By Jeremy McDonald
AMITY, Ore.– On his right deltoid, there’s a tattoo of a basketball.
It’s hidden during Thursday’s practice under an Under Amour-like T-Shirt, but comes out during any Amity Boy’s Basketball game this year for all to see, like his basketball talents he’s demonstrated since his days at Sheridan and before.
At five-ten, senior Zac Blake looks like he’s not someone to mess with. But he’s actually quite the opposite when you talk to him. Jokes around and smiling. You saw that Thursday as him, Sam White and Kodiak Yaeger traded dunks while Morgan Croxford signed her letter of intent on the other side of the court.
Sports can serve more than just having fun. It too, for some like myself and Blake, it too can serve a deeper purpose. An escape from reality. Escape of what’s happening outside of sports.
That tattoo of the basketball serves as a reminder of his escape, the passion and love for the game of basketball that his brother shared with him growing up.
“Basketball has been my life since I was younger. In a sense, it saved my life from a lot of childhood problems that was going on within the family when I grew up, it saved my life. It gave me something to do,” said Blake on the game he loves. “It was my only escape sometimes. Both me and my two older brothers, I didn’t get to grow up with my older brother a whole lot because of family problems.
“But he showed us the game of basketball and I’m more than thankful for that because I don’t know where I’ll be at without basketball.”
That fire, that passion and his game developed through the game he considers as his escape, and as he entered High School he spent the first three years playing at Sheridan High School where he played Amity twice-a-year so he’s familiar with the squad and the program itself when he transferred to the program for his senior year.
It was a whole different animal though playing in front of the crowds at Amity than it was playing at Sheridan.
Just Seeing the crowds on any given night at Amity, the new faces, the people who come and watch and the excitement behind it as a member of the Warriors squad is something that was and still is something awesome to see, said Blake.
“It’s the best feeling, I’ve had since I’ve been in High School,” described Blake. “It’s the best thing I’ve experienced, just playing in front of a basketball crowd, seeing new people in the crowd every single night. People who don’t even have kids that play here, they’re just here to support. I’m not used to that in Sheridan.
“I don’t know, it’s a really good experience and it’s a big change for me. But I love it here.”
Amity started the season hot despite having new faces in the lineup replacing those from the sixth-place team by going 9-1 to start the season, but have since gone 5-7 since the hot start as Blake and company hope to pick up the seam in time for the West Valley League-playoffs here in a few games.
Blake himself said that he can improve on not being as passive as he has been since he transferred from Sheridan.
“I think the biggest set-back for us right now is chemistry, I mean a lot of us are first-year players here. First or second-year players here, most of us haven’t play together since AAU or just starting to play together,” said Blake. “The biggest thing I come across since I’ve transferred here is trying to fit in with the team and playing really passive.
“Coach has really got on me for that because I haven’t been playing my game because I’ve been focused on trying to fitting in more than anything. He just wants me to go out and play basketball, whether that’s passing on plays or scoring the basketball or defense and rebounding.”
The senior reflects a lot about how he can improve to help his team out, knowing that as they enter these last few games, every game counts as they try to battle for those Top three spots to get into the Field of 16.
For Blake as well, he believes they are due and believes that they have a chance to sneak into one of those eight-spots over the hill at the coast by March.
“I think we’re trying to make a late season push and sneak into Coos Bay, but we all know it’s going to be a tough, tough route at this point,” he said. “I think we can do it. We have the fire power to do it, the defense to do it, it’s just a matter of staying motivated and working together.”
And like fellow seniors like Kodiak Yaeger, Jaycen Nelsen, Sam White etc. they know this could be it. Like most seniors, you don’t think about the end until it’s a few games away, possibly a few days away.
For the guy who has used basketball as an escape and has shown the next-level talent on several occasions too knows as well that his prep days are numbered as he and his teammates make one final push for the postseason, know it’s crunch time.
“For all of us seniors, it’s all out, it’s all that we have,” said Blake. “I didn’t realize it at the beginning of the season, but now that it’s winding down and there’s a few games left, it’s now-or-never.