Got the Point?

Struggling teams are often able to find a spark in young players. Less often, however, is a first-year player hitting his stride to blaze a winning trail for his team like first-year men’s basketball player Adam Blazek was last week.

“I’m becoming more comfortable with the guys now,” Blazek said. “Before, I was just trying to get acclimated; now I’m becoming more vocal and kind of stepping into my role.”

Blazek, a freshman point guard, has been instrumental in Gannon University’s success all year, and his fingerprints can be easily seen all over the Knights’ recent wins over Edinboro and Clarion universities.

Last Wednesday, Blazek engineered the Knights’ rally from a 14-point second-half deficit against the Scots by scoring 20 of a then career-high 26 in the second half and overtime of Gannon’s 77-73 win. He provided an even more sensational encore by pouring in 37 in a 91-80 victory over the Bald Eagles Saturday.

Blazek ranks second on the team with 15.4 points per game, but it hasn’t been his ability to find the basket that has impressed coach John T. Reilly so far this season.

“I’d like to believe that Adam Blazek is learning about the game, and that what he’s doing the best in is defense,” Reilly said. “He understands that it’s not just all about scoring, which is what people don’t always understand.”

Just months after graduating from Cathedral Prep, the 6-foot guard was thrown into the fire when he started at point guard in the Knights’ season-opener, a last-second 90-89 loss to East Stroudsberg University in November.

The scenario of a heartbreaking defeat in the final seconds proved not to be an isolated incident for the Knights and Blazek, who said he continues to adapt from high school.

“There’s a huge difference between college and high school, just because they are so much stronger, quicker and faster,” he said. “In high school, every team would have some players who couldn’t really play, but at this level, every player on every team can really hoop. That was something that I learned and am still adjusting to.”

Blazek’s maturity is also obvious to his teammates, who note his poise and intelligence.

“His basketball IQ is off the charts,” senior guard Steve Piotrowicz said. “There’s no doubt that he was ready to play as soon as he started. He’s definitely always been the kind of kid that you just can’t stop him.”

Piotrowicz, who is also a Prep graduate, had started at point guard last year, but was made aware of Blazek’s emergence before this season.

“After starting for the last few years, you don’t expect someone to take your spot, but after I sat down with coach and saw what he brought to the table, if my job is to be a team leader, that’s what I’m going to be, so I’m behind him 100 percent,” he said.

Piotrowicz has served as a mentor to Blazek.

“He watched the way I conducted things off the floor, and if he had any questions about anything, I would definitely tell him what I feel he could do,” he said. “I hope to show him how things were done on and off the floor, and he’s able to do things the right way, but also in a way that’s unique to him.”

The list of superlatives is impressive for Blazek, who was named the PSAC Western Division’s Men’s Basketball Player of the Week Monday after receiving Freshman-of-the-week honors four times this season. In addition, Blazek leads the PSAC as an 89 percent free throw shooter and is the Knights’ best shooter from 3-point range, where he hits at a 43 percent clip.

Making his performances last week all the more impressive was that they came on the heels of one of his worst games of the season in the Knights’ 68-67 loss to California University of Pennsylvania Feb. 4. Blazek was limited by foul trouble and logged a season-low 21 minutes on the floor, while tallying seven points.

Blazek said he fell back on the basics after the rough outing.

“Against Edinboro and Clarion, I just tried to let it flow and do what I love to do, which is play the game of basketball,” he said.

But that didn’t discourage Blazkek, who Reilly said isn’t concerned with personal accolades.

“I don’t think anyone knew that he had 37 points, and I don’t think anyone really cared, including Adam,” Reilly said. “The happiest I saw him get was when he threw two lob passes to Darrell (Blanton), who just about took the rim off.”

But his performance hasn’t gone unnoticed for Piotrowicz, who made a bold statement about Blazek’s future.

“If he keeps it up the way he’s playing, he could go down as one of the best Gannon players ever,” he said.


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