2017-08-10 / Sports

Champion chosen to lead North Bay girls

By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor

The future of the North Bay girls basketball program has been placed in the capable hands of a champion.

Jim Champion, that is.

Suttons Bay Athletic Director Doug Periard said Champion’s experience as a former coach and teacher at Suttons Bay played a part in the decision to bring him aboard.

“He’s coached around the county and he knows people in the county,” Periard said. “That’ll lend itself well to build and create a brand new program.”

Champion has years of coaching experience, albeit none at the helm of a varsity basketball program.

He spent two or three seasons as a middle school girls basketball coach, started the Suttons Bay golf program and served as head coach for five or six years, coached JV girls basketball for seven seasons, and closed out his career at Lake Leelanau St. Mary as the head coach of the JV boys basketball team.

The retired middle school teacher looks forward to getting started.

“It’s been a little while but some people remember me,” Champion said with a laugh. “I’m really excited.”

Champion replaces former Suttons Bay coach David Wheelock and interim Northport coach Leon Chimosky.

Northport finished 13-5 last season en route to securing its second Cherryland Conference championship in program history. The Lady Norsemen, meanwhile, finished 5-16.

“They need each other as far as numbers go, and anytime you combine two teams like that, obviously the talent level is going to increase,” Champion said. “You also get a little competition for playing time, which doesn’t hurt. I’m looking forward to good things.”

Champion said he got a sneak peek at his new players at their final scrimmage of the summer in Traverse City, and was pleased with what he saw.

That said, he isn’t willing to talk strategy just yet. That will completely depend on personnel, he said.

“I like to run as much as anybody does, but until I get more familiar with the girls and what they’re capable of, I really feel it’s going to be a feeling out process,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, we should have some capabilities down low. I was impressed with what I saw; some of the Suttons Bay girls I haven’t seen in a couple years looked real good that night, real competitive. They had some skills I didn’t realize they had. It should be interesting.”

He said Periard and Northport AD Josh Vander Meulen have been a pleasure to work with, and that he looks forward to showing both communities what they have to look forward to.

“If there are any fears out there about combining the two programs, I’m looking forward to putting those to rest,” Champion said. “I know the girls will get along famously and have a lot of fun playing together.”

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