance Saturday.
Hall, meanwhile, was a regular at Calihan Hall for decades, following his days as a student at Detroit Mercy, in the late 1970s, when he studied communications and played baseball. He could always be found in his seat, tucked away in an upper corner, his booming voice always recognizable.
Today, a banner hangs near that seat, reading, “Reggie’s Corner.”
The spirit award was created to honor a Titans fan who supports the school’s teams at home and on the road, through thick and thin, just as Hall used to do. The award will be handed out at halftime.
Hall also had a three-decade-long career in local sports media, including as a sports producer at Channel 7 (WXYZ) for 26 years.
“He was a true Titan and he touched everyone that has come into Calihan Hall in the last 30 years,” Detroit Mercy athletics director Robert Vowels said.
WARRIORS, MEET TITANS
Without much advance notice, the folks at Detroit Mercy got some special surprise visitors Thursday afternoon when two big buses pulled up to campus.
The defending NBA-champion Golden State Warriors, in town to play the Pistons on Friday night, decided to practice at Calihan Hall.
Almost everybody from the Warriors was present, including Draymond Green and coach Steve Kerr, who mingled with members of Detroit Mercy men’s and women’s basketball teams. (The women’s players were beaming ear to ear, a rare fun day for a team that’s started 0-7). Steph Curry was the only notable absence, as he’s out with an ankle injury.
Calihan Hall was a logical place to practice, given one of the Warriors assistant coaches, Willie Green, is a Detroit Mercy alum. Green, who attended Cooley in Detroit, played for the Titans in the early 2000s, and still is fourth on the program’s all-time scoring list. His senior year, he averaged 22.6 points a game, 12-best in school history.
Green, 36, went on to a 12-year NBA career which ended after the 2014-15 season, and joined Kerr’s staff in Golden State last season.
He already has an NBA championship ring to show for it, becoming the sixth Titan to earn an NBA ring. The others, for you trivia buffs out there: Dave DeBusschere (1970 Knicks), Spencer Haywood (1980 Lakers), Terry Duerod (1981 Celtics), Earl Cureton (1983 76ers, 1994 Rockets) and John Long (1989 Pistons).
CENTRAL OF ATTENTION
Michigan is the consensus best women’s team in the state this season, given it certainly looks like a are down year for Michigan State.
No. 2 just might be Central Michigan (6-1), which took a six-game winning streak into Thursday night’s game at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. The Chippewas are coming off an absolute dismantling of Oakland, 103-85 at the O’Rena on Sunday.
CollegeInsider.com has Central Michigan ninth in its top-25 rankings for mid-major schools.
This isn’t a big surprise, since the Chippewas are coming off a Mid-American Conference Division championship last year — and probably were the best of the MAC, but an upset in the tournament cost them a shot at the NCAAs.
Coached by legendary Sue Guevara, Central is led by junior guard Presley Hudson — like me, a Wayland native (represent!) — who is averaging 21.7 points and shooting 48.5 percent on 3’s. Most impressively, she’s 29-for-29 on free throws this season. As a team, Central is shooting 84.8 percent from the strip, second in the nation.
Four other Central players average double-digits in scoring, including 6-foot junior Reyna Frost, who averages 12.1 points and 12.9 rebounds.
This is a group to keep an eye on. Don’t be surprised if the Chippewas find their way into the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time, and second since 1984.
THIS AND THAT
* Western Michigan guard Thomas Wilder flirted with the idea of the NBA last offseason, but quickly decided it wasn’t for him. Not now. But soon. He’s looking like a legit NBA player this season, averaging 19.2 points through nine games for the Broncos (5-4). He’s been in double digits all nine games this season, and 12 total dating to last season, the 12th-longest streak in the NCAA. That included 24 points in a close loss — and wildly entertaining game — against Oakland on Saturday, and 23 and 15 in two losses to a pretty darn good South Carolina team. Don’t be surprised if he flirts with his career-high 38 points Saturday, against a soft-as-pudding Detroit Mercy defense.
* There are several powerhouse basketball offenses in the state this season, on the men’s and women’s side. You can add Wayne State women to that mix, having twice scored 100 points this season -- the first time since 2002-03 that the Warriors have done that. Wayne State, led by senior guard Shannon Wilson (Bloomfield Hills; 18.4 points), had a challenging game set for Thursday night, at nation’s No. 2 Ashland.
* Hilarious scene in Wednesday night’s Oakland-Eastern men’s game, when Jalen Hayes went to throw up an alley-oop -- and the pass actually went through the hoop. Not so funny for Oakland (5-4), it lost another game, 95-89. Interestingly, it gets another crack at Eastern when the teams meet again Dec. 22, that time at the O’Rena.
STATE POWER RANKINGS
1. Michigan State, 8-1 (last week: 1)
2. Michigan, 7-3 (2)
3. Central Michigan, 7-1 (5)
4. Eastern Michigan, 6-2 (3)
5. Oakland, 5-4 (4)
5. Western Michigan, 5-4 (6)
7. Detroit, 4-5 (7)
1. Michigan, 6-2 (1)
2. Central Michigan, 6-1 (3)
3. Michigan State, 5-3 (2)
4. Western Michigan, 4-5 (4)
5. Eastern Michigan, 2-5 (5)
6. Oakland, 3-4 (6)
7. Detroit, 0-7 (7)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
* James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan, Jr., F: If the Eagles are going to make some noise in the MAC this year, it’s going to start with this guy, a staple in the program who earlier this season eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau for his career. He put on quite a show Wednesday night in a 95-89 home victory over Oakland, with his seventh double-double in eight starts. Thompson finished with 24 points on 11-for-11 shooting, had 12 rebounds and added four blocks. A week earlier in a loss to North Florida, he had 29 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
* Deja Church, Michigan, G: The former Southfield A&T star has quickly earned the faith of coach Kim Barnes-Arico, playing a season-high 28 minutes in Monday’s 86-50 victory over Detroit Mercy. She was 5-for-11 shooting for 12 points, matching the season-best she posted the previous game, an 86-49 victory over LIU Brooklyn on Saturday, when she was 5-for-6 shooting. Fouls are an issue, as they often are with any freshman, but after a tough baptism against powerhouse Notre Dame, she’s established herself a key player for the 24th-ranked Wolverines.
STAT OF THE WEEK
* Let’s go with this — 18.4. That’s the average margin of victory in Michigan State’s seven-game winning streak, since it fell to Duke in the Champions Classic. And those aren’t all patsies. That includes a 20-point win over Connecticut, 18-point win over North Carolina and 18-point win over Notre Dame, as well as a 19-point win over a Nebraska team that just beat nationally ranked Minnesota. Tom Izzo is notorious for his teams getting better and better as the season advances, and that’s a scary thought, given where the Spartans are now. No wonder Izzo's smiling in Judge Mathis' courtroom.
TOP GAMES OF THE WEEK
* Friday: Women, Detroit Mercy at Western Michigan, 7
* Saturday: Men, UCLA at Michigan, noon
* Saturday: Men, Western Michigan at Detroit, 2
* Sunday: Women, Kent State at Michigan, 2
* Tuesday: Men, Michigan at Texas, 9