Meet Flint’s last remaining high school basketball team
The city’s high schools have been closing one by one, and there is now only one high school basketball program left
This is Flint!” yelled coach Cory Hightower at halftime during a losing game in the nearby rural community of Davison, Michigan. “Why do you think they get so excited when they dunk on us? Because this is Flint and they are never supposed to beat us. Look at that name on your chest. That’s history.”
On April 3, 2000, three basketball players from Flint, Michigan, nicknamed “The Flintstones” led the Michigan State Spartans to their last national title. The Flintstones — Morris Peterson, Mateen Cleaves and Charlie Bell — competed against each other on three separate Flint high school teams.
Eighteen years later, in 2018, Flint has seen a swift decline in population as the result of an ongoing water and financial crisis. Flint high schools have been closing one by one, and there is now only one high school basketball program left in the city: the Flint Jaguars, the result of Northwestern and Southwestern high schools merging in 2017.
The team’s inaugural season has not been without its challenges. The Jaguars began their season with 14 players and by their last month were down to eight.
Some players left because they had a hard time finding rides to practice at Southwestern Academy from the north side of the city. One of the team’s best players, according to Hightower, had to stop playing after a family member was shot in a drive-by shooting.
“Coaching in Flint is different,” said Hightower, a former NBA draftee who was hired as head coach of the basketball team in 2017. “I do more preaching about life than I do teaching about basketball.”
One player, Eddie Tiller, who was kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons, says, “If you can make it in Flint you can make it anywhere. That’s why there are so many great athletes that come out of here. We’re hungry.”