BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green State University junior Darryl Clements was participating in team drills prior to Rogers Academy's state championship game in 2005 when he was distracted by a curious onlooker.
A short, dark man with a broad smile kept staring at Clements.
"I had to ask my coach who he was," Clements said.
His coach knew. Just about every high school basketball coach in Michigan knows LaMonta Stone.
Stone, a fourth-year assistant at Bowling Green State University, played and coached high school ball near Detroit. Now he recruits in the Detroit area - and Stone is quite successful at it. Four of BG's players hail from Michigan as do two high school seniors who will become Falcons next year.
"I have some relationships in Michigan, but LaMonta, there's not too many people he doesn't know," BG coach Louis Orr said.
Relationships are important in coaching. They can help determine your next job, or your next recruit. Stone, 41, has forged many friendships up north beginning during his high school days at River Rouge, a suburb of Detroit. Stone later guided his alma mater to consecutive Class B state championships in 1998-99 before accepting a position at Eastern Michigan where he spent two seasons prior to leaving for Ohio State.
Stone's impact on BG's program is evident simply by glancing at the roster. Stone recruited juniors Clements (Detroit) and Brian Moten (Saginaw), and sophomores Otis Polk (Detroit) and Marc Larson (Mattawan).
Future Falcons Austin Calhoun (Southfield) and Dee Brown (Detroit) are also products of Stone's formidable reputation in the Wolverine state. Stone knows Brown's coach, Kurt Keener, from when River Rouge battled Keener's legendary Country Day teams. Similarly, Stone is friends with Calhoun's high school and AAU coaches.
"Going back to Michigan is easy for me because I was a very successful high school coach, so when I go back, those high school coaches see themselves in me," Stone said. "I was one of those guys not too long ago. It's not a point of me selling anything. They already have trust in me. We already have relationships."
But for a brief period earlier this year, Stone did not have a job. Stone's boss, Dan Dakich, left the program after last season and was joined in exile by all of his assistants except for Stone. Stone admits he wanted to fill the head coaching vacancy, but even more so, he wanted to stay at Bowling Green. And Orr, who was hired in April, liked that idea as well.
"One of the sidebars is he had a relationship and recruited a lot of the guys," Orr said. "So that's an added benefit, but that wasn't the reason. It can be an asset but other things - the quality of the person, the chemistry - are more important."
It's difficult to say whether Stone was seriously considered for the job. Assistant coaches are often linked closely to the previous regime, and BG's recent struggles certainly weren't a ringing endorsement for Stone. But Stone stuck around, providing stability for the players during a time of uncertainty.
"I really didn't politic for the job," Stone said. "My thing was, stay here and see what happens. I recruited a lot of these student-athletes so I wanted to see those guys make it through. In the process, if I was named the head coach that would have been wonderful. If not, I wanted to stay here under the right circumstances."
Stone now has increased responsibilities, particularly pertaining to BG's new up-tempo offense, which is similar to the style Ohio State played while Stone was with the Buckeyes. Stone said he learned Dakich's motion offense "on the fly" but is now more comfortable in an element more suited to his background.
"Last year coach Stone was more laid-back and kept his thoughts to himself," Clements said. "This year the coaches have more freedom. What they need to say they say it out loud."
Stone isn't the type to yell. He's calm and reserved, not one interested in self promotion. But his resume as a recruiter screams from here to Michigan. And high school coaches are receiving the message.
"If you talk to any basketball elites in Michigan, I want people to say LaMonta Stone is a good guy, he can coach any one of my guys at any school he's at," Stone said. "At the end of the day that makes me feel good."
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