ONSTED – Austin Davis played college basketball under John Beilein and Juwan Howard at the University of Michigan. One of the lessons he brought home with him after four years with the Wolverines is now helping the Onsted boys basketball team excel.
“Austin talks to our team all of the time about being a star in your own role,” Onsted boys basketball coach Brad Maska said. “Whatever it is you do, whether it’s rebounding or scoring, you need to be a star in your specific role. That’s his message, and it's really made our team better.”
Davis is finished with the Wolverines, but not basketball. The Onsted graduate helps at practices and games when he can, and Maska said his presence is one of the reasons the Division 2 Wildcats were 5-0 heading into a holiday tournament this week that features teams from three states.
“Him just being here, being a part of it, is big for our guys,” Maska said. “We are lucky to have him.”
Davis also is tutoring his younger brother, 6-foot-9 sophomore Ayden Davis.
The younger Davis came on strong as the season went on last winter, and he has started this season even better, averaging better than 21 points a game. He scored 30 against Hanover-Horton and has a 20-rebound game to his credit as well.
“As coaches we learned so much when we had Austin,” Maska said. “All of the things we are trying to do with Ayden are things we didn’t do with Austin. We want to play fast, get out and run, and Ayden can run up and down the floor.”
Onsted has an interesting roster mix. There are five seniors, including captains Dayton Henagan and Harry Moore, who return from last season’s 14-4 team. There are three juniors, Davis is one of two sophomores, and there are two freshmen – Aidan Paquin and JT Hill – who played big roles in the first five wins.
“The collection of kids we have around Ayden is second to none,” said Maska, in his 15th year as Onsted head coach. “It all starts with our seniors and how they have bought in to what we are doing. We had a great summer together, and it is showing.”
Hill and Paquin both have hit big shots already this season. Junior Bradlee VanBrunt hit six 3-pointers in a win over Jonesville. Henagan is averaging six rebounds, five steals and five assists per game, and Moore has been filling up the stat sheets.
“It hasn’t been just one guy,” Maska said. “That’s what has been so exciting. Everyone is contributing, one through 11.”
Ayden grew up around the Onsted program while Austin was a three-year starter for the Wildcats. Their father, Eric Davis, remains an assistant coach. Ayden said he’s grateful for the work Austin puts in with him.
“We have a great relationship, and I’m so grateful for him being here and helping me,” Ayden said. “He helps with my shot, my footwork. He learned from Coach Beilein and Coach Howard. He’s bringing that to working with me. I’m very excited to work with him.
“He’ll put his shorts on and pull out the old basketball shoes sometimes and we go at it. It makes me a better player.”
Henagan, a 6-2 senior forward, is second on the team in scoring, putting up between 11 and 19 points in every game this season. He said as a captain, it's his role to ensure the younger players on the team are integrated into everything the team does.
“This summer was really important because we gelled right away,” he said. “Having that time brought everyone close together. Now we hang out and do things together as a team. It’s been big for us. We all trust each other. The summer really gave us a head start.”
Maska has upgraded the Wildcats’ schedule this season. They played three games over the first five nights of the season, are playing in the North Central Tournament in Ohio this week and will play at a Martin Luther King Day event in Ohio against Toledo St. Francis, a Division 1 school in its state.
“I like to play different teams,” Maska said. “In the summer we will play all over the place. We want to play the best and see how we stack up.”
It’s a good time for basketball all around at Onsted. The Wildcats JV boys are also undefeated, and the Onsted girls varsity is 5-0 after knocking off Brooklyn Columbia Central on Dec. 16. The Golden Eagles had won 34 straight Lenawee County Athletic Association games before the Wildcats beat them, 46-34, with great defense down the stretch.
Varsity girls head coach Brandon Arnold likes the versatility of his team.
“We have four guards, and we can do a lot of different things with them,” he said.
Senior Kaylei Smith, a Siena Heights University signee, is off to a great start with 85 points in five games, and sophomore Hailey Freshcorn is a gym rat who is fast and the ringleader on defense.
“She never comes out of the gym,” Arnold said.
Onsted won 14 games last year and graduated four-year starter and 1,000-point scorer Mya Hiram.
“No one expected us to start like this,” Arnold said. “But the girls have embraced it. We’re like the underdog right now.”
The Wildcats girls got a late start to the season due to the volleyball team reaching the Quarterfinals, and then battled some COVID-19 issues. They are rolling now but have some tough games coming up.
“We have a lot of momentum and confidence right now,” Arnold said. I like how we are playing, and the things we are doing.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Onsted’s Dayton Henagan (3) makes his move toward the basket during a win over Hudson. (Middle) Past star Austin Davis coaches up one of Onsted’s current contributors. (Photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne.)