By Jim Goorman
Local Sports Journal
The buzz in Shelby is centered around their pride and joy – the Tiger basketball team.
Although the Shelby football team has excelled the past two seasons, it is the boys basketball team with its tradition that will be vocalized at tables in the famous Brown Bear restaurant in downtown Shelby.
Over the past five decades, beginning with the back-to-back state championships in 1971 and 1972, the Tigers have won the hearts of the natives in this community of 2,000 residents. The old crowds who lined up the streets all the way back to Rothbury to welcome home the champs in the 70s, would like nothing better than to duplicate that scene for their beloved Tigers this tournament season.
For the back-to-back championships, it was the name Griffin that dominated the roster as Paul (played pro basketball for the San Antonio Spurs), Kimm, Al and Jack all teamed up.
With the present Tigers team, the name centers around Beckman on the 15-man roster. Jason, Andrew, Jeffrey and Danny Beckman are all participating on a very talented 18-2 (regular season) Tiger unit.
Of course in the next breath, players and coaches would quickly state, Shelby is always built around the “team” concept and not individuals.
The Beckman name goes back five decades of basketball lore, but this year’s edition is centered around senior co-captains Jason and Andrew Beckman. They have anchored the Tigers with their leadership and their inside-outside game.
Jason, a three-year starting point guard, is the playmaker. He delivers five assists per game and scoring at 13 points-per-game clip.
“I try to fill in the cracks of what the team needs, setting up guys each game, but I also may do more finishing if the team needs it,” said Jason.
Coach Rick Zoulek said: “Jason is a leader in school as well and has helped with school spirit.”
Jason has been nominated for the Michigan High School Athletic Association scholar athlete and has a 4.0 grade-point-average.
Zoulek stated in a publication that “Jason is one of the most dedicated student athletes and he has put in more practice than any other player I have ever coached.”
Although he has missed five games earlier this season with a leg hemotoma, he now is about 95 percent and raring to play Shelby team basketball.
Andrew came to Shelby in his junior year with his brother Jeffrey after playing on the Holland High School varsity team in his sophomore year. He has had a major effect on the inside game for Shelby. At 6-foot-5, he averages 13 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game.
“I now have people around me who like basketball and I have been able to open my game more,” said Andrew.
He has scored in double figures in 16 of the 20 regular season games.
“While Jason is more quiet and stays more focused on his game, Andrew is more emotional,” Zoulek said. “They love to play basketball and they feed off each other and push each other to play better.”
This was shown with the recent Muskegon Heights game. With the game tied in the fourth overtime, and 12 seconds remaining, Jason inbounded the ball to Andrew who scored at the buzzer.
Meanwhile Jason had his moment as he hit a 3-pointer as time expired to defeat Mason County Central 60-57 earlier this season.
Andrew’s younger brother, Jeffrey, has come on strong for the Tigers too. He started six games and averaged eight points and seven rebounds per game as a 6-foot-5 sophomore. He complements his brother and is an inside presence.
His sophomore cousin Danny, who is Jason’s brother, has joined the team for the tournament after playing on the jayvee team this season.
The Beckman clan’s basketball roots go back to Rod, who was an all-state basketball player and an even better baseball player. After graduating in 1962, he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the ninth round and played in the Tiger organization for three years.
Rod’s brothers, Bill, another all-stater for Shelby in the late 60s, and brother, Tom, both excelled for Shelby basketball. One cannot forget that their father, Lawrence, held the hurdle record for years at Shelby.
Bob Beckman was a standout guard for Coach Ed Douma on the famous back-to-back basketball teams along with the Griffin boys. Bob later coached the Hart Pirates basketball team for 13 years. He was followed in Shelby archives by his brother Brian (father of Andrew and Jeffrey) who was named all-state for the Tigers in 1978, his senior year.
When Brian’s playing days were finished at Hope College, he coached for 10 years at Pentwater and then at Holland High School. Not to be outdone, his wife, Sue, a Shelby native, coached the Hope College women’s basketball team to the national championship in 1990.
Dave Beckman, the father of Jason, was a basketball standout for Coach Jim Tate. He was all-state in basketball, golf and baseball in 1980.
Of course, the names could go on and on with both girls and boys from these elder Beckmans who have played hoops for Shelby over the last decade. It has been a love affair with the game that has elevated Shelby into one of the area’s best basketball programs.
What has been the element that monopolized this Beckman family into a major player in Shelby basketball pride? That can be explained like this:
* The Beckmans have a love to work at the fundamentals of the game which very few athletes possess.
* The team concept is at the forefront.
* Basketball is just plain fun for each of them.
“We spent hours playing basketball in the summers at the courts,” Bob said. “We were always shooting on our own and mom would get so mad at us as she listened to the rattling of the rims outside the kitchen window. We (Beckmans) all loved basketball so we would go outside (in the cold) with gloves on and shoot baskets. I would play Dave (father of Jason) and Brian (father of Andrew) for hours.”
For Dave Beckman, basketball always has been centered around the concept of family. The barn that his family built was turned into a basketball court. That helped Jason to hone his skills and also attracted his teammates for evening games.
“The whole basketball team comes to our house and we play in the barn or play hockey on the ice rink. It is fun to keep the kids connected,” Dave said.
His son, DJ, a Shelby basketball standout from 2011-2013, played countless hours with his brother Jason and has helped him to compete for the Alma College Scots this past season.
Both Dave and Brian (Andrew’s father) also coached all of their boys in the American Youth Basketball Tour during summers.
“Dad put in hard work coaching with a humble attitude doing it and taught us to stay humble, spurring us to excel in areas we have shown success in,” Jason said. “(Uncle) Brian and his wife, Sue, have also been involved in coaching us since fourth grade and have been a big support.”
For Andrew, basketball is just plain fun.
“It is fun to just go out and talk to everyone in Shelby about basketball. It is fun to kind of follow in dad and uncle’s footsteps,” Andrew said. “Playing with my cousins and brothers in AYBT was great because I was able to receive advice from my dad (Brian) and that helped in my improvement.”
For Coach Zoulek, this year marks the 11th Beckman (girls and boys) that he has been able to coach at Shelby.
“They are an athletic family that loves to play with the team concept in mind and not for their own glory. They push themselves because of the team pride of Shelby,” Zoulek said.
“All of the players love to play and want to play as many games as possible,” Brian said. “Coach Zoulek understands team chemistry so well and he helps all kids to be better players to be part of a great team, and not building stars.”
Needless to say, expectations are high in Shelby this year for their Tigers and years to come.