SAULT STE. MARIE – Lake Superior State expects to continue its solid standing in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women’s basketball by naming former Ferris State and University of Maine assistant coach Justin Rees its new head women’s basketball coach.
LSSU Director of Athletics Kris Dunbar made the announcement today, and Rees officially takes over the program on July 1. He replaces Jamie Pewinski, who was named head women’s basketball coach at her alma mater, Saginaw Valley State, on April 18. Pewinski was 77-61 during five seasons as the Lakers’ head coach. She also spent seven seasons as an assistant under Dunbar, who was 142-57 during that time.
“I am pleased that Coach Rees will be leading our women's basketball program,” Dunbar said. “His knowledge of the GLIAC and his experience recruiting in Michigan will help our program immediately. He is known for his integrity and passion for the game, which will help bring positive results for LSSU.”
Rees, a Florida native who played basketball at Barry University, was an assistant coach at Post University from 1999-02, Ferris State from 2002-07 and Maine from 2007-11. He was Maine’s recruiting coordinator and worked on-court primarily with post players.
“The history at Lake State, as far as I remember it, is that they’ve always had great post players,” Rees noted. “Alice Duesing was a cross-over, but she generally played in the post. Becky Marquardt-King, Jackie Armstrong, and now Marie Blazejewski and Cassy Schemberger – they’ve always had a tradition of having great post players. Maybe I’ll give the guards a different vision than they’ve had.”
Rees looks forward to returning to the NCAA Division II ranks, which strives to give student-athletes a better “work-life balance” than Division I offers, but he hopes to incorporate what he learned in Division I about intensity and commitment to succeed.
"Coach Rees is an exceptional coach,” noted veteran coach Tracey Dorow of Ferris State. “He develops a lifelong rapport with prospective student-athletes and their parents. Not only does he know his X's and O's, but Coach Rees' instincts to make game-time adjustments really set him apart from other coaches. It will be challenging to have him sitting on the opposing bench after working side-by-side with him for five years, but I am thrilled for him and for the Lake State women's basketball players. He will bring out the best in them, on and off the basketball court."
“I’ve spoken to Tracey a lot during this process,” Rees said. “She was great to work for and I appreciate all she’s done to help me get to this point. She helped me learn how to develop those relationships. There are a lot of similarities between the (LSSU and FSU programs), but less about X’s and O’s and more about building relationships. Building stronger bonds with and among student-athletes – you learn to respect that and it’s one of the reasons I chose to come back to Division II. It’s also one of the reasons I chose to play Division II. You’re going to get more of that family feel at Division II.”
Rees has been out of state for four years, but has maintained ties with Michigan youth coaches.
“I tried to keep my hands in it while I was in Maine,” Rees said. “I talked to some AAU players, and had some success with that. I always kept in touch with AAU coaches. The AAU tradition in Michigan is fantastic. The best-skilled players I’ve coached have come from Michigan, and high school programs do a great job too. I want to keep Michigan kids in-state.”
Rees will meet most of his current team for the first time when the Lakers begin hosting camps in late June.
“I’m excited about the camps, more to get a feel of the University, and the camps will be my first opportunity to meet the players,” Rees said. “It will be our first interaction, face-to-face. I want to watch them work and get their input.”