Mayor’s Notebook: The Empty Halls of “The ‘Run”

24 Oct

WillowRunHighSchoolFlyersbrick-thumb-200x188-115753Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, and Lansing are cities noted as hotbeds for prep basketball talent in Michigan.  However, one area with an unappreciated tradition of excellence is the Willow Run portion of Washtenaw County.  Due to funding issues, Willow Run Community Schools dissolved in the late 2000s, with students re-zoned to multiple school districts along the I-94 Corridor.  While open, the Flyers repeatedly fielded a stout ball club and produced the likes of Jessie Davis (now coach at Ypsilanti Lincoln), Dion & Jason Drake, Tony Jackson, Marcus Anthony, and Donvell Patterson during the 1980s and 90s.

Transitioning into the 21st century, Willow Run potentially could have been a top program in the state if it not for the various enrollment standards set by school boards along the region.

After careful review and investigation, here are a couple possible combinations the could have happened at Willow Run.

A Dynasty That Could Have Been

The Trees

Jaylen Johnson 6-8 2014 Power Forward Ypsilanti (Louisville)- Starting at Louisville, Johnson was a Mr. Basketball candidate his senior year and one of the most nationally coveted prospects for the 2014 class.

Justin Tillman 6-8 2014 Power Forward Detroit Pershing (VCU)- Spent his freshman campaign at Willow Run, before transferring to Detroit Consortium and Pershing.  There was no better back-line defensive stopper in the state than Tillman his junior and senior campaigns.

Jamal Poplar 6-7 2014 Wing River Rouge & Various Prep Schools- Tillman and Johnson would both be forces on the interior, now add Poplar.  Poplar started at Willow Run as a freshman, with stops at John Glenn and River Rouge in Michigan and eventually leaving the state prior to his senior year.  His talent and potential were never the issue.  A tough cover due to versatility on the offensive end of the floor.

The Milan State Champion Duo

Nick Perkins 6’7″ 2015 Power Forward Milan (Buffalo)- This ferocious lefty was given the nickname “Baby Z-Bo” with resemblance of Zach Randolph for the Memphis Grizzlies; the MAC is about to find out why for themselves.

Latin Davis 6’1″ 2015 Point Guard Milan (Youngstown State)- A 1,000 point scorer in his high school career, Latin stood out in the 2014 state championship with a state-record seven three-pointers, the most for a final.

More Pieces to the Puzzle

Mike Bruce 6’4″ 2016 Combo Guard Ypsilanti- His best basketball is ahead of him. A quiet junior season at Belleville should be followed by a breakout senior year at Ypsilanti.

The next two are debatable about whether or not they would have been Willow Run Flyers.  They are from the Sumpter area, not too far from the old Willow Run High School.

Corey Allen 6’4″ 2016 Combo Guard Ypsilanti (U of D Mercy)- Physical, aggressive and brute define Mr. Allen’s game.  When his shoulders get square to the basket, put two points on the board.

Xavier Cochran 6-5 2015 Wing Ann Arbor Huron (Owens CC)- Heard Cochran went the private school route.  But what if?  Cochran had a stellar career at Huron, and is now a division one prospect waiting in the reigns at Owens.

A Couple Young Bucks

Josh Perkins 6-6 2018 Power Forward (Brother of Nick Perkins)

Garrett Gardette 5-10 2017 Point Guard Ypsilanti Arbor Prep

James “Big Game” Davis 6-0 2017 Combo Guard Ypsilanti

I am sorry if this piece causes controversy regarding the enrollment of the aforementioned student-athletes at any of the said schools.  This was only to create attention for a talent-rich section of the state.  These possible teams would have been something to watch.  Instead the halls and trophy cases of Willow Run remain empty.

-The Mayor

Special thanks to Dre Gardette, Rockey Black, and Nate “The General” Oats.

Contributed by Adam Troia



2 Responses to “Mayor’s Notebook: The Empty Halls of “The ‘Run””

  1. Joseph Frye Jr. October 26, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

    Your coverage is a good example of how an athlete can flourish though they encounter 0bstacles.

  2. Anonymous October 26, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    Good info Steve. It would be great if we could retain a few athletes in-state.

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