Mid Michigan College Creating a Winning Tradition on the Hardwood
MT. PLEASANT – With a group of northern Michigan athletes and coaches leading the way, the Mid Michigan College men’s and women’s basketball programs are creating a winning tradition in Mt. Pleasant.
A member of the National Junior College Athletic Association and the Michigan Community College Athletic Association, Mid Michigan is still a relatively young program, with the men in the midst of their seventh season while the women are in their fifth.
Playing their home games at Morey Courts in Mt. Pleasant, the Lakers have particularly shined on the women’s court, where former Clare girls basketball coach Matt Rodenbo took the reins in 2014. Rodenbo, who went 63-8 overall and 42-0 in the Jack Pine Conference at Clare, is assisted by former Beal City girls coach Chadd Fletcher. The two have Mid Michigan sitting at 11-0 and ranked 18th in the latest NJCAA Division II poll.
“We put together a quality team that first year. Brought some positive attention,” Rodenbo said. “Then we’re able to go 25-5 the next year and build on it and actually make it to the nationals.”
The Lakers have gone 97-23 in four-plus seasons under Rodenbo and won their first-ever MCCAA Western Conference championship a year ago. In their second season in 2015-16, the Lakers went 25-5 and qualified for the NJCAA Division III national tournament, finishing fifth nationally.
“It’s been a lot of good experience,” sophomore guard and Pine River graduate Julie Justin said. “In high school, we won a lot, too, so continuing into this program, that’s part of the reason I wanted to come here was how successful they were and how great the coaches are.”
Justin is one of five northern Michigan athletes on the women’s roster, with freshman forward Kaitlyn Ray (Big Rapids), sophomore center Carly Hickey (Gladwin), sophomore guard Micah Lajewski (Kalkaska) and freshman guard Savannah Peplinksi (Glen Lake) joining her.
“It was a last minute decision for me,” Lajewski said. “I was going to go somewhere else. Wasn’t going to play ball at all. I decided, ‘You know what? I want to play ball.’ So I came over here.”
The men’s program was the first to tip things off, with former Beal City boys basketball coach Kaleb House starting the program in 2012. A Mt. Pleasant native, House led the Lakers to an 8-13 campaign in that first season before winning three straight Region XII championships.
“We have a lot of guys from the Cadillac area that played for us in those first couple years, and I think those guys along with a lot of other guys that played for us would come back and be really proud to see that we’ve had as a program,” House said.
The men’s program is off to a 6-5 start after going 17-11 and finishing tied for fifth in the conference each of the last two years.
“It’s awesome,” sophomore forward Caleb Powell said. “We’ve got a great coaching staff. I’d say best in the conference. But we’ve grown a lot. Gets you ready for the next level if you go and transfer out to a bigger school.”
A McBain graduate, Powell is one of four area players on the men’s roster. Roscommon’s Kaleb Keipert, Baldwin’s Blake Dockery and Cadillac’s Kegan Brooks round out the northern Michigan contingent.
Mid Michigan is continuing to expand its athletic offerings, too, adding baseball and softball this spring.
Both basketball teams are back in action Wednesday at Glen Oaks Community College before returning home Saturday afternoon to play host to Lake Michigan College.