West Bloomfield High boys basketball under new leadership

By: Christian Davis | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 17, 2011

At first, West Bloomfield High boys basketball coach Jeremy Denha threw it out there half-jokingly.

Learning that he had gotten the job to lead the Lakers, Denha called his old high school coach, Jim Barker, and asked him to join the staff.

Denha played for Barker, a Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame coach, in the late 1990s at Utica Ford II.

“It was one of those half-sarcastic and half-serious questions, and I’m glad he took it as, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’” Denha recalled Jan. 3 while Barker ran the team through some defensive sets.

Barker had coached for 38 years at various high schools until last season, which was his first in retirement.

Barker said he missed helping and that Denha presented him with the perfect opportunity — one that makes the drive from Shelby Township to West Bloomfield worth it.

“I really want him to start off with a successful season. It’s a long ways from my house, but I’m trying to help him out the first year, and it’s a great group of young men. I think that they are really special,” said Barker, whose Lakers were 2-1 at press time. “They’re good kids, and I think the world of Jeremy. If these guys can play the way he played for me … it’d be worth it.”

“It was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders knowing he was going to be here,” Denha said. “I realize there is a lot of pressure here — pressure to develop young men and win.”

Denha comes to West Bloomfield after spending the last six seasons — three as a head coach and three as an assistant — with Berkley High.

The coach said the biggest adjustments to his new home are teaching his philosophies, and defensive and offensive strategies.

Another adjustment has been getting used to the size and athleticism of the players now that he’s drawing from a larger school population.

At Berkley, Denha said he had one player that was 6 foot 5. At West Bloomfield, there are three, and they can all handle the ball.

“That’s a nice strength to have right now,” he said.

Senior Spencer Parker has done most of the damage on the scoring end, leading the team with 28 points per game.

“(Coach Denha) is really trying to get us into gear, and Coach Barker is a real good coach that has been around a long time. He’s really helping me out and the rest of the team, too,” Parker said.

Parker said the team’s strength is its size and ability to handle the ball.

“There are a lot of mismatches out there,” he said.

Where there’s not a mismatch is in the thinking of Denha and Barker.

“I played in college and for other coaches after him, and I’m still using his basic philosophies,” Denha said.

Denha added that having an assistant coach he trusts completely and who has more than 600 wins are nice benefits.

“Just knowing that when I talk to him after practice — that what we’re doing is the right thing,” he said.

Catch the Lakers against Southfield High at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at Southfield.