There are so many ways to start this story. Because with every great story there is a great beginning. Do you start where “they” met or where “they” are standing now or where “they” are heading? Just so many choices.
So when in doubt, ask mom.
“They are blessed with such wonderful memories and a friendship that will last a lifetime,” says Marci Ammerman, summing it all up like only a mom can – big picture kind of stuff.
“They,” of course, are Jack Ammerman and Brandon Wade – the dynamic backcourt duo for the Skyline boys’ basketball team which begins what could be a long postseason tonight (March 5) against rival Pioneer in a first-round District game. The two have not only “guarded” the backcourt for the Eagles the last four seasons but also are “brothers” off the court as well. It’s a friendship as special as their ability to play the game of basketball.
First, the question is answered with a smile. Then, a pause. Followed by another smile. Then comes the answer with a story he’s probably told many times before.
“The first time I met Jack?” says Brandon. “It’s kind of a weird story. We were at the Y and I was playing on one court and Jack was playing on another court. And there was this kid with really long hair. Jack used to have really long hair down to his shoulders. I thought who is that girl playing basketball killing people? Then a few weeks later we met at a Huron camp of all places. It was me, Ryan (Brandon’s brother) and Jack hanging out at camp and dunking on the smaller rims. Ever since then it was instant friendship.”
Brandon, the son of Keith and Maria Wade, doesn’t hesitate at all with the next question.
So what’s Jack like off the court?
“He’s my brother,” Brandon says. “We do everything together. Weekends. After school. We are always together. Our families are extremely close. We go on vacations together. I have two brothers, Ryan and Jack.”
Jack also remembers the “weird” way the two first met – fittingly on a basketball court.
“We were about 5 years old and I played against him in YMCA basketball,” Jack says. “Back then I had really long hair and I think he thought I was a little girl out there playing. His dad offered me a spot on a travel team he was coaching called the Michigan Mavericks and that’s when the friendship and the brotherhood really started.”
Jack, the son of Bill and Marci Ammerman, not only sees his friend and brother out on the floor but he also sees a terrific basketball player. And just because they wear the same uniform and are teammates doesn’t mean Jack doesn’t see and appreciate Brandon’s special talents as a basketball player.
“Brandon is always looking to make the players around him better,” Jack says. “He’s always looking for me to find my shot. He does a great job penetrating and knowing where his teammates are on the floor. And if we are open he’s going to find us.”
And off the basketball court?
“Off the court he’s a really goofy guy,” Jack says. “We’ve been friends so long that I can trust him with something serious but we also have fun conversations and be goofy and all that stuff. That’s what brothers do.”
Here’s a pass back over to mom.
“Though Brandon and Jack have played hundreds of basketball games together over the last 10 years, they are best friends off the court as well,” says Marci. “They also played on the same baseball team for four years together so Maria and I spent many weekends shuttling them (and Ryan too) from a basketball tournament in the morning then on to a baseball game in the afternoon and then back to basketball both Saturday and Sunday. After all that then they would beg us to let them play nine holes at Huron Hills before it got dark.”
The sport the duo chose to excel at was basketball. And Skyline Coach Mike Lovelace is happy that was their sport of choice. Lovelace saw something special in the two players four years ago and it’s only increased as the boys have grown, matured and improved.
“Brandon and Jack are great examples of our phrase ‘Everything Matters,’” he said. “They are disciplined in all that they do. They don’t pick and choose when to try hard and when to cut corners. They know there are no shortcuts and that everything is earned. That is why they have earned so much for themselves and for our school community. I look forward to continuing to build our strong relationships together long into the future.”
Brandon is being considered for the prestigious Mr. Basketball, awarded to the best player in the state. Jack, a worthy candidate himself, knows who he would choose if he had a vote.
“I’ve always got his back,” Jack says. “I think he’s the best player in the state. I don’t have any problem saying it because I believe it. I’ve known how good he is for so long and as long as we keep winning that’s all that really matters. And I know that’s all he cares about.”
Brandon says the friendship even comes down to who is driving to school each day. Brandon will drive one day; Jack the next. But there is no doubt that these two friends are driving the Skyline basketball team together with all their teammates sharing the front seat.
And there is also no doubt where the GPS is set. Destination Lansing. Breslin Center. Final Four. One goal, two drivers and a team ready to put its collective foot on the pedal.
Brandon and Jack also share something not so special. As good as the two players are and as successful as they’ve been they’ve never won a District basketball game. We aren’t talking about a District title. We are talking a GAME. They have never won a high school playoff game.
Tonight’s game isn’t going to be easy. In their last meeting, Pioneer took Skyline down to the wire before the Eagles finally pulled away in the last minute. It’s not easy beating a city rival three times in one season – but that’s exactly what needs to happen if Brandon and Jack are finally going to stick a playoff game in the win column.
“Yeah, it’s been eating at our hearts,” Brandon admits. “Going into Districts in this our senior year we are obviously giving it everything we have. Even talking about it yanks at my heart a little bit.”
Yes, this a great story indeed. One built on respect, admiration, passion for a game and the bond only a brotherhood creates. It’s a story looking for the perfect ending – which would be raising the trophy in the Breslin Center. But until that happens, we’ll let mom sum it all up like only a mom can.
“The boys have a wonderful tradition of attending the Final Four basketball tournament too – lucky kids,” says Marci. “Brandon and Jack have driven thousands of miles together, sat in arenas all over the country, eaten way too much Subway, doused their feet in ice baths far too often and were gone many weekends from home. But I know neither of them would change it for the world.”