When Devin Womack talks about how he was introduced to the great game of basketball there is pride in his words and innocence in his voice. “My dad and my older brother, Demetrius, both played basketball so they introduced it to me at a very young age,” he says. “I fell in love with it and always wanted to play on my Little Tikes basketball rim outside my house. Basketball always brought my family together and we always played together and everyone supported each other.”
Pay particular attention to that last sentence. Control-Alt-Save that because it’s as relevant today as it was all those years ago.
Womack was one of five senior basketball players on the Huron varsity team that reached the Division 1 MHSAA State Finals on Saturday. The River Rats went undefeated before falling in the finals to Grand Blanc. But one game will not erase a team built on fundamentals and family and if you asked Womack about this team, this is what he would say.
“Basketball always brought my family together and we always played together and everyone supported each other.”
And that’s why the River Rats won 20 games (41 games counting last year) and reached the state finals.
“These guys only lost two games in almost 800 days, going back to the last game we lost their sophomore year,” Huron coach Waleed Samaha said on Saturday to a packed media room in East Lansing. “This is a group of winners. They are great students, great people, great athletes, and they’ve done a lot of winning at Huron.”
Let’s dribble back over to Womack for his thoughts.
“When I first got to Huron, I wasn’t really a leader on the team,” Womack said on Saturday. “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.”
Womack started at point guard all four years of his high school career. He ran the show, broke the press, made the extra pass, played aggressive defense and shot the River Rats into the win column many times in those four years.
He says playing Huron basketball “has taught me to continue to work hard as the competition gets better and better.”
But there is more to it than that.
“It also taught me the importance of teamwork,” he says. “In middle school sometimes one good player was enough to beat a team but now in high school to be a good team you need more parts than just one player.”
And the River Rats had plenty of “parts,” starting with fellow seniors Tyson Edmondson, Julian Lewis, Brandon Rawls and Kingsley Perkins.
“The seniors have known each other for years, even before high school,” Womack says. “We’ve all played against and with each other for forever and it has brought us together. We played for each other and held ourselves and our teammates accountable to a higher standard. We all believed in each other and uplifted each other to do the right thing and that helped us play our best basketball.”
While the goal was to win a State Championship, Womack had other things on his to-do list including be on the All-State Academic Team and “just play at a high level for my team and help us win every time we suit up.”
While the River Rats came up short in the finals, Womack certainly had an impressive game in his last time on the floor for Huron. He led the River Rats with 18 points on 8 of 17 shooting from the floor.
Womack, 18, also was a strong leader on a team built on leadership.
“I saw my leadership role as just to keep the team calm and thinking about the right things to make us better,” he said. “Also, to keep the team together is always the point guard’s job, so I took that responsibility serious to talk to the team and make sure everything was going well.”
Last season certainly didn’t go well – but it had nothing to do with Huron. 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.
“It was more disappointing than difficult, especially knowing that we had a chance to make a run at the state title,” Womack said. “Also, that the shut down only started as a two-week pause when in reality it ended the season.”
Womack, who averaged 12 points, five rebounds and four assists, earned SEC All-Conference First Team and All-State Honorable mention.
Womack, the son of Nicole and Derrick Womack, also scores well in the classroom and is a very efficient “passer” when it comes to taking tests. He has a 3.5 GPA and says school has been going well despite the challenges.
“This school year hasn’t been as bad as many would think,” says Womack. “The online platform isn’t too hard for me and I’ve had good grades the entire time. I’ve found that teachers are even more helpful now than ever and we have more resources to utilize.”
A team member of AAU club Reach Legends for the past three years, Womack has an idea of why and how Huron maintains such a high level of play on the basketball court.
Why do you think Huron basketball has been so good the last 3-4 years?
We’ve been so good recently because of all the hard work we put in throughout our program from top to bottom. We respect everybody, but fear nobody and we are ready to play any and every time we are called on. From coaches to players, we have great people in our program and we all work together to be the best we can be.”
While the buzzer has gone off on his playing days at Huron, Womack isn’t done with the great game of basketball – far from it. He will be attending Lake Superior State University to play basketball on a full-ride scholarship.
“I plan to major in business while at LSSU,” he says. “The coaches recruited me well and I think I can go there next year and make an immediate positive impact.”