Seems everyone likes to talk about Marqus Blakely’s dunks, so I’ll do a little more of it here.
Every year I feature a senior for my UVM basketball preview, which will appear in tomorrow’s Free Press. I asked Blakely what his favorite dunk was in his first three years as a Catamount. Like all of us, he enjoyed the infamous one in the 2007 America East title game against Albany, but he favored the sky-high jam he threw down last season against Colorado in the Rainbow Classic.
When was his first dunk? “It didn’t come until my junior year of high school,” he said.
It’s hard to imagine a time when Blakely was unable to dunk, but he said during his sophomore year at Metuchen High in New Jersey he was only 5-foot-7 and played on the junior varsity team. Then came a growth spurt before his junior year, when he sprouted to 6-foot-3.
I talked to Blakely’s high school coach, Rich Stoner, in 2007 for a feature story, which was topped with the headline “Soaring Potential.” Here’s an excerpt from the story that I dug out our archive:
Metuchen High School coach Rich Stoner doesn’t know Blakely’s exact vertical leap, but had an indicating story.
“He won a slam dunk contest at an all-star game last year. He pulls this 6-foot kid out of the stands, tells him to stand under the basket, then dunks right over him,” Stoner said. “He’s thrown down some amazing dunks in the last couple of years.”
More impressive, Stoner said, was Blakely’s 22 points and 22 rebounds during the Middlesex County championship game. And the regular-season game that he cashed in 33 points and double-digit rebounds, blocks, steals and assists — a.k.a. a quintuple-double.
“He was one of the leading shot blockers in the state as a 6-foot-4 wingman,” Stoner said.
A star was born. For all his athleticism, Blakely’s basketball skills were unrefined coming out of high school. Blakley elaborated why he chose Vermont instead of exploring avenues to a bigger college program.
“A lot of people coming out of high school think going to a Big East team or an ACC team is what their dream is,” Blakely said, “but there’s a lot of things that go on, like recruiting over top of people. That’s one reason I chose Vermont. The main reason is because Vermont is parellel to my high school.”
Blakely said Metuchen is two square miles and his graduating class consisted of 100 students.
Blakely is a two-time America East player of the year and defensive player of the year, making it hard to believe he averaged only 13.4 minutes and 5.8 points a game his freshman season.
“Marqus has a good feel for the game; he’s not just one of these guys who can only jump out of the gym,” UVM coach Mike Lonergan said. “He’s a better passer than people ever give him credit for. He’s unselfish. He’s a special player and he’s had a monster career.”
The Blakely file
Hometown: Metuchen, N.J.
Vital statistics: 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward … 36-inch vertical leap … 7-foot wingspan. … 275-pound bench press … 350-pound squat
Career statistics: 94 games, 77 starts … 13.4 points a game … 7.6 rebounds a game … 187 blocks … 141 steals. … 27 double-doubles. … 1,268 points, ranking 15th in program history.
Accolades: Two-time America East player of the year and defensive player of the year. … CollegeInsider.com Mid Major All-American. … Associated Press All-American honorable mention.
Did you know? Blakely is the only returning player in the nation to win his conference player of the year award the last two seasons.
Much more on Blakely — as well as a big feature on UVM women’s basketball stars Courtnay Pilypaitis and May Kotsopoulos — in Thursday’s Free Press.