As athletic director at Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview, Kris Daiek encourages student-athletes to play more than one sport.
While 89 percent of the student population competes on teams – the second most among Class C schools in Michigan – more than a third of the young athletes play at least two sports. Ten percent play three sports.
“Getting the best athletes to compete has been our goal,” Daiek said.
The results have benefited teams across the board and Gabriel Richard’s success is evident. Recently, the Pioneers have made it to the final four in the hockey state tournament, won a baseball state title, gone to the final four in girls basketball a few years back, won a state championship in bowling, captured their first district championship in football and on and on..
More athletes sometimes mean bigger teams. This year’s varsity basketball squad – coached by Daiek – has 16 players. It’s the deepest team since Daieck started at GR eight years ago.
“It takes everybody to have a successful program,” he said. “The last two years, we’ve had 16 players. The problem is you can’t get 16 into a practice, much less a game. But we have a team atmosphere and everyone has bought into it. They challenge each other. When I see that, it’s something special.”
At least two members of the boys basketball team – back for their third year of varsity ball – are perfect examples of well-rounded athletes. Senior Matt Silka was a junior varsity soccer player two years ago. He also pitched a one-hitter in the baseball state finals last year.
Kevin Tuttle, plays basketball, soccer and is an All-Catholic baseball player. He has signed a letter of intent with Central Michigan University.
“Our basketball team is kind of a melting pot,” Daiek said. “We have maybe four or five students that have basketball as their primary sport. We like taking other kids from other sports.”
It seems to be working. Gabriel Richard opened the 2018-2019 season with a 46-33 win over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central – snapping the latter’s regular-season winning streak that dated back to 2016. SMCC made it to the final four in the Class C state tournament last season.
Plenty of talented players are in the lineup. Senior guard Garrett Balazsi is back for his fourth varsity season. As an All-Catholic League performer a year ago, Balazsi averaged 12 points and six assists a game.
Senior center Deshon Elam is back for his third varsity season. At 6-foot- 4, he has already showed positive signs of taking on the biggest players on the opposing teams, scoring 13 with six rebounds against SMCC.
“He won’t be the biggest kid in the league,” Daiek said, “but he plays a lot bigger than what he is.”
He’s not even the tallest player on the team. Senior center Jacob Henderson is a 6-foot-5 left-handed shooter who earned All-League honors last season.
A number of high school football players are making an impression on the basketball team, including sophomore Michael Holdsclaw, a 6-foot-2 All-Catholic performer on the gridiron.
Other senior football players on the team are basketball guards Kyle Alonte and Colby Daieck (the coach’s son) and forward Nevin Hughes. Daieck played quarterback and Alonte was a defensive back. Hughes, a Division 1 football player who is very strong and athletic and provides leadership.
Juniors competing for time include forward Robbie Henderson (Jacob’s brother), guard Braden Bilinski, forward Matt Maki, forward Nick Hiuser guard Hans Frederick and guard Jacob Kowal.
A freshman – 6-foot-4 center Michael Calhoun is also on the scorecard. Coach Daieck said Calhoun might not see that much playing time this year, but he hopes he can step up and start right away as a sophomore.
Last year, the Pioneers were 15-7, lost many close games and lost in the district championship by just four points. Daieck said this year’s team is “a little more mature” and “has figured some things out,” so he’s hoping for more wins.
“I think we’ve met the academic challenge at Gabriel Richard with the athletic challenge,” Daieck said. “It’s exciting to be challenged every day with everything you do. You can’t just show up in class. You’ve got to work in class. You’ve got to work in practice. You’ve got to work in games.”