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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Courts are now in session in Shelby Township

Bryan Atherton drives by Mae Stecker Park off 24 Mile Road just east of Van Dyke a couple of times a day.
Once on the way to work. Again on the way home.
"Rob used to play there all of the time," said Bryan Atherton. "Basketball was his passion, so when he got old enough to drive, he would go there and meet with friends to play. But they’d play everything there, too, be it volleyball or tennis or basketball. It was a great place to meet and to hang out."
Great just got even better. Thanks in large part to money donated by the Robby Atherton Foundation, the basketball courts at the park have been renovated.
There’s a new surface. There are new backboards and rims. The courts have been expanded, and all in all it’s a place that Robby Atherton and everyone else would be proud to call home.
If only Robby Atherton still had that option. He died tragically during his senior year while at Michigan State University.
Obviously pleased with the new courts at Mae Stecker Park in Shelby Township are Bryan, Terry and Megan Atherton. (Photo by David Angell)

"I miss the everyday things most," said his dad. "I miss the phone calls where we just touched base; we did not even talk about anything in particular."
Robby Atherton was the Macomb County Basketball Player of the Year in 2004. He played at Eisenhower High School.
"Rob grew up playing sports in the Shelby recreational leagues," said Bryan Atherton. "He started playing basketball when he was four or five. He loved the competition. He loved the rivalries, but not in a heated way. He just loved to play."
Later on, he played travel baseball and basketball. Dad was his coach for years.
Robby played a lot of sports, but he embraced the heck out of basketball.
There was that district opener against Romeo when the Bulldogs went into the state tournament with an impeccable 20-0 record. Eisenhower was, remembered Byran Atherton, either 15-5 or 16-4.
Robby Atherton heroically drained a three-pointer from near the half court line and the Eagles handed the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.
That was the memory most in the county would hold dear, unless they happened to hold the Romeo High color scheme of red and white close to their hearts.
Another memory is one that Bryan Atherton holds particularly close to his heart. It was a small moment that occurred in the state tournament the next year. Eisenhower and Grosse Pointe North were locked in a highly competitive regional semifinal game at East Detroit High School. The game was inhale-exhale close when Robby Atherton was fouled with less than a minute to play. Grosse Pointe North called time out to ice Atherton, but on the way back to the bench, Robby spotted his dad sitting a few rows behind the Eisenhower bench and gave him a little smile.
"It was one of the few times I made eye contact with Rob when he was playing," said his dad. "It was like our moment. I was nervous about the free throws, and when he smiled, it was like he was telling me `I got these, dad.’"
And he did.
Just like plenty of kids through the coming years will be knocking down shots at Mae Stecker. They’ll be playing on some of the nicest outdoor courts imaginable, thanks to the hard work and dedication over the years of family and friends through the Robby Atherton Foundation.
The Foundation has held fundraisers like the annual golf tournament, softball tournaments and bowling events. Soon, the Foundation will have raised and distributed over $200,000 through scholarships, aid to sick and needy persons and families and through association with charitable organizations like the Rainbow Connection in Rochester.
The Robby Atherton Foundation donated $60,000 to the renovation of the basketball courts.
Altruism and good intention seem to run in the family. Bryan and Terry Atherton have two children; Robby and his younger sister, Megan. Megan also graduated from Eisenhower and Michigan State. She is now a nurse at the prestigious Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.
"When Robby died, Megan not only lost her brother, she also lost her best friend," said her dad.
Court is now in session at Mae Stecker Park in Shelby Township.


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