In sports, the saying goes, “Play for the name on the front of your jersey and they’ll remember the name on the back.”
Detroit Henry Ford’s boys basketball team did just that, debuting a gold and brown jersey Tuesday against Detroit CMA that read, “Seven Mile/Evergreen” across the front.
The high school is located at 20000 Evergreen, on Detroit’s far west side, about a half a mile north of Seven Mile Road. The neighborhood surrounding the school is where a large percentage of the student population at Henry Ford lives and head coach Ken Flowers wanted his team to represent that, because it represents them.
“I’m always watching the NBA and college, looking to do something innovative with my program’s uniforms,” said Flowers. “A couple of years ago, we were the first ones to wear short-sleeved jerseys. The NBA came out with the Nike City jerseys and I wanted to do something for the school. Some alumni came with some extra money for new jerseys and I came up with the idea to honor the neighborhood that has been so good to my kids and my program.”
Flowers, who is in his 12thseason as the coach at Henry Ford, said he wanted to jerseys to represent the past, present, and future of Trojans basketball and all those who attended the 62-year-old school and grew up in the neighborhood. Some of the city’s greats have dawned the brown and gold of Henry Ford on the basketball court, including Greg Kelser, Maurice Taylor, and James Towns. Flowers won the school’s first ever basketball state title in 2016.
The Henry Ford administration and alumni base fell in love with the jerseys and the meaning behind them and of course, the players who wore them liked them the most.
“Most of my ideas for the athletic department comes from the kids anyways because this is their school and program,” Flowers said. “I make sure it’s not too over the or too bizarre. But I make sure they have their input and work for everything I give them.”
But, no good deed goes unpunished and Flowers said he received some backlash on the new uniforms. He even had to address the situation on social media.
“People didn’t understand the concept behind the jersey,” said Flowers. “Some people were saying negative things about how the school is not on Seven Mile, it’s closer to Evergreen, it’s ghetto, and typical stuff they didn’t do research on.”
Flowers, who played and coached at Detroit Redford, came over to Henry Ford when his old high school closed in 2007. Redford and Henry Ford were once and still are rivals and when the schools had to combine, it created and unhealthy culture. Now, they have one of the best gyms in the city, the community and alumni supports the boys, and even Kelser often comes around to visit the basketball program.
“You should never forget where you come from,” said Flowers. “You have to understand your past in order to move forward. The area is coming up. People are coming back, bringing new businesses back and moving into homes. Seven Mile and Evergreen has always been a working-class area, and although it took a hit, it’s starting to come back.”
“The dark cloud of Henry Ford being a bad school is starting to disappear and our enrollment is increasing. We’re getting back to how things used to be at Henry Ford and kids are starting to take ownership of their education and their neighborhood.”
The jerseys were made by Moneyball Sportswear owner and founder Desmond Ferguson. He played basketball at Lansing Everett in 1995 and at Detroit-Mercy in the late 1990s. He also had a cup of coffee in the NBA and played 11 years professionally. Once he was done playing, he got into the uniform business in 2002. His logo can now be seen on thousands of uniforms across the country.
“Us as black athletes, we dominate the games of sports, yet, we don’t own anything within it,” said Ferguson. “Back then, there wasn’t any black ownership in athletic apparel and companies were charging premium for regular uniforms. I was willing to do customs uniforms at a lower price and it has worked out for me.”
He first made jerseys for Detroit Finney, when Wayne State University assistant coach and former college teammate E.J. Haralson was heading that program. When Flowers was at Redford, the two connected to have uniforms made for the Huskies and have been in business ever since.
“He stayed true with us the whole time,” Ferguson said of Flowers. “He has been rocking with us since day-one. He could have easily gone with different brands like Nike and Adidas, but he stayed true and loyal. Those Redford jerseys that Manny Harris wore when he won Mr. Basketball (2007) is what really put us on the map.”
Ferguson is well-known within the basketball community around the state, as a former player and coach. The name Moneyball is his nickname, having played AAU ball for Team Michigan in the 90s with Kevin Garnett, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Albert White, Terrance Roberson and others, and they noted how well he could shoot the ball.
“That team was unreal,” Ferguson recalled. “I used to shoot the three and I got hot a few games and they just started calling me Moneyball every time I shot. It’s a nickname that stuck with me and when it was time to name the business, I named it Moneyball.”
Ferguson has three Moneyball locations, two in his hometown of Lansing and one coming to Southfield in March. Henry Ford, Southeastern, Western, Central, Mumford, and Pershing all sport Moneyball uniforms in the PSL.
Henry Ford is 9-4, 7-2 in the PSL-West and have one more regular season game left Friday at Mumford. They will be in their Moneyball Seven Mile and Evergreen jerseys once again looking for the win.