Greg Burke and Kevin Echols fondly recall the glory days of the Westland High School boys and girls basketball teams when each program contended for league and district titles.
They now are part of an effort to help revitalize the programs by getting players onto the court when they're younger.
Burke, who retired in 2015 as the school's athletics director after 19 years, and Echols, who is a former assistant girls basketball coach, are joining others to begin the formation of fifth- and sixth-grade travel teams for boys and girls.
"Anything for kids," Burke said. "We want good things to happen at Westland. We like coaching kids. We know what winning felt like. This can be a lot better."
The Westland Youth Basketball Camp, slated for June 4-7 at Westland High School and the Westland Recreation Center, will serve as a kick-off event for the travel teams.
Boys coach Rob Hayes, former boys coach Todd Parker and girls coach Matt Jaynes also are part of the group.
"It's going to be a good thing for the program trying to drum up interest again and get more people in the gym earlier in their playing careers," Hayes said. "From the camp, we hope to build some teams for competition in the fifth- and sixth-grade levels and start to re-establish some playing opportunities for kids on this side of town so they can learn the game a little bit quicker."
The boys team won a Division I district title in 1997 under coach Dave Boyce and OCC-Buckeye Division and district titles in 2005 under Parker. It has won six OCC titles.
The girls team won an OCC-Cardinal title in 2003 under coach Hugo Quint.
Burke and Echols credit Ervin Crenshaw for part of the girls program's past success. Crenshaw was a longtime supporter of youth athletes in the area and a main force behind the South-Western Girls Athletic Association, which no longer exists.
When Crenshaw died in 2004, Burke and Echols said the girls program began to slide.
"When I was here coaching through the years when (Crenshaw) had the youth programs and how strong we were and how competitive we were and then as soon as he passed away things started (declining). We didn't have anybody to mentor our kids," said Echols, who is the girls coach at Finland Middle School. "We felt the wrath of that. It was a struggle.
"This program we want to start up is going to help these kids when they get to seventh and eighth grade. They're going to have some type of skills set."
The girls program holds an event each season in Crenshaw's name.
Along with Crenshaw's death, Burke and Echols point to an economic slide in the area, a failed school levy in 2009 and the opening of Central Crossing in 2002 as adding to the decline of the Westland basketball programs.
Fall sports were canceled in South-Western City Schools in 2009, and although voters later approved a levy to reinstate winter sports, the basketball programs lost several key players who transferred because of the failed levy in the fall.
"Ervin passed away and the involved parents had their kids move on to high school, move on to college, they had different focuses at that point," Burke said. "The economy was bad. There just weren't jobs out here and then the levy came. People knew it was going to happen and people started leaving us."
Burke and Echols said there has been improvement economically in the area, including the revitalization of Broad Street and the addition of Hollywood Casino, which opened in 2012.
Burke expects the addition of the Prairie Township Community Center and continued plans for a township sports complex to help boost youth athletics in the area.
The group hopes to keep the youth program affordable for families. Burke has approached area businesses for support.
"We're trying to create a situation where the kids in the community have a place to come and learn basketball in the right environment from the right kind of people," he said.
Baseball team to face Bradley
The baseball team is seeded 45th of 48 teams for the Division I district tournament and visits 15th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in the first round Monday, May 7. The winner plays at seventh-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in the second round Wednesday, May 9.
"Bradley is obviously a talented team that has had some big victories this season," coach Neil Bittel said. "For us to be able to compete, we will need to play our best baseball of the year. We have a tendency to fall apart very quickly when we have one or two errors. We need to figure out a way to respond when our backs are up against the wall."
The Cougars were 4-17 overall before playing Grandview on May 3 and 0-14 in the OCC-Central before playing Central Crossing on May 4.
Through 20 games, Zach Mon was batting .375.
Softball team to play Mount Vernon
The softball team is seeded 43rd of 46 teams for the Division I district tournament and visits 15th-seeded Mount Vernon in the first round May 7, with the winner playing at 12th-seeded Watterson in the second round Wednesday, May 9.
The Cougars were 3-15 overall before playing Kilbourne on May 3 and finished 0-10 in the OCC-Central.
Westland defeated Northland 10-0 in five innings May 1.
Spohn announces college decision
Westland senior Emily Spohn announced April 30 that she has committed to play softball at Ohio University-Chillicothe.
Below is the coming schedule for the Westland track & field teams:
May 10, 12 -- OCC-Central meet at Dublin Coffman