If Zach Grate is going to be a college athlete, football likely will be the sport.
Not many college basketball coaches eagerly wait to add a 5-foot-10 high school center to their roster, which is why the Black Hills High senior knows his competitive basketball career stops at the end of this season.
“I have a little bit of little-man syndrome,” Grate said.
Said Wolves second-year coach Jeff Gallagher: “He might be the only post I’ve ever looked down to.”
Grate, however, is quick to correct his coach on his actual height – in favor of being a hair above the 6-0 mark. Although he’s the Wolves’ starting center, assuming that role last season after first coming off the bench, he doesn’t jump center (Georgia transfer Tremarcus Hackney, at a lanky 6-3, has that honor).
Grate is no Andy Haugen, a 6-7 center who led Gallagher’s 2007 Valley Catholic High team to Oregon’s Class 3A state title and went on to play at NCAA Division III Pacific (Ore.) University.
But what Grate lacks in size, he makes up for in work ethic, Gallagher said.
“He positions his body really well and anticipates really well and outworks everybody,” he said.
Grate, who weighs 260 pounds, knows his role: he isn’t a scoring threat, even though one of his best games last season was a double-double (17 points, 14 rebounds) and his range doesn’t often extend past 5 feet from the basket. He’s a bruiser, and his role is to add to others’ success.
He takes great pride in that.
“I love screens,” Grate said. “I’m a football player. I’ll take any kind of contact I can get.”
Had it not been for a change
of heart around this time a year ago, Grate likely would still be in Black Hills’ wrestling room competing at heavyweight. He elected to try wrestling with friend and football teammate Josh Moloney in hopes of getting in better shape for football.
It just wasn’t a perfect match, so Grate showed up in the gymnasium looking to join the basketball team after being in the program as a freshman and sophomore.
He has made an instant impact ever since.
“He’s not the prettiest thing,” Gallagher said, “but he plays so hard.”
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