Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
Cass Tech senior Mike Weber (football) and Renaissance senior Breanna Lawrence (girls’ softball) took top honors among 54 student-athletes and three standout teams that were celebrated at the fifth annual Detroit Public School League Proud Strong Learners of the Year awards ceremony, presented by the DPS Office of Athletics and sponsored by Detroit-area McDonald’s, Wednesday, June 3 at Marcus Garvey Academy Harambee Center.
A large gathering of parents, coaches, school administrators, honorees and school supporters attended the two-hour program. Each of this year’s Proud Strong Learners of the Week received individualized plaques, culminating with the announcement of Lawrence and Weber as the 2014-15 Proud Strong Learners of the Year, representative of the top girls’ athlete and top boys’ athlete during the PSL’s fall, winter and spring sports seasons.
Detroit Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead was the keynote speaker, delivering a message to the honorees that academic success goes hand in hand with excellence in athletic competition. http://www.detroitlions.com/media-center/videos/Whitehead-speaks-at-Proud-Strong-Learners-Awards/95110e89-e20d-4efb-bc93-da90982fe09b
Weber, a 5-10, 210-pound running back, was the consensus No. 1 blue-chip football recruit in the state of Michigan and one of the top college prospects in the nation before choosing to accept a football scholarship to Ohio State University.
As the first honoree in the five-year history of the award to be named Proud Strong Learner of the Week twice in the same season, Weber ends his high school career as one of the toughest, most durable and most exciting running backs to ever play in the PSL.
In his senior year, he averaged 10.1 yards a carry in rushing for 2,268 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game and finished his career with more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, including a Division 1 state-playoff record of 404 yards with five touchdowns in a victory against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley.
Lawrence, a slugging second baseman, finished her career with 195 hits in 337 at-bats for a lofty .575 batting average, with 23 home runs and 179 runs batted in. This season alone she drove in 50 runs with four homers, including a grand slam, and boasted a .595 batting average (50 of 94). She has been at the core of Renaissance winning the last four PSL girls’ softball championships, extending its streak this year to 11 in a row.
With a 3.3 grade point average, Lawrence is headed to Michigan State University on an academic scholarship. She’s the first student-athlete to be named Proud Strong Learner of the Week as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, and is Renaissance’s first Proud Strong Learner of the Year since Alexis Harris took top honors for girls’ athletics in the award’s first year.
Detroit Public School League Proud Strong Learners of the Year
Douglass Academy’s Darrell Davis, a 6-4 point-shooting guard, started as a freshman and progressed steadily during his four-year varsity career at Douglass, culminating with Douglass reaching the Class B state semifinals and him being named Associated Press Class B player of the Year. He was a Mr. Basketball finalist and finished his senior year averaging 24.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. A student-athlete in the truest sense, Davis boasted a 4.0 grade point average and was named Proud Strong Learner of the Week three times in his career.
UPDATE: Davis, making an impact as a University of Dayton freshman, was presented the Thomas M. Luppe Award, which is awarded to the first-year player on the team who best demonstrates the courage, desire and integrity of former Flyer freshman Tom Luppe. Davis played in all 30 games this season, helping the Flyers come within one victory of reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. He averaged 4.7 points a game and led the A-10 in 3-pt. FG% (.457, 37-81).
Cass Tech’s Aaliya Davidson, a three-time Proud Strong Learner of the Week, was the PSL’s most dominant volleyball player and excelled in the classroom with a 3.7 grade point average. The Lady Technicians’ 5-10 high-flying outside hitter led Cass Tech past Renaissance for its fourth straight league championship and was named All-State by the Michigan Volleyball Coaches Association.
UPDATE: As a freshman at George Washington University, Davidson appeared in 69 sets in debut season and finished fifth on team with 151 kills. She recorded double-digit kills in five matches and totaled 31 blocks (two solo, 29 assists) and five service aces. She also had 81 digs and 172.5 points
Pershing High’s Kahlil Felder averaged 18 points, six assists and four rebounds for one of the state’s top boys’ basketball teams. The 5-10 point guard led the Doughboys to an unbeaten regular season and the PSL championship.
UPDATE: Felder, who signed to play at Oakland University, was named the 2014 Horizon League Freshman of the Year. Last season, he was named a finalist for the 2015 Lou Henson Award, given to the nation’s top mid-major player. He is the only player in the country to average at least 17.0 points and 7.0 assists per game. He led the Golden Grizzlies by scoring 18.1 points per game and finished second in the country with 7.6 assists per game. Felder led the Horizon League with 2.0 steals per game and reached 20 or more points in a league-best 14 games.
King High’s Antania Hayes led her team to a repeat PSL girls’ basketball championship, averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-0 guard-forward was named one of the “Best of the Best” ten players in the state by the Basketball Coaches of Michigan and was voted “Miss PSL basketball” by league coaches.
UPDATE: Hayes signed to play at DePaul University, but has since transferred to Kennedy-King College in Chicago. Last season, she averaged 26.2 points on 51% field shooting, 19 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game.
King High’s Dennis Norfleet, a 5-8, 170-pound running back, gained well over 5,400 yards his last two seasons as the heart and soul of the Crusaders’ football team. In addition to being an All-American and first team All-City and All-State in football, he was the relentless point guard for the 2012 PSL boys’ basketball champs.
UPDATE: A three-year letterman at the University of Michigan, Norfleet has appeared in 37 games, making four starts at wide receiver. He was switched from running back to wide receiver prior to the 2013 season. He owns the U-M record for total kickoff returns (90), ranks 1st in program history in career kickoff return yards (2,203) and 3rd in program history in career total return yards (2,293).
Pershing High’s Caprice Dennis, a 5-9 guard, began the girls’ basketball season as the No. 1-ranked player in the state and finished it as the state’s Class A Player of the Year. She was one of the PSL’s most heavily-recruited athletes before deciding to accept a scholarship at the University of Miami.
UPDATE: Dennis played two seasons with nationally-ranked Miami before transferring to the University of Detroit Mercy. She will be eligible to play in December as a junior with a 1½ years of collegiate eligibility left. At Miami, she played in 27 games and made the NCAA Tournament as a freshman, but really came into her own as a sophomore, playing in 27 games with 14 starts and averaging 10.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
Cass Tech High’s football team posted a 12-1 record, the best in school history at the time. Coach Thomas Wilcher’s Technicians won the PSL championship and reached the MHSAA Division 1 state semifinals, setting the stage for back-to-back Division 1 state championships the next two seasons.
UPDATE: Ten Cass Tech seniors from the Class of 2011 signed national letters of intent to accept college football scholarships, including defensive back Delonte Hollowell (Michigan), lineman Kenneth Nelson (Illinois), defensive back Kishon Wilcher (Toledo), lineman John Jackson (Western Michigan), running back Christian Burks (Wayne State) and quarterback Keith Moore, wide receiver Blake Blackwell, safety Sekou Shorter, receiver Keenan Smith and lineman Abiodun Sanusi (Saginaw Valley State), most of whom had standout college careers and/or earned college degrees.
Renaissance High 6-2 senior forward Alexis Harris stepped up to become the team leader in the aftermath of injuries to two starters. She averaged 14 rebounds and 10 rebounds for the Lady Phoenix who won the PSL girls’ basketball championship and advanced to the MHSAA Class A state finals.
UPDATE: Harris, who played four seasons at Providence University, finished her college career with 635 rebounds, 19th on the school’s all-time list, and also scored 942 points in her career. Last season as a senior, she played in all 30 games, 27 as a starter, and averaged 11.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.0 steals.