TERRE HAUTE —
Calvin Blank has been a prominent basketball player since being one of the biggest sixth-graders in the Vigo County middle school ranks several years ago, but he’ll say goodbye to that sport in a few months.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Terre Haute North senior was an all-state tight end in football this fall — and could just as easily have been an all-state defensive end — and will be heading to Ball State to continue his career in that sport.
You’d expect, therefore, that he would have plenty of plans in mind about how to celebrate his final season on the court, and he does. Those plans don’t center around Calvin Blank, however.
“It’s sad … I’m looking at [this season] as the last year I’ll play basketball with teammates I’ve played with my whole life,” Blank said earlier this week.
And to commemorate the occasion?
“Just finish out on top,” he answered. “Win the sectional again, win the Pizza Hut [Wabash Valley Classic] again … set a standard for the younger guys coming in to follow through and work toward.”
Those younger guys could do worse than following Blank’s example, coach Todd Woelfle pointed out.
“The biggest compliment I can give Calvin is that he’s a fierce competitor — and a winner,” Woelfle said. “A lot of athletes want to win, but a select few are willing to pay the price it takes to be successful.”
North coaches knew what they could expect from Blank long before he got to high school, and it had little to do with the way he was dominating games for Otter Creek.
“He’s very passionate about basketball, and very much a student of the game,” said Woelfle, who remembers Calvin tagging along to practice with his three older brothers — and remembers him being able to give details on past Patriot games that he watched his brothers play.
Playing with and against Ben, Luke and Nate while growing up gave Calvin a leg up on his early competition too — and probably helped keep him from being complacent with his middle school success.
“I could see where my genetics were going to take me,” Calvin said this week when asked about his Otter Creek years. “I wanted to be the best player I could be, and I wanted to expand my game.”
The expansion got an unexpected boost three years ago, when Blank became a trusted reserve as a freshman on the Patriot varsity.
“Once he accepted being a role guy, he grew as a player,” Woelfle pointed out. “Now he’s our main scorer, and he accepts those responsibilities and he responds to that challenge.”
It’s a change, admitted Blank, who was third on the team in scoring as the Patriots reached the regional championship game a year ago but who is averaging 22 points per game so far this year.
“Since Matt O’Leary and Ross Sponsler [last year’s top two scorers] left, I need to pick up my scoring somewhat,” he admitted, “and I have to step into a leadership role, set a standard.”
Woelfle has been happy about what he’s seen in those areas.
“He continually brings effort and enthusiasm every single day,” the coach said, “and the true test of his character is how hard he works when no one is watching. He’s a tremendous all-around athlete … he makes everyone around him better, and he’s very unselfish on the court.”
Although Blank is big and strong, a good shooter inside and outside and a talented and willing passer, he says his main strength as a player is “my will to win.”
He feels he has good company in that area.
“We have a lot of work to do from now until March,” he said, “but we have a good group of seniors who are about playing as a team and not about being individuals and we have a great group of coaches who prepare us to the best of their abilities.
“We just want to win championships.”