Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Joey Zerafa receives Atherton Heart Award Scholarship

Robby Atherton would have definitely approved of the 2013 scholarship winner.
For one, both Robby and Joey Zerafa attended Eisenhower High School. For another, both were or will be Michigan State Spartans.
Both also played both multiple sports and were outstanding in each.
Sadly, Robby Atherton was not able to present Zerafa with the $1,200 Heart Award Scholarship during The Macomb Daily’s annual all-county basketball awards banquet Tuesday at the Mirage.
It was just nine years ago when Robby Atherton was named the county Player of the Year.
Four years ago, his life ended.
In an effort to make sure that the profound impact Robby had on his teammates, coaches, student body and others never ends, the Robby Atherton Foundation was founded. To date, over $180,000 has been distributed as part of its mission to support children and families in need, provide community assistance and scholarships to student-athletes.
The Robby Atherton Heart Award Scholarship is awarded annually to an All-County player who strives to obtain the highest level of performance – on and off the court – through dedication, perseverance, sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork and heart.

                             Joey Zerafa
Zerafa, the son of Don and Mary Zerafa, was voted All-County Class A Defensive Team. A three-year starter, Zerafa was the captain of the basketball team. He was also quarterback and captain of Ike’s football team. Even though he was honored as one of the top five defenders in the county, he was also a huge contributor offensively; hitting 44 three-pointers, scoring 182 points and dishing 48 assists to go along with his 57 steals.
“Joey has a competitive spirit and ability to make others better that you just can’t teach. He drew the assignment of covering the other team’s best player every night and caused fits for our opponents,” said coach Dave Schwesinger. “As impressive as his stats seem his biggest effect on the team can’t be seen in stats. Kids flock to Joey and look to him for leadership.”
Zerafa has a 3.66 grade point average and is also a member of the National Honor Society. He will attend Michigan State University this fall.
Atherton received his Bachelor of Arts in Finance in May of 2008.
The work of the Robby Atherton Foundation never ceases. On Sunday, May 5, the Robby Atherton Foundation will sponsor the Special Dreams Farm 5th annual Walk/Run. There will be a 5k and 10k run and a 5k walk at Stony Creek Metropark’s Eastwood Beach. The Special Dreams Farm was established to supply the special needs community with opportunities to work, learn and live.  For more information, contact
Also, on Saturday, May 18, the fourth annual Robby Atherton Memorial Softball Tournament and Tailgate will be held at Mae Stecker Park on 24 Mile just east of Van Dyke. A limited number of team openings are available, so register early. Even if you’re not playing, it should be a great day at the park.  There will be hot dogs, chips and pop. People are asked to bring a dish to pass, some chairs and blankets, and their “A” game. For more information, call 586.781.8290.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Saluting Sami Stormont's four-year career in Royal Oak

Here's an appropriate location for Sami Stormont, Royal Oak High's two-time all-state selection, and coach Brian Sopata. They are right in front of the school's trophy case. (Daily Tribune photo by David Dalton)
Far too often, some top high school basketball players don’t wear Nikes, they prefer roller skates.
They’ll play at one school for a season or two until another coach beckons. The next thing you know, you see their names in a game program from a totally different school the very next year.
The grass is always greener, I guess.
Well, the school colors at Royal Oak High School are black, royal blue and silver and that color scheme suited senior Sami Stormont just fine.
“I’m so proud to be from Royal Oak. I loved playing in the community where I grew up, and with my friends. I had so much fun,” said Stormont.
Stormont was a two-time all-state selection. Her talent was obvious from the first time she stepped onto the high school court in the summer prior to her freshman season. She averaged 9.7 points per game as a ninth grader, 17.8 as a sophomore, 22.3 as a junior and 21.2 this past season.
She occupies a remarkable 17 of 21 slots on the record board in the gymnasium. Granted, Royal Oak High School has only been in existence for seven years, but even dating back to Kimball and Dondero, few players if any have approached 1,542 career points. I am not sure if there ever was an all-state girls’ basketball player at either Royal Oak Kimball or Royal Oak Dondero, much less a two-time selection.
Stormont will be at Northwood University to play for the Coach Jeff Curtis and the Timberwolves. Her roommate will be Delaney Kenny of Clarkston, another outstanding player. Stormont and Kenny played AAU basketball together.
Stormont not only excelled individually, she also helped raise both the aspirations and expectations of an entire program.  Before she joined the team as a ninth grader, the Royal Oak High  squad worked hard but perpetually finished on the mossy side of .500.
Coach Brian Sopata’s Ravens have not had that neck-craning perspective since.
When Stormont was a freshman, Royal Oak finished 12-10. Her sophomore season, the Ravens were 12-9. As a junior, her first year as a Class A all-state selection, the team went 18-3. This past season, Royal Oak was 17-6.
“I remember when Sami was a ninth grader and she was having some problems with her shot, I told her she could stay after practice if she wanted to work on it,” said Sopata. “She looked at me and said `Are you sure?’”
That is because nobody was sticking around afterwards in those days. Sopata would blow the final whistle at the end of practice and the players would scatter. Not because they did not work hard. It’s just that extra work was not in the players’ mindset just yet. Exterminators were not needed. There were not many gym rats to be found.
These days, there’s no echo in the gymnasium after practice is over. Stormont is not the only one dribbling and shooting a basketball. More than one player is working on her game.
“Sami is not only the best player I’ve ever coached, she is also the smartest player I have ever coached,” said Sopata. “She watches film. She goes to watch games. She is a real student of the game.”
The coach is certainly going to miss her.
“It won’t hit me until the fall,” said Sopata. “Sami will still be around this spring and summer. She’s got her workout regime already from Northwood, and then she’ll be helping me out. It’s going to be a real change next fall, though. We have spent a lot of time together.”
Talent and intelligence are gifts that have to be nurtured. There are plenty of smart people with potential grousing about their sorry lot in life. Stormont has worked hard to get where she is at.
By her own assessment, she was just “all right” when she was in middle school. She was on an AAU team, but played sparingly. She worked hard on her game, and the progress was evident.
“We (he and assistant coach Trisha Fantucci) were tough on Sami at times,” said Sopata. “We knew what we potentially had.”
She scored 42 points in a game against Ferndale last year. She scored in double figures in 65 consecutive games. She never missed a game, despite battling muscle pulls and strains and sickness.
Sami Stormont’s high school career is over. It was partly black and blue, but always black, royal blue and silver. She stuck it out, along with her fellow seniors Gabby Morton, Abby McKee-Boyes, Bella Leone and Morgan Fissell.
They hand the reins over to talented players like Dallas Porter, Ashley Krenzer, Sam Bartelotti and Jessica Ross.
The level of the talent pool has risen. So have the expectations. Sami Stormont had a lot to do with both.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

