Hoops All-Stars settle in at Straits of Mackinac
ST. IGNACE – Tyler Jandron of Negaunee and Kelley Wright of St. Ignace headline the rosters for the 29th annual U.P. All-Star Classic basketball games Saturday in St. Ignace.
They were the Class A-B-C Upper Peninsula Players of the Year and all-state selections last season. Wright, who led the Saints to the Class C state championship game, will play basketball at Youngstown State University for former Michigan Tech coach John Barnes, a native of Escanaba. Jandron will play basketball and baseball at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha.
Wright, making her final home hardwood appearance, scored 1,542 points and played on two state championship teams with the Saints. She was named Class C Player of the Year in the state by the Associated Press.
Jandron, also an outstanding southpaw baseball pitcher, is Negaunee’s school scoring leader with 1,334 points.
The Class D top players will not be in St. Ignace. Lexi Gussert of Forest Park is recovering from a wrist injury sustained during a season in which the Trojans reached the Class D state title game, while Joey Duncan of Cedarville just completed his junior season. The game is only open to high school graduates.
Gussert, the Upper Peninsula’s all-time scoring leader with 2,630 career points, was also selected Miss Basketball in Michigan. She will play basketball at Michigan State University.
Jandron will play for the North team in Saturday’s game while Wright will play for the South girls. Jandron’s prep coach, Mike O’Donnell, had to decline the opportunity to coach in the game after being named head men’s basketball coach at Finlandia University in Hancock.
Another headliner at the game will be Dick Franti of Ontonagon, who will coach the North girls. Franti has 501 victories as a girls coach at Bergland and Ontonagon, tied with Paul Polfus of Carney-Nadeau. Nancy Osier of Ewen-Trout Creek, is the all-time leader with 582 wins.
Franti also won 245 games as a boys basketball coach, giving him a total of 746 victories that is the best among Upper Peninsula coaches and among the highest in state history. This will be his second appearance as an all-star coach.
The North girls team he is coaching will have six players from the Copper Country, including Gladiator graduate Brooke Turin. Other locals playing on the North girls include Elisa Jurmu and Kelsie Richards of Houghton, Madi Swanson and Valerie Rajala of L’Anse and Julia Daavettila of Dollar Bay. Richards, Turin and Daavettila have all committed to play at Finlandia next season.
Saturday will mark an historic event when Doug Ingalls of St. Ignace coaches the North boys as a late replacement for O’Donnell. Ingalls will become the first person to play in the game, coach in the game and officiate in the game. He is a former all-stater at Gladstone High School and returned to coach the boys team this year.
Ingalls played in the first all-star game in 1986, as did Amy Hastings of Manistique. Her son, Cole Potvin of Big Bay de Noc, will play for the South boys Saturday.
Four Copper Country players will be part of the North boys squad, including Alex Almquist of Hancock, Trent Keteri of Houghton, Paul Torola of Calumet and Jimmy Veker of L’Anse.
Another first will be the appearance of a Northern Lights Conference player, Elijah May of Kinross Maplewood Baptist. He was player of the year last season in a league that is the smallest in the state based on school enrollments. He will play basketball and perhaps baseball at Maranatha College in Fond du Lac, Wis.
The game will also mark the end of coaching careers for Jeff Syrjanen of Forest Park and Mark Simon of Stephenson, who will be with the South girls.
The girls will practice at 3:30 Friday and the boys practice at 4:30. The players and their parents, coaches and other guests will then board a Star Lines boat for a cruise beneath the Mackinac Bridge and will spend an hour on Mackinac Island. This is the fifth time Star Lines will host the trip, which has provided many players and parents with their first visit to the historic island.
The players and coaches will have a breakfast at Mackinac Grill in St. Ignace Saturday before going to LaSalle High School for the skills competition at 11 a.m. The girls game starts at 1 p.m. and the boys play at 3 p.m.