They first started calling Melvin McLaughlin ‘Sugar’ back when he was just a child because all of the sweet moves he made on the basketball court.
From averaging 33 points a game his junior and senior seasons at Creston High School in the late 1970s, to scoring over 2,000 career points at Central Michigan University, his nickname has stood the test of time.
But Bobbie McLaughlin said not everything has been so sweet in his younger brother’s life. There have been plenty of challenges.
“There has been rejection and sadness along the way,” Bobbie McLaughlin said. “He lost his mom at a young age. He was 10 or 11 years old, and he was the baby of the family when he lost his mom, and the next year, he lost his sister.
“In my brother’s case, being the type of ball player he was coming up, he should have played at the next level. It didn’t happen, but I’m really proud of the way he came out of this. He knew he could play at the next level, but he didn’t give up, he didn’t throw in the towel and he didn’t let it discourage him. He kept moving forward.”
McLaughlin is profiled in the recently published book, ‘Sweet Shot: The Basketball Life and Legacy of Melvin ‘Sugar’ McLaughlin.’ It’s not just a basketball book, either.
Concordia University professor Vernon E. Wendt, who authored the book, explores McLaughlin’s life on and off the court, from his early childhood in Ann Arbor to the positive impact he continues to have today on Grand Rapids area youths through his basketball camps.
McLaughlin and Bobbie McLaughlin collaborated with Wendt for nearly two years on the project. It is available via Venmo@Vern-Wendt and Amazon.
McLaughlin said he hopes readers find the book motivating, inspiring and uplifting.
“It is truly a blessing. I am humbled,” McLaughlin said. “I’m so appreciative of everyone involved to be inspired to write a book about the things I accomplished on the basketball court as well as off it and what I’m trying to do in the community. It is truly a blessing. It is something I never thought was going to happen.”
Wendt is planning a Zoom book launch March 12. Wendt, who is three years younger than McLaughlin, played basketball at East Grand Rapids in the early 1980s, and he said that McLaughlin was always his favorite player growing up. That’s what inspired Wendt to reach out to McLaughlin about writing the book.
“I hope they get to know Sugar, not only as a player but as a person and why he is a role model,” Wendt said. “I always looked up to him as a basketball player, but as I got to know him as a person, I was like, ‘Wow, he has a lot to offer.”
McLaughlin is recognized as one of the greatest basketball players ever to come out of the Grand Rapids area. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1983 NBA Draft but was cut. He did go on to play for the Detroit Spirits in the Continental Basketball Association.
“This has been a tremendous thing,” Bobbie McLaughlin said. “I am truly excited about this for my brother, my family, myself and for the readers out there. They are going to be able to take part of his journey. I think once you start reading and peeling back the pages, you’re going to find it very interesting.”