Gerry Blakes knows what a broken ankle feels like. In about a year, he can return the favor on his opponents at the next level.
The 6-foot-4, 175-pound senior point guard at Morningside (Los Angeles) High School became the first known player to orally commit to the Hawaii men’s basketball team and coach Gib Arnold for the 2011-12 season.
Blakes intends to sign with the Rainbow Warriors in the fall (early) signing period next month, despite never having been to the islands. His official visit is set for January.
"The fact that it’s in Hawaii, Coach (Arnold) coming from where I came from in L.A. and stuff," Blakes said of his reasoning. "I just felt like it was a win-win situation."
Blakes overcame a broken ankle early in his junior season to become an energy player and defensive stopper on a Leuzinger High team that won the CIF Southern Section championship.
That injury kept him out from August through December, but possibly was a blessing in disguise; it helped him see the floor differently. Formerly a combo guard who really thought of himself as a 2, Blakes gradually came to embrace the tasks of the point.
"Me breaking my ankle, it made me kind of like have to think about the game more, because I used to be more of a scorer and more of a 2-guard," Blakes said. "I wasn’t slowed down by my ankle breaking, it just made me think more of a guard, think of more ways to play the game. That’s what (motivated) me into being more of an athletic point guard."
He transferred to nearby Morningside in the offseason, and feels he’s primed for a big senior year under coach Donnell Meekins on his way to being an instant-impact player for the Rainbows. During visits, Arnold helped sell him on UH by explaining he had a chance to play right away, Blakes said.
Hiram Thompson, who started at the point the last two years, is one of three seniors who will depart after the 2010-11 season.
Blakes chose Hawaii over Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara, Meekins said.
In competitions over the summer and fall with his new team, Meekins said Blakes has averaged about 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals per game. The coach described him as a "well-balanced" player who could shoot the 3-ball and finish at the rim.
"On the AAU circuit, he played strictly point guard," Meekins said. "He played against all the best players that were in Milwaukee, Las Vegas, big tournaments out here in Los Angeles, as strictly the 1. So we’ll definitely use him at the point guard position, and run him off a couple screens on offense and get him open.
"He had a breakout summer, and right now he’s one of the best players here in Southern California."
Meekins has known the left-handed Blakes since he was 12. He’ll be on the younger side, 17, when he arrives at UH.
"Gerry’s always remained humble; he’s always remained grateful and thankful for everything that he can," Meekins said. "And he works hard. He understands that things don’t come easy."