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Timeout boys basketball: Small school Marquette boasts big roster

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Updated: February 5, 2013 6:40AM



With just a quick look at the Michigan City Marquette roster, it’s hard not to be impressed. Take a deeper look, and the Blazers are even more impressive.

Marquette boasts two 6-foot-8 players, another 6-3 player, and a mix of senior leadership with youthful talent and depth.

Blazers coach Donovan Garletts knows all of this. But the third-year coach also knows something about Class 1A basketball in Indiana. Or, let’s say it’s something he’s learned after cutting his teeth as a player and coach at larger schools — 1A teams, especially in the region, are gritty.

“I will say this, there are not a lot of 1A teams that can match up with us on paper,” said Garletts, who played at Crown Point and served as an assistant at Bloomington South before taking the Marquette job before the 2010-11 season. “Now that I’m at a small school, I’ve never seen as many hard-nosed teams as I do at the 1A level. They just flat out work.

“That’s one of the biggest things people from big schools don’t understand about the 1A level, those kids don’t care how big you are. These coaches and teams are coming at our boys, and they don’t care. On paper, yes, we have an advantage, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a great thing, but you have go give credit to these small-school coaches and their kids.”

With that said, the fact remains that the Blazers, 6-1 with their only loss coming to Chicago Robeson, are loaded with talent and size. And it starts with 6-8 sophomore wing player Ryan Fazekas.

Fazekas already has offers from Valparaiso University and UIC. And he’s bound to get more as word of his improving game spreads. Through seven games, Fazekas has six double-doubles and is averaging 14.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

He’s got the size of a post player, along with the skills of a guard. And those skills keep getting better, including shooting and ball handling.

“One of the things we really stress with Ryan is that every single offseason he has to develop something new to be a top player at the collegiate level,” Garletts said. “And he’s done that. He’s really developed his strength and ball-handling skills and his ability to finish at the basket.”

The thing that’s been key for Fazekas is he’s bought into this philosophy. And he’s kept a level head about it since it became apparent basketball was going to be his sport when he suddenly grew about eight inches during the summer before his eighth-grade year.

“I never really thought I’d be very good at basketball when I first started,” Fazekas said. “But I wanted to be that player who could do a lot of things.

“When I grew that summer, I was really loopy. I never thought I’d have much coordination, because my feet grew so much, and it was just a different feeling. I had to put in five hours a day in the gym to try to get my coordination back and all my ball handling and shooting.”

And that work ethic has stuck. He’s still making college visits, and he anticipates making a college decision sometime after his junior year.

“I have a lot of great people behind me, including my parents,” Fazekas said. “I’m always working hard, and I don’t have a problem with that.”

Still, the Blazers are more than just Fazekas. There’s 6-8 senior forward Jasmin Biberovic, and 6-foot sophomore guard Braxton Miller, and 6-foot junior guard Richard Mitchell, and 5-10 junior guard Nathan Flores, and 6-3 junior forward JaVonte Peals, and 6-2 junior guard Tommy Anderson. Flores actually leads the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game and is shooting 58 percent (11 of 19) from 3-point range.

And then there’s senior guard Jaylen Jemison, who was a starter at point guard last year but has graciously taken on a role as a reserve.

“He’s our biggest leader, our vocal leader who leads by example,” Garletts said of Jemison. “He’s our speaking captain. Jaylen runs the show, and he’s really brought the new guys under his wing, letting them understand the expectations and where we need to go. He understands us as coaches.”

Jemison said playing time doesn’t matter to him these days. It’s all about winning and improving as a team.

“My role is to be a defensive player, score when I have to and just keep the team working and have them working as a team,” Jemison said. “We have a lot of potential on this team. We’re young in certain areas, but we’re still learning the game, and our coaches are helping with that.”

Marquette lost to a strong Triton team by just one point in a 1A sectional final last year. The Blazers have visions of turning that around this year and winning what would be their first sectional title since 2000.

The players can’t help at times but to look ahead to such an opportunity. But Garletts is doing his best to temper it.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” Garletts said. “We’re excited about what we have and we’re enjoying the season so far. But it’s a long season, and we have a long way to go.

“We try to take it one game at a time, but if there is any talk from the kids, I nip it in the bud pretty quickly. They need to understand that anything can happen.”



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