There’s one priority over basketball for Oakwood Baron Kevin Blake: Academia.
His parents Kevin Sr. and Daliah instilled the importance of good grades, and he has taken it as his own oath in his senior year.
“They don’t have to put it into me anymore,” he said. “If I’m not doing good I don’t want to play basketball.”
It sets up the stage for his next pursuit — a scholarship to an American college. Serving up the alley-oop pass is coach Anthony Miller.
“He’s got some interest from Stanford, some interest from Davidson, he’s got some interest from schools in the Patriot League,” Miller said. “Those schools are some of the top academic schools.
“I think it’s Kevin’s focus to make sure that if basketball doesn’t work out, he can do something with the education he’s getting.”
Miller has seen his captain develop both at the athletic and academic levels. During Blake’s freshman year, the junior team won the South Region. Last year OFSAA gold was hung around his neck.
When asked about what he’s learned from Miller there’s deep respect in his answer.
“The number one thing I’ve learned from (Coach) Miller is stay mentally strong,” he said. “The one thing he always keeps telling his players is you can’t be weak in the head. No matter what hits you, you have to keep going.”
There is a mutual respect between coach and player.
“I’m really enjoying the fact that Kevin’s really bought into the things that I’ve talked to him about since he was a grade 9,” Miller said. “Buying into the fundamentals first, and being a strong student in the classroom because it’s easy to lose perspective on those things.”
But Miller acknowledges with such a deep focus on reaching the next level, Blake doesn’t always take time to bask in the afterglow.
“His dedication to the program and to himself is extremely high,” Miller said. “It’s tough because he doesn’t get to stop and enjoy his accomplishments (because) he’s always thinking, ‘I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to get better’, and that’s something I’ve always respected about him.”
And Blake dislikes being put in a situation where’s he’s only contributing through his athleticism.
“I’ve talked with a lot of kids we’re always talking scholarships with and (Blake) said to me, ‘If I’m not going to go to a top academic school in the U.S. I’m going to go to a top academic school in Canada’,” Miller said.
“I think that’s good for kids to know, no matter how good you are as an athlete, the statistics are what they are,” Miller added. “There’s only a selected few that are ever going to make money from that or make it a career.”
Blake reaffirms his perspective.
“If I don’t get anything in basketball in my future, I would like to come out with a top-dollar job — career, actually.”
As Oakwood Collegiate disappears in Blake’s contrail, the captain who piloted his team to another OFSAA appearance says he has fond memories of high school, and particularly under Miller’s tutelage.
“I’ll always remember him,” he said.