March 5, 2014

Elan means leadership

Kevin McCarthy

Elan is defined as liveliness and enthusiasm. Add the name Micah (pronounced Meekah), throw in a basketball, put him on a court and you have the starting point for Lick-Wilmerding High School (LWHS) in San Francisco, plus much more.

photo of Micah Elan
Eric Sun/Special to the S.F. Examiner

A 6-foot-3 sophomore, [Micah] Elan's game isn't to be confused with empty flashiness but rather vocal leadership, setting tempo and being a proverbial coach on the floor. Early on in his hoops playing days, he 'got it,' meaning attaining an understanding of the intricacies of the game, the elements so often not seen by fans in the stands but critical to being successful as a player and a unit.

In fact, he aligns his basketball IQ with his best skill.

“My job is to get everyone involved and to read what is needed [on the court] at the moment.”

And to what does he attribute his astuteness, the doing of the right thing at the correct time? “I've been around basketball since I was little and I've played with my older brother a lot.”

But such wiseness still takes a mindfulness many don't possess, a living in the moment with an awareness of the past but it not being prologue. Call it a melding of intuition and insight.

And yes, he certainly is still polishing the stone. “I can get into a passive mode so I need to stay aggressive on offense and defense.”

As a freshman, “I was nervous to be a leader. We had a lot of seniors. But I embraced the role as a sophomore because I needed to run this team.”

His roundball involvement began with his father introducing him to multiple sports. However, basketball worked it's way to the top. “I loved basketball. I always wanted to go to the park and shoot with my Dad. He has taught me about the game since I was little.”

Plus, just as it takes the proverbial village to raise a child, many have aided Elan in his basketball quest.

Lick-Wilmerding Coach Eliot Smith is an important figure. “Best of all, Micah is willing to listen and be coached,” Smith said. “He loves the game, loves to work hard and he put time in practicing as a youth. I am fortunate to be his coach because point guard is the most important player and it needs to be someone like him who can handle pressure and make good decisions. He has lots of confidence, he can create space and he connects with the guys on the court.”

Smith also offered evidence of Elan's toughness -- the time when the sophomore suffered an eye injury in the first 30 seconds of a tournament game back in December and had to exit in order to seek medical attention. But he came back the next day, wearing a mask and played, scoring 18 points that game and 28 the next day to earn an all-tournament selection.

Also count in former LWHS star guard Marcus Wells, who graduated not long ago from Lewis & Clark College and is now the freshman hoops coach at Lick- Wilmerding. Elan said, “he works me out before and after school” and those early sessions have a 6:30 a.m. start time.

Then there's Nate Ford, the longtime coach of the San Francisco Rebels and the Boys and Girls Club (BGC) -- Elan earlier played for the Rebels and also participated very early on in Ford's pee wee leagues.

Additionally, Norman Robinson has acted as a coach and mentor to many developing players, including Elan, in San Francisco.

It's a matter of performing in different roles regarding Elan's high school and club basketball participation. With LWHS, he plays the point but is also asked to score more because of the team composition. But on the club level, it's “about getting more people involved and not about putting up points,” Elan explained.

Asked for his personal best basketball memory, he said, “We were playing Urban [High] earlier this year, down by one with 10 seconds remaining. I traveled on an isolation play. We fouled and they made the first free throw but missed the second. I got the rebound and hit a three at the buzzer.” That well-defended trey from the right side closed out the game 64-63 in favor of Lick Wilmerding.

Oh yes, then there is the 3.78 grade point average as Elan is situating himself academically to enjoy many options come college selection time.