`The Voice' has been silenced

Sadly, the “Voice” has been silenced.
Obviously God needs someone to sit courtside to handle the official scorebook as well as the announcing chores.
Joe Mahan, longtime supporter of the Ferndale Public Schools and the well-known “Voice of the Eagles” died on March 19.
Mahan, a 1944 graduate of Ferndale’s Lincoln High School, has been the public address announcer for Ferndale High School athletic events since 1947.
Mahan also supervised the city’s summer baseball program for 25 years, and served as a charter member of the Ferndale Sports Booster Club.
He retired from the Detroit Public Schools in 1989 after a 38-year career as a teacher, counselor, and principal. He and his wife, Barbara, are renowned for their gardens and plantings that beautify the community near their home and in Roosevelt-Geary Park.
Because of his dedication to the district’s students, Ferndale High School’s Hansen Stadium press was named in his honor in 2005: The Joe Mahan Press Box – Home of the Voice of the Eagles.
Visitation will be Thursday, March 21, from 1-8 p.m., at the Wessels & Wilk Funeral Home, 23690 Woodward Avenue, Pleasant Ridge. The service will be Friday, March 22, at 11 a.m. Memorials are suggested to the Alzheimers Association.
For more information, visit


Friday, March 15, 2013

Lunkheads populate the locker rooms

Granted, there are lunkheads in all walks of life.
The locker room is not their exclusive domain.
The guy three cubicles over hasn’t been on time for work since Alexander Graham Bell sent his first text message while driving.
The woman in customer service couldn’t be less suited for her job; she has the personality of a cheese grater.
The boss is a wingtip-wearing example of the Peter Principle.
But my personal observation is there are more lunkheads per square foot in a locker room than anywhere else.
Sure there are plenty of good people wearing eye black and pads, but I think the air of entitlement some athletes carry is as obvious as an extra couple of sprays of Pierre Cardin cologne.
It’s always been that way, I guess. I remember years ago being in the press box at Tiger Stadium when a longtime employee of the club walked by sputtering. I asked what was wrong, and he told me that there was a woman at the stadium who was celebrating her 100th birthday and wanted to meet her favorite player. He was a member of the visiting New York Yankees, so this employee was assigned the task of asking the future Hall of Famer if he minded coming out of the locker room to say hello to the woman. The player seemed more than happy to oblige. When he popped his head out of the dugout, he immediately asked where were the television cameras? Told there weren’t any, he promptly did an about face and said “F that.” He disappeared down the corridor back to the locker room.
Detroit Tigers' fans swarm the field at Tiger Stadium after the home team beat San Diego to win the 1984 World Series.

That attitude is too prevalent among some athletes. Another time, a group of NBA players were at a soup kitchen in Detroit handing out turkeys to the needy. It was near Thanksgiving time, and all of the recipients were people to whom the turkeys, along with the canned yams, boxes of instant mashed potatoes, and accompanying pumpkin pies were definitely luxury items.
All but one recipient, that is. One of the NBA players was seen carrying a turkey under each arm to his car. He never asked, he just figured he was entitled to those turkeys. Forget the fact he made so much money he could’ve bought Butterball.
That attitude of entitlement is partly our fault. We treat athletes differently almost from day one. The 10-year-old kid who is the best pitcher in Little League is already fawned over. The top running back in the youth football league gets a free hot dog and a bag of popcorn. The middle school basketball player who is already 6-5 is approached by the high school coach and asked where he’s going to school.
Our priorities are out of whack. Does the smartest kid in the seventh grade get an extra handful of Tater Tots from the lady in the cafeteria? Is the first chair trombonist adored by the cheerleaders and voted as the homecoming king? Is anyone hanging around the work space of the company’s top mechanical engineer, waiting for an autograph or a picture with the star employee? Topps and Fleer should do cards for a lot more people than just athletes, you know.
How about fawning over the members of the armed services who literally risk life and limb? What about a trading card complete with bubble gum with the picture of the man who passes out bars of soap and toothbrushes at the homeless center, or the woman who scoops  mashed potatoes and gravy at the soup kitchen? Our stadiums are full, and our pews are half-empty. That says something, doesn’t it?
Our adulation is aimed at athletes. Count me among the lunkheads, I guess.
There is nothing wrong with cheering on the home team. Just do not blow out a candle and expect a birthday wish to be granted.