Before Ty Mopkins began designing apparel that drew the attention of the world, he was proud to wear an orange belt as a safety patrol captain at a Detroit school. That pride is still with him today.

The year was 1990. The boys basketball team at Detroit Southwestern had won its first of two consecutive Michigan High School Athletic Association Class A titles with one of the most talented collections of players in state history. 

Coached by the legendary Perry Watson, the decorated state championship squad included three players that would later make their presence known in the National Basketball Association: Howard Eisley, Voshan Leonard and Jalen Rose. Southwestern’s roster that season also included other skilled players that would go on to make significant contributions to college programs across Michigan and beyond, including Elton Carter, Garland Mance, Dannie Hayes, Michael Hamilton, Kamau Alexander, Quincy Bowens and Marcus Wourman. 

One name that does not appear in the scorebook compiled at The Palace of Auburn Hills from Southwestern’s 67-54 state championship victory over Saginaw on March 24, 1990, belongs to Ty Mopkins. In fact, Mopkins never suited up for the Prospectors or any basketball team that season. Nonetheless, nearly 35 years later, the native Detroiter who has found his own fame as a celebrated designer, says the powerhouse Southwestern basketball teams of his day and the now-closed school continue to inspire him.   

“I never played for him, but Perry Watson was a great mentor to me, and Jalen Rose is a great friend,” explained Mopkins, a 1990 graduate of Southwestern, whose connection to Rose has been vividly displayed through apparel — including custom Starter brand jackets — worn by the University of Michigan “Fab Five” legend and other celebrities, along with everyday folks representing many walks of life. “Southwestern was a melting pot and that championship spirit created by the basketball team was felt by all of the students, and everyone had the mentality that we were champions.

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