August 6, 2010

VanKirk Kicking It In Gear

Kevin McCarthy

Paraclete High’s Mike VanKirk is no Criss Angel but he sometimes feels like an illusionist because every so often, he’ll wonder how someone his 7-foot-1 height and 235 pounds weight can disappear per se from the consciousness of basketball recruiters.

photo of Mike VanKirk

While it’s not like VanKirk has fallen completely off the recruiting radar, Lancaster (CA) is not exactly a high school hoops mecca. True, it’s just 80 or so miles of paved road between the high desert and basketball ground zero (Los Angeles) but college coaches and their assistants prefer tripping to view numerous prospects rather than a solitary one. That’s a primary reason VanKirk has become a member of Coach Gary Franklin’s California Supreme club basketball team.

Here’s Franklin on his big man: "He’s a great kid, real coachable and a pleasure to have on the team. He wants to get better and he has already improved a lot. Mike has better basketball skills than some people think, like how he throws long outlet passes after rebounding and his ability to pass out of the post. He’s a very unselfish player."

What does VanKirk see as his strengths? "My court awareness, knowing where my teammates are, plus my hook shot which is my go-to move." Conversely, he is emphasizing improving his footwork as a means to better his game production.

In games, he uses his good reach in setting up as a target for entry passes, nabs those passes with a Velcro-like effect and gets up and down the court nicely for a big.

Off the court, he displays his leadership capacity vis-a-vis his election as the Paraclete High 2010-2011 student body vice president.

VanKirk is looking to attend a school featuring strong academics but also has this as a priority: "I want the basketball program to have a history of developing big men."

Queries to offers?

To date, lots of letters and some interest from numerous D-1 schools including UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Colorado have arrived and VanKirk has unofficially visited Oregon State and Colorado.

His academics are in order and, while he isn’t certain what he will major in at the next level, "I’m thinking about sports therapy."

His mother, whom he got his height from, played high school hoops and "that’s the only sport I play other than volleyball," VanKirk offered. He salutes his father and mother as his biggest basketball influences because of all their support. "We live away from where the games and tournaments are and they help me in getting back and forth."

What’s interesting is that it took until his sophomore season to finally begin thinking that a basketball scholarship was in his future. "One of my travel team coaches said it would happen and that got me thinking," according to VanKirk.

Looking back to his freshman days on the court, He said, "I was extremely awkward," as so many bigs are at that age until they grow into their bodies. VanKirk sees growth in himself on and off the court: "I’ve matured and am making smarter choices."

Asked about his toughest individual matchup to date, he thought momentarily and then said, "Norvel Pelle [an athletically gifted Price High player who ranks as the No. 4 2011 center in the country]. He plays at the rim and above."

Spring and summer exposure generally triumph any neglect during the high school season. Such should especially ring true if you are over seven feet tall and with your best basketball performances still ahead. Mike VanKirk is doing what he can, working for that axiom to be fulfilled.