By CHARLIE GRIGSBY – CENTO WRITER
Blake Scinta grew up in Louisville, Ky., a city divided by a basketball rivalry that splits the state into a stark contrast of Wildcat blue and Cardinal red. Basketball is part of the culture of the state, and Scinta was raised a “diehard UK fan” with a basketball goal in his backyard before he was big enough to use it.
“Back in fifth grade, my middle school didn’t have an organized [basketball] team. A group of dads got a team together, and we played in tournaments around Louisville.”
Sports were an outlet for Scinta and he enjoyed playing many different ones before focusing his attention on his favorite.
“I loved basketball, but I actually played a lot of sports. I played football, baseball, lacrosse, golf, and I swam… But I ended up quitting most of those due to the AAU circuit. I wanted to focus on basketball; I wanted to get better at that than all the other sports,” Scinta said.
Scinta earned well deserved success while making treasured memories. The team offered not only the opportunity to develop his skills and form relationships with teammates but also allowed Scinta to travel and have many great experiences.
“My favorite experience with basketball was playing on my AAU team, the KYA All-Stars. We ended up being the state champions in our age group, and we got to travel to Las Vegas, Orlando, and Indianapolis for tournaments and to play against nationally ranked guys that were really, really good.”
Scinta grew six inches his sophomore year of high school, and currently stands at a “bit taller than everybody else” at 6’8”.
In high school, the roster might have listed Scinta as a center, but his game is more versatile than that of a traditional low-post big man.
“I’m more of a forward. I can shoot the three. I can take bigger guys off the dribble to the basket. When I have a smaller guy on me, I can play back-to-the-basket, and do post moves. A stretch-four is probably what you would call it,” Scinta said.
Scinta went to high school at Kentucky Country Day (KCD) in Louisville. KCD’s coach, James Booker, played at Centre under head coach Greg Mason. Scinta cites Booker, who spoke highly of the Centre Basketball program, as one of the biggest factors his decision to commit to Centre College.
In his first season on the court as a Colonel he averaged 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. Scinta was second on the team in rebounds and blocks per game, despite missing seven weeks with a strained PCL.
“I was pissed about [missing]. The first few games I came back were rough. I was worried about reinjuring it, but after the first few games, I got rolling again,” Scinta said.
In his fourth game back against Berry College, Scinta scored 22 points on 6-9 shooting (2-2 from three), adding 7 rebounds and a perfect 8-8 from the line. He started the rest of the season.
Centre won six of their remaining seven conference games to capture the SAA Regular Season Title. Centre also went on to win the inaugural SAA Tournament Championship, a victory that has elevated the vision of the program from conference championships to NCAA tournament runs.
“We want to go further than last year, but to do that, we have to get our seeding higher. Last year we lost to the fourth best team in [Division III in the opening round]. As long as we handle business versus teams, we’ll improve our chance of [making a deeper run] or even hosting the NCAAs,” Scinta said.
Scinta was named the Southern Athletic Association Tournament Most Valuable Player, SAA Newcomer of the Year, South Region Rookie of the Year, and named to the Honorable Mention All-SAA team and the SAA All-Tournament First Team.
The Colonels are coming into the 2013-2014 season ranked number 23 in the country. Expectations are higher and Scinta is no longer the breakout first-year, teams will prepare to limit him offensively.
“Teams might start to double, but we have so many threats, teams are going to have to be honest because of we have shooters outside. [Focusing too much on the post] could cause more problems for them,” Scinta said.
Garnering so much offseason attention may prove to be a blessing and a curse as Scinta will be targeted by opposing teams defensively. He will be called upon to be a go-to scorer and a defensive wall in only his second year out of high school. But to him, responding to pressure is as simple as training harder.
“I know that if I don’t work on my game, there’s someone on the other team that’s working harder. Nothing really motivates me except my competiveness,” Scinta said. “I don’t like losing.”
Scinta is constantly motivated by his teammates. He credits them for his success and maintains the opinion that without them he would have never reached such high goals. Scinta may aim high, but it will be with his teammates by his side.