The 2010-11 Flint Northwestern basketball season had all the makings of a special one. The team returned high scoring guards DeOndre Parks and Jaylen Magee as well as playmaking point guard Ahasuerus (Syrus) McDonald. The frontcourt was anchored by blue collar forward Willis Arrington and the team added Hamady transfer Dominez Burnett, a high scoring, lanky forward. Northwestern had more talent than any city team in recent memory that season, but tragically, it all unraveled.
In August, just before school started, the well-liked Arrington was shot and killed during an attempted robbery, obviously hitting his teammates, coaches and the community as a whole very hard. Then, shortly after the season started, Burnett was involved in his own serious legal trouble, ending his season.
The remaining players did their best to make it through and finish the season with a solid record, but the incredibly stressful off-court situations that team went through obviously and understandably had an impact.
After the season, Parks originally committed to Olney Central Community College, but he didn’t graduate from Northwestern in time to enroll. McDonald also struggled with his commitment to the classroom and, as a result, it cost him college opportunities. McDonald acknowledged last year that Arrington’s death had a huge impact on him and his teammates:
Arrington’s death kept McDonald at an all-time low. Unmotivated at school, he found himself in trouble academically.
“I was always down all of the time because we were in the same classes,” McDonald explained. “I was so used to seeing him in the hallways and for him not to be there I was just messed up.”
Since that tragic season, however, things are looking up for the key players on that Northwestern team. Parks, McDonald and Burnett (after his legal issues were resolved) enrolled in prep schools, completed their high school educations and now, as a result, all three are in positions to play college basketball next season and, more importantly, pursue college degrees. Burnett will play at Davenport:
Contributing to the Panthers basketball program is obviously a goal of Burnett’s but he’s more focused on excelling in academics during his college stint.
“Really, I just want to go and get my degree but I will hoop, too,” said Burnett, who plans to major in sports management. All through high school, he maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average.
“I’ve been waiting a whole year to do this,” McDonald said. “I had to grow up and put those distractions to the side. I had to cut people off to get myself straight and worry about myself for a minute.”
“After high school, I’ve lost 12 friends that I grew up with and went to high school with to death,” Parks said. “I’m tired of seeing my friend’s moms cry and I just want to make my mom happy and show her that I’m not just one of those kids that just sit in the house. I’m trying to do something with my life.”
Magee, who had a serious leg injury in the offseason after his senior year, was on Delta‘s roster last season, but red-shirted due to the injury. I don’t believe he’ll be back at Delta, but I haven’t heard where, if anywhere, he has decided to play.
It was hard to cover and watch Northwestern games that season — basketball seemed pretty unimportant considering the real-life things those kids were going through. But it’s also incredibly encouraging to see the talented kids with that team who just needed to mature a bit getting opportunities to take advantage of those talents, get their educations and, most importantly, get opportunities to move beyond the violence and negative influences they are all too familiar with growing up in Flint.