Waleed Samaha initially didn’t have a seat for the team’s postgame press conference following its loss to Grand Blanc in Saturday’s MHSAA Division 1 State Finals.
Five seats were scattered across the stage, and they were filled by Huron’s five starters: seniors Devin Womack, Tyson Edmondson, Julian Lewis, Brandon Rawls and Kingsley Perkins.
Samaha, who eventually found a spare chair and room on the stage, said he insisted that Huron’s starters come out together for the conference.
“These guys only lost two games in almost 800 days, going back to the last game we lost their sophomore year,” Samaha said. “This is a group of winners. They are great students, great people, great athletes, and they’ve done a lot of winning at Huron.”
This group certainly has done a lot of winning at Huron.
In 2018-19, the core started to come together, as a sophomore-led Huron team showed flashes of its potential, finishing 13-8 overall and second in the SEC Red Division.
This potential was not unnoticed. The River Rats received praise from an unlikely source: rival Pioneer senior Drew Lowder, who currently plays college basketball for Eastern Michigan. Lowder was watching Huron run up and down the floor during a game, and when someone talking to him said that the Rats could go a long way in a couple years, Lowder said, “they could go a long way this year.”
Huron quickly blossomed from being a promising team in 2018-19 to a state title contender the next season. The Rats rode a 21-1 record into the district final, including quality wins over Detroit Edison, Belleville, and then-defending state champion Ypsilanti Lincoln. Huron would not have a chance to compete for a title, however, as the remainder of the postseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Samaha, answering a question about the legacy of Huron’s senior class, said he thinks they “would’ve won it [a championship] last year.”
Player development has been the catalyst in Huron’s growth over the past few seasons. Womack has started at point guard all four years of his high school career, but admittedly is a different player than the one that first took the hardwood as a freshman.
“When I first got to Huron, I wasn’t really a leader on the team,” Womack said. “They pushed leadership, and once we were all sophomores, I started to lead the team. We kept growing up from juniors to seniors, and my teammates kept working with me all the time and it led to some great things.”
Edmondson is another example of Huron’s player development. He first saw significant playing team on varsity as a sophomore, and he has seen significant improvement on the court.
“Sophomore year, I was smaller and more passive,” Edmondson said. “Now, as a senior, I feel like I’m more aggressive. I dribble the ball more and my defense skyrocketed from when I was a sophomore.”
This senior class also established a winning legacy on the football field. Edmondson, the team’s starting quarterback, and Rawls, a linebacker, led the program to its first win in over four years in 2019 and its first playoff win since 2000 last season.
Despite all these accomplishments, when asked what stood out from his time at Huron, Edmondson cited relationships he made with teammates and coaches.
“Getting to know everybody and having a great bond with coaches and teammates while playing the ‘best sport ever’ [stands out].”
Huron’s seniors will look to continue their winning at the collegiate level. Edmondson, Womack, and Perkins are committed to play basketball at Lake Superior State, and Lewis is committed to William & Mary basketball. Rawls is committed to Saginaw Valley State football.