students and alumni love the school, and the parents love and support their Eaglets. While the team plays on the field, Patch goes into the stands to tell the stories of the parents who help make everything possible. The result is a collection of profiles, Eaglets in the Crowd.
Persistence and faith are two qualities that parents say Orchard Lake St. Mary's athletics exemplifies, and basketball point guard Anthony "A.J." Renfroe exemplifies those qualities as well.
The St. Mary's junior and multisport athlete suffered injuries as a freshman and a sophomore that affected his playing time, but as his father, Anthony Sr., said at the Basketball Challenge on Saturday, it hasn't affected his passion for the game.
"He works out alone, because he really wants more playing time as well as to benefit himself," Anthony Sr. said before the Eaglets took on Detroit Henry Ford at WBHS. St. Mary's won, 58-55, to even its record at 1-1 on the young season.
Back to A.J. — he played freshman football two years ago, broke his thumb and missed the last two games of his football season. That same year, he injured the same thumb and had to have surgery, missing part of the basketball season. As a sophomore football player on the junior varsity team last year, he suffered a concussion and missed games.
However, A.J. has remained focused and positive in part because of faith — he's a junior trustee in church at New True Vine Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit — and persistence. He made it to the varsity football team this past season, which won the Division 3 state championship, as well as the varsity basketball team.
"That's what coach (George) Porritt is all about — be ready and stay conditioned by playing sports all year round," Anthony Sr. said. "All sports enhance other sports. That way, you'll reduce your injuries.
"It keeps you out of trouble, too. It keeps you focused and humble," he said.
"We're blessed to have a child who's doing what he's supposed to do," added A.J.'s mother, Michelle. "As parents, we're doing the best as we can, and it seems like it's working out. There should be more parents doing the same thing."
The parents, who live with A.J. and his little brother, Antonio, 7, together in Southfield, admit that the 16-year-old would like to see more playing time. They said he hopes that with senior starters graduating at football positions of running back and strong safety, he'll have an opportunity to start next year.
His playing time in basketball has also been sporadic.
However, the Renfroes repeat to A.J. not to let it detract from his spirit, and they say he agrees with the sentiment.
"Coach Porritt always says it's a long season. Work hard through the season, be a team player, and always give 110 percent," said Anthony Sr.
Also guiding the positive sentiment is a genuine love for St. Mary's, Michelle said.
"The key is to have fun, and he has a lot of fun. The brotherhood at St. Mary's is something that he really appreciates, and he loves his teachers and coaches. He's a really good student — about a 3.7 GPA — and he talks about studying medicine or law," Michelle said. "We tell him that life doesn't stop when you're off the court."
"It's preparing him for college," Anthony Sr. added. "There's a lot of discipline (at St. Mary's), and that's important. You want your kid to be prepared for college coming out of high school."
"It's a positive experience, and we like it because it challenges him. That's why we as parents, we like it. They make sure the shirt is in the pants — they're reinforcing what we're teaching him at home," said Michelle.
Whether or not A.J. achieves his dreams of playing time — and eventually studying at the University of California-Los Angeles, Stanford or Michigan, according to Anthony Sr. — his parents appreciate the effort.
"As long as you give 110 percent, we're here for you. I think he feels good looking back and seeing his parents sitting together at the game," Michelle said.
St. Mary's next plays Friday at home against Flint Powers Catholic. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.