This school year has been a rollercoaster ride for the Crusaders boys varsity basketball team. They won two championships but faced several hurdles to get there.
On March 20, they took home the Detroit PSL Championship winning against Pershing, 56-48.
Sophomore Davin Walker had 16 points, and this is the first King PSL victory for head coach George Ward.
“This win means a lot to me knowing when I walk back into the school, I’ll be a part of history and be able to see my name in the gym,” Walker said.
On March 27, the Crusaders won the Division 1 District Championship when they beat Hamtramck, 50-46, after trailing by 15 points. Senior Omar Ziegler had 16 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Chansey Willis had 19 points.
“All the guys that got on the floor contributed in a hell of a way," Ward said. "We were pleased with the overall effort."
Amid practices and games, the young men had to deal with some tremendous hurdles, which drew them closer.
“This is one of the most close-knit groups I’ve ever been around, and I think that is what really got us over," Ward said. "The fact that they love each other. That bond not only has it matched their ability on the floor, but it’s helped carry them through certain situations.”
On Dec. 25, 2020, the tragic murder of Casey Willis, the older sister of Chansey Willis, rocked the team. She was family to the entire basketball team.
“She was a fixture at our games," Ward said. "She was a fixture at pregame meals. As a family [team] we had to overcome that as well."
Two of the players had parents who were very ill, but they still did their part for the team. There also is a Crusaders athletic staff member who is battling cancer. He is the person who makes sure that the teams and coaches have all they need.
“The glue of the athletic program being diagnosed with cancer and having to struggle right now and him not to be around us, the young men they really feel it," Ward said. "We miss him tremendously not just for what he does but for his heart, his loyalty, his unity, and everything he provides for us."
Ward takes the time to be there for his players and talks about the trials and tribulations they had to go through this school year. He reminds them why championships are emotional.
“There’s a reason people cry after they win championships because of all the hard work that they’ve had to put in and everything that they’ve had to endure during the course of that road to the championship,” Ward said.
Ward has been a head coach with the district since 2006 and with King since 2014. He instills in the players that winning is not a birth right.
“Coach Ward genuinely cares about those young people," athletic director and assistant principal Barry Cannon said. "He’s very consistent and one of the things that makes you successful is consistency,” athletic director and assistant principal Barry Cannon said.