There’s a high chance that guard Zach Sinclair will spend much of his freshman season buried on the edge of the Blazers bench on game days.
If the team gets a big enough lead late in games, Sinclair could come in during garbage time. That would be sweet, much like his jumper that he so eloquently demonstrates in practice.
None of that matters to him.
The kid wants to learn.
“(Clay Guillozet and Bryce Smith) are great teammates,” Sinclair said as he sat in the bleachers following the Blazers first official practice on Oct. 15. “Coming in as a freshman small guard, you are playing against bigger guys. You’ve got to compete against them, and they are always helping me and encouraging me to compete and get better.”
If you ever see Sinclair, you’d notice that he doesn’t appear like a basketball player. He doesn’t talk much. He typically sits alone. But his eyes move at the speed of light, capturing everything like a motion sensor.
But like most freshman, nervousness is present in Sinclair. He is not the type for the spotlight.
All of these factors came to light towards the end of the first team practice, as Head Coach Mike Helfer put the practice in Sinclair’s hands.
Helfer offered Sinclair and the rest of the team a deal.
“If [Sinclair] drains this free throw, practice is over,” Helfer said at center court. “If he misses, everyone owes me two down-and-backs.”
Sinclair stepped up to the line with sweaty hands and frantic legs. The hoop seemed to decrease in size every second he looked at it.
He took the shot and clanked off the back iron. The players paid their debt.
“It’s a little discouraging,” Sinclair said after missing the shot. “Especially when your teammates are counting on you. But for me, it’s just like, ‘go back in the gym and work on the same shot.’ It’s motivation.”
“I’ve missed game winning shots back in high school. Next morning at 6 a.m., I was in the gym. I’ve made hundreds of thousands of free throws in my whole career. If you gave me another one, I’d bet on myself to make it.”
Freshman Jeremy Golson swished the free throw after the players finished Helfer’s request.
After the Blazers said a prayer to end practice, Sinclair walked over to the student-section bleachers, holding the ball that earned him and the team two down-and-backs.
The miss validated why he choose VSU in the first place.
“If you need a bucket, Coach Helfer knows how to draw up a play,” Sinclair said. “He will pull me to the side if I’m doing something wrong and coach me up, help me get it better on the next play in practice. It’s a learning experience being a freshman and [the team] has made it an easy transition so far.”