The Mercer County basketball team has four starters averaging double-digit scoring, but the one starter who doesn’t may be the most important piece to the puzzle.
Senior Alijah Mink, who averages 6.3 points per game, is often tasked with the most difficult and thankless job for the Titans: guard the other teams’ best player.
“His most important focus should be to try to be the best defender in the region. He’s got the talent and the body for it,” said Mercer County Head Coach Josh Cook. “Alijah has the IQ to understand how to adjust to different players and he has really bought into that.”
Mink’s determination to make the middle school basketball team years ago may be what drives him each night as he guards some of the state’s top players.
“I started playing when I was really young, but I didn’t play for the school until eighth-grade,” said Mink. “I mostly played YMCA and stuff like that.”
During his eighth-grade year, Mink said a growth spurt and extra practice finally landed him a spot on the King Middle School basketball team.
“I tried out in sixth and seventh grade, but I didn’t make it. Coach Michael John (Johnson) gave me the chance in eighth-grade,” said Mink, who has been recruited by Asbury University and St. Catharine College.
That one chance was all Mink needed.
He has played varsity each of his four years of high school, including starting the past two years. He has almost 400 career points and has pulled down almost 200 rebounds, but defense is all Mink wants to talk about.
“I know my role is to hit down the open shots and to distribute the ball, but most importantly it is to be a lockdown defender,” said Mink. “Before the games Coach Cook always tells me that I am the best defender in the 12th Region, so I just try to go out with that mindset each night.”
While it’s Cook’s job to know who the other team’s best players are before the game, it is Mink’s job to slow them down.
“We give him the scouting information, but on the floor he is the one who has to go out and execute it for 32 minutes,” said Cook.
So far this season, Mink has done a good job at that.
In the Titans’ 20 wins, the opposing team’s leading scorers have only scored their average five times. In eight games, the opposing teams’ leading scorer has been held to less than 10 points.
Pick up a copy of this weeks Harrodsburg Herald or subscribe to our online edition for more on Mink’s journey.