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.
- Dane Fife, Clarkston
- Antonio Gates, Detroit Central
- Thomas Jackson, East Lansing
- Charles Kage, River Rouge
- Adam Anderson, Kent City
There is an obvious ‘most successful post-high school’ choice in here, but it will likely be the only time in this series that we’ll have to consider non-basketball accomplishments as part of the criteria in our revised awards.
Considering the football success of the runner-up on this list, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Fife was actually a great high school football player as well, who would’ve been a Division I recruit as a quarterback if he’d chosen that route. Instead, he chose basketball and had a solid four-year career at Indiana.
After his college career, he quickly moved into coaching, first as an assistant at Indiana and later as the head coach at IPFW, a job he held at only 25 years old. The New York Times profiled him as the youngest head coach in Division I at the time:
But he adds that 85 percent of what he knows about basketball he learned from his father, Dan Fife, now the coach at Clarkston High School in Michigan. Dan Fife was an assistant at Michigan, as well as a major league pitcher for parts of two seasons in the 1970′s for the Minnesota Twins.
“As for dealing with players, I understand that every kid is different,” Dane Fife said. “You can’t treat everybody the same. Some you can challenge in a tough way, like the kid I used that grandma analogy with; others, you have to use a different approach. Sometimes I haven’t been tough enough, sometimes I might have been too tough. I’m learning.”
Fife stayed at IPFW for six seasons before stepping down to take an assistant coaching position at Michigan State.
Over the years as Antonio Gates has been building his legacy as one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game, his basketball background has frequently been alluded to. Gates told STACK Magazine how he intended to become a two-sport player at Michigan State until then-coach Nick Saban dashed those hopes:
Gates didn’t realize that the college scene—living independently, no curfew, house parties—far from being unique to Michigan State, was the norm at almost every campus in the country. The reality was that Gates was uneducated about the recruiting process, and even more so about the overall college experience.
Nevertheless, the table was set, and Gates was hungry for what the Spartans were serving. He accepted a scholarship offer, but when he arrived on campus freshman year, college life hit him like a 300-pound lineman. And the hits kept coming.
First, a redshirt season in football. Demanding coursework was next. “If you’re not playing sports and just going to school, that’s already a major adjustment as a freshman student-athlete,” Gates says.
Then came the most devastating news, handed down from Coach Saban, who wasn’t about to allow his prized recruit to become sidetracked with basketball. For the first time in Gates’ athletic career, the winter would no longer be basketball in-season. It would be football off-season.
It was a dose of reality, Gates learning from yet another mistake. Since he had signed a National Letter of Intent to play football, the team essentially controlled his “rights,” he admits.
Gates transferred to Eastern Michigan and then eventually Kent State. He eventually, rightly, realized that he had an amazing future as a football player and he’ll eventually be in the NFL Hall of Fame as a result.
Jackson was one of the top point guards in the state during his career at East Lansing. He followed that up with a strong college career at Butler, averaging 13.6 points and 4.5 assists per game as a senior in 2002. Jackson has had a lengthy professional career, playing for Leiden in Holland last season. He averaged 8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He’s also played professionally in Sweden, Germany and the CBA.
Kage was an active big man who averaged nearly 20 points and 15 rebounds per game as a senior, but didn’t have much of a post-high school basketball career.
Several of the guys in this class went on to have successful post-high school careers, but I think Gates is the clear winner here. Have your say in the poll below.
- 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
- 1991 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix
- 1987 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix
- 2007 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix
- 1981 Michigan Mr. Basketball Remix