Marian’s Kennedy, De La Salle’s Stanley excel as Catholic League’s top athletes

Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Shannon Kennedy and Warren De La Salle’s Brett Stanley receive the 2020-21 Catholic League Walt Bazylewicz Athlete of the Year awards at Comerica Park from Catholic League executive director Vic Michaels. (Photo by Gregg McIntosh | Special to Detroit Catholic)

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — What do successful Catholic League student-athletes have?

In the case of Shannon Kennedy and Brett Stanley, it’s a long-term passion for their sports, success on the playing field, good leadership qualities and perhaps even a friendly nudge from dad.

The two recent graduates — Kennedy, from Bloomfield Hills Marian and Stanley, from Warren De La Salle — were selected as the Catholic High School League’s Walt Bazylewicz Athletes of the Year for 2020-21.

Each carries impressive credentials.

Kennedy, named Michigan’s “Miss Golf” earlier in the school year, is a three-time individual state champion who led the Mustangs to a pair of team state titles. She was all-state in each of her four seasons and will continue her career at Michigan State University.

Stanley was all-state in football and wrestling for the Pilots. He played in two state football championships (winning one) and captured two Catholic League wrestling titles. He will continue his football career at Northwood University (the school doesn’t sponsor wrestling). 

Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Shannon Kennedy hits a drive off the tee. Kennedy, who has been golfing since she was 4 years old, won three individual state golf titles and led the Mustangs to a pair of team championships. (Photo by Gregg McIntosh | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Golf isn’t the type of sport where a high school freshman can join the team on the first day of practice and become an instant success, but Kennedy was well served by plenty of experience gained before high school.

“My family has been members at Detroit Golf Club my whole life. Going back to when I was 4 years old, my dad would drop me off for junior golf,” she said. “I began to fall in love with it there, and I played in tournaments beginning when I was 10 years old.” 

Kennedy was already one of the top golfers in Michigan by the time she came to Marian, carding the low score at the state finals as a freshman. She finished third as a sophomore, and came back to win as a junior and senior.

“I’ll always remember my senior year state championship, for sure,” she said. “I made a 20-foot putt on 18th hole to send it to a playoff. I won it on the first (playoff) hole.”

But for all of her individual accolades, Kennedy said helping Marian to back-to-back state championships means even more.

“It’s 100 percent better having my team around me,” the 18-year-old Beverly Hills resident said. “I remember I was four (strokes) back with seven (holes) to play, and I was like, ‘I don’t even care (about an individual title). I don’t want to let them down, I’m the number one on the team and I need to get it together.’ I was thinking about them more than an individual championship, for sure.”

Kennedy captained both the Mustangs’ golf and basketball teams. On the basketball court, she played four years on the varsity squad and was the team’s leading scorer as a senior. Marian won Catholic League championships in Kennedy’s freshman and sophomore seasons.

“We had great teams all four years, competed with the best teams in state; it was a ton of fun. My team did really well,” she said.  

Meanwhile, Stanley also credits an early start for getting him where he is today as an athlete.

“My parents influenced me to try every sport out, and I just enjoyed it right away,” the 18-year-old Washington Township resident said.

“My favorite sport is football, but I think wrestling helps with football a lot,” he said. “I started wrestling when I was 4. It helps with my mentality and balance factor; it really has developed me as a person. I feel like there’s no other sport that’s hard.” 

Warren De La Salle’s Brett Stanley scores a touchdown in the first half of the Pilots’ state semi-final win against Oak Park this past January. Stanley also rushed for the winning score as De La Salle won the game in overtime, advancing to the Division 2 state championship at Ford Field. (Photo by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

Stanley also started playing football at a young age, as a running back and defensive back for the Macomb Mustangs of the Eastern Suburban Football League, coached by his father.

He brought his athletic skill set to De La Salle in ninth grade, playing on the Pilots’ freshman football team while the varsity won a state title in 2017. The next year, Stanley was called up to the varsity midway through the season and helped the Pilots repeat as Division 2 state champions.

Although De La Salle was rocked by a hazing scandal that caused the team to forfeit the 2019 playoffs, Stanley and the Pilots were back contending for a state championship by the end of his senior season, falling to defending champion Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 state finals at Ford Field.

“I really enjoyed by football career there,” Stanley said. “There were a lot of ups and downs, obviously. The hazing thing, we had to go through a lot of adversity, but we finished strong this year. We were 2-4 in the regular season, but playing all these powerhouse teams really helped us for the playoffs and prepared us well. In the playoffs we got the ball rolling.”

Both athletes say attending Catholic schools helped shape who they are today.

“I’ve been in Catholic schools for 14 years, and it was definitely something special,” Kennedy said. “Everyone surrounds you and works for each other. Everyone knows each other and we’re all bounded by faith, which is so special. At every game and tournament you see that, and it’s so special.”

“I went to public schools pre-school through eighth grade, so coming to (De La Salle) was a little different. It was an all-boys school and I had to get used to that, but I liked that better,” Stanley said. “I would just say you get a lot of good things. The teachers are trying to help, they’re tutoring all the time. They genuinely care for you. They concentrate on you; they focus on you.”

And each agrees that winning the Catholic League’s Bazylewicz Award puts an exclamation point on what they’ve accomplished the past four years. 

“I was just so honored,” Kennedy said. “It’s just cool to know so many great people are in the Catholic League. It’s a great organization, and I’m so proud to represent it.”

“Our athletic director just called me in and told me I won the award, but it didn’t sink in until I was given the award (at Comerica Park),” Stanley said. “That probably was my biggest thrill in athletics. It was my senior year, and that’s how you want to end your career.”