DETROIT — Detroit King's Chansey Willis Jr. won the state of Michigan's 2022 Mr. Basketball award after a stellar 2021-22 season.
The ceremony on Monday was emotional as Willis accepted the award standing next to a cardboard cutout of his late sister.
"She's supposed to be here," he said. "I told myself I wasn't going to cry because of her, but I let it out."
Casey Willis was a student at Wayne State when she was murdered on December 26, 2020. She was sitting in her car in the early morning after Christmas, when she was shot multiple times.
The King basketball staff joined the Willis family to support Chansey at the award presentation. The King senior guard wore a pin with his sister's face and the message 'In Loving Memory' on it.
"I got her tattooed on my shoulder just so she can be with me everywhere I go," he said.
Willis began to believe winning Mr. Basketball was possible during his sophomore season. His competitive drive made him make it a goal.
His parents saw the possibility as soon as he entered high school.
"I've always thought he was a Mr. Basketball," his mother Carol Bush said. "I knew in ninth grade this day would come."
King head coach George Ward Jr. recalled the moment he knew Willis had Mr. Basketball potential.
"As an 11 or 12 year-old, he came up to me in the gym and said, 'Coach, I'm coming to play for you.' I said, 'There's no way you want to play for me. You've seen the way I coach.'"
Willis proved him wrong.
"He never wavered," Ward said.
There was one person who believed more firmly than anyone else Chansey Willis Jr. was destined to become Mr. Basketball. That was Casey.
"I always knew he was Mr. Basketball, but she would speak it," his mother recalled. "She went to a different high school and she was really close with the guys on the basketball team. Of course, they used to say, 'We're better than him!'"
Casey pushed him. She told him he needed to get his mind right, succeed in the classroom, and prove it to himself he could be the best player on the court.
"Today is it. He did it. I'm sure she's excited. I'm sure," his mother smiled.