'I think we can win now': Jordan Sigmon, Lance Stone reunited in backcourt at Detroit Renaissance
Detroit — When it comes to playing video games, Jordan Sigmon and Lance Stone are no different than many high school kids.
They get home, start up their gaming systems and hop into a call with their friends to have some fun and blow off a little steam, taking a break from the demands of their world.
Fortnite is the game of choice more often than not for the duo and their peers. It's a cartoonish, battle-royale style of game that requires teamwork and communication to excel. Knowing where your teammates are on the map, coordinating attacks and picking up your squadmates when they're down are all essential in getting a win.
Kind of like basketball.
Sigmon and Stone connect in the virtual world, and those same skills that make them successful in Tilted Towers help make them a formidable backcourt duo at Detroit Renaissance.
The pair go back to 2019, when they met at Liberty Middle School in Canton. The COVID-19 pandemic muddied their time together at Liberty, as they only played two games together before Stone, a year older than Sigmon, left for Renaissance.
Now they're reunited, and they have their first real chance to play a full season with one another — and to form what could be one of the top backcourts in the state.
"Jordan, he was a kid who was high on Renaissance because of the relationship I have with his father," head coach John White told The Detroit News on Tuesday. "When they called and told me they were coming to Renaissance, I was ecstatic.
"Because I understood the history of him and Lance playing together in middle school. ... To see them come together and see how they jelled together in summer league, it’s real encouraging for me as a coach, especially somebody who played the guard position in high school and college.”
White played two seasons at Eastern Kentucky before turning pro and enjoying a six-year career across five leagues in the United States, Mexico and Australia.
The former guard got his start in coaching as an assistant at Romulus High School in 2008 before eventually working his way to the top spot at Renaissance in 2018. He went 16-5 in his first year at the helm before taking a step back in the next two seasons, going 13-24.
But with Stone last season, the Phoenix were able to bounce back and went 16-6, reaching the district semifinals.
Teaming Stone, 15, and Sigmon back up gives Renaissance a chance to make a bigger jump this time around.
"They communicate well," White said. "They’ve got a great feel for each other on the court. It’s funny how they’ve got a knack to where they know where each other is going to be at ...
"There’s no bickering, there’s no arguing, they work together in tandem. It’s fun to watch.”
Sigmon, 14, has lived in Michigan his whole life, and the 5-foot-11 guard has been playing AAU ball with The Family Basketball Organization since he was in the fifth grade.
The program has helped produce dozens of Division I athletes, as well as some notable NBA players, including Draymond Green.
Sigmon has turned some heads in his short time playing basketball, evidenced by White fielding calls from a few different colleges about him, including representatives from Kentucky and Florida State.
The interest likely stems from Sigmon's natural ability as a scorer, having a knack for slashing through defenses, but he's not a one-trick pony.
“I’m a great 3-point shooter," Sigmon said of the strengths in his game. "I can see the floor very well (and I have a) high IQ. I can handle (the ball) very well. If Lance is tired, I can come in as the main ball handler."
Sigmon wants to improve most on the defensive end, noting that varsity basketball is full of new obstacles, bigger opponents and an overall more intense environment.
He won't be going into it without any guidance, though.
Sigmon has three older brothers, two of whom have gone on to play basketball in college. He said Stone has been an older brother-like figure to him as well.
"I didn’t want him to change coming into high school," Stone said, recalling the advice he gave Sigmon. "I told him just to be himself.”
Stone, as White tabbed him, is a natural-born leader, and that's no accident. His dad, LaMonta Stone, is a former coach with experience at Ohio State, Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan.
Lance has two brothers, one older and one younger, and LaMonta has been preparing each of them for basketball since they were born.
"He’s a solid floor general ... typical coach’s son," White said of Stone. "Probably one of the hardest workers on the team. He’s always in the gym getting shots up (and) making sure his teammates are here on time.”
Stone averaged 15 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals in 22 games last season, even dropping back-to-back 32-point performances against Detroit Douglass and Detroit CMA.
The flurry of buckets didn't come without some dimes, though, as he dropped 13 and 11 assists, respectively, in those two games, never getting too far away from his roots as a playmaker.
Stone has gotten some attention from colleges as well, including Michigan, Michigan State and UCLA, to name a few. He also recently received an invitation to the CP3 Elite Guard Camp, an invite-only function hosted by Chris Paul for some of the most talented point guards in the country.
Stone tries to emulate Paul on the court.
White said the biggest area he wanted to see Stone improve this offseason was his ability to control the game from tipoff to the final buzzer, and over the summer, he's shown the potential to do it.
The fifth-year coach pointed to a pair of games this summer against Ann Arbor Huron. Renaissance was blown out in the first matchup by 24 points, but less than a week later, the Phoenix defeated Huron by two. White said Stone controlled the game both offensively and defensively in the second matchup.
Making an impact on the defensive end as an underclassman — at 5-foot-7, no less — is nothing to scoff at.
Even last season, playing 22 games as a 14-year-old freshman against some senior talent, no one would've could've faulted Stone if he had run into some roadblocks.
"Usually, freshmen hit a wall and they teeter off, but he got stronger as the year went on. ... He just kept going," White said. "He got better as the year went on. It speaks to his toughness, mental toughness, as well as just being in the gym and just the cream rising to the top because he put in so much work.”
That work has continued into the offseason. Both Sigmon and Stone, as well as a handful of their teammates, were in the gym working with White on Tuesday.
The day started with some standard drills, dribbling through cones and finishing with layups and floaters at the rim.
Then the grind started.
White had the small group conduct a shooting drill that saw them spot up from various areas on the floor, ranging from the midrange to beyond the three-point arc. Catch-and-shoot, off the dribble — a little bit of everything.
It culminated in each player taking over 400 shots, and they had to end each drill on a make. It's physically and mentally taxing, but it's necessary if White wants his team to reach the heights he thinks they're capable of.
“I think we can win (and) I think we can win now," he said. "People talk about youth, but I think when you know how to play the game of basketball and you have a system in place and kids are buying into your system, I think you can win now.
"You might take a few lumps, but I think when it comes down to championship basketball, I believe they are ready.”
Whether White's assessment is true, Sigmon and Stone have time to figure it out, as they have a potential three seasons to play together at Renaissance.
After all, they're just some high school kids eager for the next video game to drop.
"I play (video games) with Lance a lot. I play with Jacob, another teammate that’s not here (right now)," Sigmon said. "I play with my brother a lot actually.
"I’m just waiting on 2K23 to come out."