By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
SOUTH LYON – "If you want it, go get it. It's out there."
Annette Babers has lived on both sides of that message, as both the pursuer and achiever. And she explained how today's high school players can do the same last week in speaking to more than 200 athletes, parents and coaches attending the MHSAA's Reaching Higher girls basketball clinic at South Lyon High School.
Reaching Higher, in its fourth year and in coordination with the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, provides the state's elite basketball prospects with a day not just of basketball training, but also instruction in what it takes to succeed both academically and socially at the college level.
And becoming a well-rounded athlete – physically, mentally and spiritually – was a main point of emphasis for Babers, considered one of that nation's top high school players in 1988 while a senior at Saginaw High (she averaged 24.8 points, 21 rebounds and 15 blocks per game) before going on to start at Michigan State University and playing professionally in Turkey.
She's also the aunt and a major influence in the life of Draymond Green, who finished his career at MSU this spring and was drafted by the Golden State Warriors.
Mixing in the lessons she'd learned while telling the story of her basketball career, Babers provided these nuggets:
- "Listen (and) be obedient. If you're obedient, you're going to have that drive. You're going to have that determination – if you've got love for the game."
- "If you want that next level, it's right there. Go get it. ... It's out there. You don't realize how much you can do ..."
- "You know there's more to this than just playing. You've got to get your body physically fit. You've got to get your mind ready."
- "Whatever you do, please, (mind your) attitudes. You never know who's watching."
- "Your parents have given you the tools of life. You've got to use them."
- "You've got to find the circle you're going to be in. And make sure your parents are part of that circle."
Combined, 280 of the state's top boys and girls players were invited to Reaching Higher, as chosen by a selection committee made up of coaches from all over the state. The boys came to South Lyon on July 18, followed by the girls on July 26.
The six-hour sessions included skill training and three 36-minute games, plus a variety of speakers including current and former players Babers, University of Michigan standout Zach Novak and former Wake Forest and current German League standout Kyle Visser, who played his high school basketball at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central. Also providing valuable insights were coach Marc Comstock, Childress Sports Consulting, Dave Ginsberg of Management and Motivational Strategies and University of Michigan NCAA compliance officer Elizabeth Heinrich.
Total, 81 coaches from 55 college programs attended either the boys or girls sessions, representing all three NCAA levels and the NAIA. Games were reffed by MHSAA officials, who also participated in training sessions throughout both days.
PHOTOS: (Top) Battle Creek Central senior Kayla Freeman (with ball) cuts through a haze of opponents on her way to the basket. (Middle right) Annette Babers speaks to the more than 200 players, parents and coaches at South Lyon High School. (Middle left) Salem senior Chris Dierker launches a shot during a drill at the boys clinic.
PHOTO: New Boston Huron sophomore Hailey Richardson (92) and Utica Ford senior Cris Harper (15) lead a group through an agility drill.
PHOTO: All three rounds of games during both Reaching Higher sessions were officiated by MHSAA referees, who also received instruction and evaluation. Left, Kendal Smith from the Metro Detroit Officials Association talks technique with a group during a break in their game.
PHOTO: Reaching Higher participants return to the South Lyon High School gym after receiving instruction in the school's cafeteria. Standing tall is Ann Arbor Skyline junior Tristan Wilson (37).
PHOTO:Richland Gull Lake sophomore Alexis Ahlert prepares to shoot a free throw during her team's game Thursday.