Boys varsity basketball is primed for a third straight conference title


In 2002 when head coach Kyle Carhart was a senior for the Forest Hills Central basketball team, the term Rangerball was born.

“The style of play and the expectations that we had for ourselves [when I played] are very similar to those we have now,” said Carhart, who was the starting point guard for FHC from 1999-2002. “When we were first successful, it was new for us, it wasn’t really expected, but Coach George did a tremendous job in making [winning] the expectation every year for this program.”

Carhart’s team his sophomore year was struggling early on. Former coach Ken George remembers huddling the group together in the old gym and explaining that the team needed to play “Ranger Ball.” Hence, the term was born.

“I just told the guys that we needed to be different – like Rangers,” George said. “Once I said it, the guys grabbed onto that term and made it our calling card.”

By senior year, Carhart would lead the team to multiple championships and an appearance in the State Quarterfinals against Saginaw High School at Central Michigan University. The program had reached new levels of excellence with Carhart as the leader and point guard.

“Kyle was an outstanding high school player,” George said. “He could guard anyone, he handled the ball every trip for us, and he was a vocal and energetic leader. He and his buddies those years built Rangerball.”

After high school, Carhart continued his playing career at Grand Valley State University where he became known as one of the best defensive players in the GLIAC. After graduation, he played professional basketball overseas in Finland for three years and was named to the all league team in 2010.

After returning to Grand Rapids, Carhart took over a struggling Lowell High School basketball program and won a district title in 2016 ironically, that district win was over his mentor’s team, FHC.

“He did things at Lowell that hadn’t been done before,” George said. “That district game was a huge disappointment for me and my team, but I was also proud of the coach Kyle had become.”

Carhart thinks his experience at Lowell will play a part in continuing the Rangerball tradition.

“When I was [the coach] at Lowell, we had some success and I know what it takes [to be successful],” Carhart said. “It takes a commitment from everyone, especially the players, and I think that we really have that from them.”

“Them” includes players with a wealth of varsity experience as the Rangers go for a third straight OK-White conference title.

Junior point guard Jimmy Scholler returns to lead the Rangers.  He already has scholarship offers from Ferris State and Grand Valley State and was an all-league player last year alongside graduates Ryan Dunn and Tyler George.  Jimmy worked hard in the off-season on his shooting and strength and is known as one of the top players in West Michigan.

He comes into this season after averaging 11 points and 6 assists per game as a sophomore. Jimmy had a monster game against rival FHN when he poured in 21 points, collected 11 rebounds and dished out 5 assists.

“Jimmy is a very hard-working kid,” Carhart said.  “He consistently is working to get better. He wants to work out, shoot more shots, and do anything to achieve the goals that both he has as a player and this team has.”

Junior Mitch Wilkinson, who earned all-conference honorable mention last year, senior Tate Hallock, and four-year varsity player Daniel Deindorfer also have loads of varsity experience.

“Mitch, Tate, and Daniel bring a lot of varsity experience. Daniel is only the second four-year varsity player in Rangerball history,” Carhart said. “Daniel brings a big low post presence for our team, and that’s something that is very rare in high school basketball these days, so that is huge for us.”

This year’s team also returns seniors Jake Ball, Josh Wise, and Jay Shields who will all take on much bigger roles as seniors.

“I like the experience we have with guys that have been through a varsity season,” Carhart said. “These guys know what it takes to be successful at the varsity level, and not only that, but they are guys that know what it takes to win a conference championship.”

This team is a very athletic group, giving Carhart a lot of options with different lineups.

“We have a lot of guys that can play a lot of positions,” Carhart said. “This is big for us because it allows us to play a variety of different ways [with] different defenses. It makes us a much better team.”

The Rangers come off a tremendous season last year. After losing their first two games by a combined 3 points to East Kentwood and Traverse City Central, they rattled off 18 straight wins to finish the regular season at 18-2 including an unblemished 12-0 conference record and their second straight OK White title. But the Rangers were upset by East Grand Rapids in the first round of district play to finish the season at 18-3, leaving a very sour taste in their mouth.

“Losing in the first round was really hard on us, especially because East is such a big rival,” Jimmy said. “That loss is motivating us this year because we know that we have the pieces to make a deep run [in the playoffs].”

Carhart’s mantra – much like George’s every year – is all about hard work.

“To be successful this year we need to be effective in all phases of the game, especially when talking about how hard we play and how hard we work,” Carhart said. “If we can improve on playing and working hard, we can be a very good team.”

The Rangers come into this season with a sour taste in their mouth after the way things ended last year, and they have their minds set on a great season.

“Obviously, every year our number one goal is to win a conference championship,” Mitch said. “But we also want to win a district title after what happened last year.”

The team chemistry is tremendous, as has been the case in past years for the most successful Rangerball teams.

“We really like each other and know how to complement each others’ games,” Jimmy said. “We know what we are capable of doing and we’re excited to show everyone what we can do this season.”