Regularly, BallinMichigan.com will look back at the yearly Mr. Basketball award with the benefit of hindsight. These posts will look back at the top five finishers at the time, provide updates on what they’ve done since and, for the fun of it, let readers re-vote to see if the results would be different if we include their full college and professional bodies of work. Thanks to Ron Pesch, MHSAA historian, for the great Mr. Basketball voting database he provides online.
- Chris Webber, Detroit Country Day
- Jalen Rose, Detroit Southwestern
- Todd Lindeman, Iron Mountain North Dickinson
- Jesse Drain, Saginaw
- David Washington, Albion High School
This class was so successful in high school that one of the most successful athletes to come out of the state of Michigan in the 1990s, Voshon Lenard of Detroit Southwestern, couldn’t even crack the top 10. Lenard was undoubtedly hurt by the fact that he and Rose were teammates, so they probably took votes from each other. Still though, no one was catching Webber here. In fact, the according to the legend surrounding his fantastic high school career, he would’ve won the award based on his junior as well if juniors were eligible. In any other year, based around their very solid pro careers, Rose or Lenard would be easy picks for this revised Mr. Basketball awards which are looking solely at post-high school bodies of work. Unfortunately for them, they happen to be in the same class as arguably the best high school player this state has ever produced.
If you follow basketball, you’ve followed Webber’s career. He was one of the greatest high school players in Michigan history, he was part of a legendary college team at Michigan and, despite having his pro career hurt some by injuries, he was still an All-Star caliber player who will someday get Naismith Hall of Fame consideration. He also happens to be, in my opinion, the best and most intelligent former player working as an analyst today. He was great in the studio for TNT and he’s great in the broadcast booth as well (this exchange with Minnesota Timberwolves G.M. David Kahn is one of my all-time favorites).
MT: Are you comfortable always being mentioned in history because of the timeout?
CW: One, that’s the way it’s gonna be so I better be comfortable and two, I put in work man. At the end of the day, that’s cool. I’ll take that. In the NBA, pound for pound I put in work. I’ve done some pretty big things in the Big Ten. When you set records and things like that, it is what it is. I gotta accept it.
Does it hurt and do I wish I never did it? Yeah, but if you love the game you are part of it. If you are a pitcher and gave up the game winning home run, you are a part of the game. The agony of defeat. I got to feel it at an early age and it just prepared me to work hard, be ready for the good times and prepare for the bad.
You have to take responsibility and move on. I’m just glad that afterward, you have to talk about the rest of my career. If it was somebody else, that’s all they would have been remembered by.
Without getting into the bad feelings many Michigan fans still have towards Webber, he’s simply one of the most talented big men whoever played the game. He might be the best passing big man ever. From a basketball standpoint, it’s a crime that we as fans didn’t get to see what Webber would’ve accomplished in his career minus the devastating injuries.
As I said above, if Rose was in any other senior class, he would win the revised Mr. Basketball award in this little series. He was the unquestioned brash leader on three highly successful Michigan teams. In the NBA, he wasn’t quite an All-Star, but he was pretty close to that level a few times. After basketball, he’s become a successful analyst with ESPN, he produced a successful documentary about the Fab Five and — most importantly — he started his own school in Detroit. Here’s Rose in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in December 2011:
“We didn’t cherry pick these kids,” says Mr. Rose. “They chose us,” he notes, through an oversubscribed lottery system. He adds: “Did you ever see the movie ‘Waiting for “Superman”?’ The excitement and the joy of families that got in here was similar to that.” As the kids scurry past us between classes, they’re in crisp uniforms. Several I spoke to exuded confidence—plus awareness that being here could be a life-altering experience.
Mr. Rose plans to start with this freshman class and add a new grade each year until there are some 500 kids in grades 9-12. “This is college prep. We expect 90% to 100% to go on to college”—no mean feat when many students are entering ninth grade with only fourth-grade levels of reading and math proficiency.
Lindeman, a big man and one of the top players to come out of northern Michigan, was a solid contributor during a four-year career at Indiana. Interestingly, he was part of an Indiana team that was the stark contrast to Webber and Rose’s Michigan teams during their years in the Big Ten together. Stylistically, Indiana was led by a disciplinarian coach, players still wore short shorts and no one had jersey numbers on their backs while by now everyone knows that Michigan played a free-wheeling game and revolutionized basketball fashion with their shorts, socks and style.
Lindeman played professionally overseas, including in Turkey, after his college career.
Saginaw’s Drain was on Michigan’s recruiting radar until, you know, the Fab Five started showing up. Drain instead played at the University of Houston, where he had a solid college career. Here’s a feature on Drain from the college’s student newspaper:
Jessie Drain Sr. made sure his son steered clear of the violence that brought his own dream to a tragic end.
In the mid-1970s, Jessie Sr. was going to The Show. Baseball’s Detroit Tigers signed him on as a pitcher, but before he even stepped into camp, Drain was caught in the middle of a Saginaw riot, the younger Drain said.
A bullet behind his ear ended a career that never began.
Now, the younger Drain takes the knowledge of his father’s experience and his grandfather’s battle with cancer, which is in remission, onto the hardcourt with him every game.
“When I think about inspiration, I think about those two things,” Drain said.
Drain never reached the NBA, but does have a pretty cool professional basketball claim to fame: he was a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
I couldn’t find much info online about what Washington has been up to since high school.
Despite the talent in this class, Webber is still clearly the best of the bunch since high school.
- 2003 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix
- 2000 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix
- 1983 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix
- 1994 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix
- 1985 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix