Mabor Majak has yet to play a varsity basketball game.
So as a freshman, the southpaw from South Sudan may not quite be ready to be the biggest story, even though he’s definitely the tallest story. He stands 7-1. Yes, you heard it right — that’s 7-feet-1….and he’s still growing.
And, yes, he still has a lot to learn . . . but you can’t teach 7-foot-1, you know.
Mabor came to America thanks to The Hoop Group, a national program that helps kids in Africa fulfill their dreams of playing basketball. He found a home thanks to being adopted by the Michael Fox family of Fishers.
“The Hoop Group helps kids come to the U.S. to get a good education and play basketball,’’ said the soft-spoken, gentle giant. “I’m working hard on my education, and I’ve worked hard in AAU ball, spent a lot of time on weights, and now I’m working particularly hard on my defense to help my team — with blocked shots and rebounds. I’m not all that comfortable in offense yet.’’
Still, could we be ready to witness a prime-time performer in the making? Oh my, one can only hope.
Mabor smiled when asked if he thought he’d have a future in basketball at other levels someday. Still smiling, he said that he hoped so.
It’s easy to see why Hamilton Southeastern coach Brian Satterfield certainly must be champing at the bit as he enters his 16th season coaching the Royals. I mean, he may have a kid who could help him and the Royals fulfill some championship dreams, too.
When asked if Mabor is the tallest player he’s coached, Satterfield smiled, and said “oh yeah’’ with a slight chuckle.
The previous tallest player Satterfield coached? “Probably 6-8 Joe Reitz,’’ he said. Yep, that same Joe Reitz, who is an offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts.
“Early on, we’ll probably use Mabor both ways….he just needs to get more minutes, and he can get more minutes now on junior varsity. We’ll work him in on the varsity in certain situations. We hope by the end of year Mabor can give us much more. With our experience, it might be blessing that we don’t have to push him so fast.’’
Right now, though, the main thing to think about in regard to the 2016-17 HSE boys varsity basketball team is depth and possibilities. The Royals are deep, deep, deep. They boast seven experienced seniors. The team has many weapons. Not likely that they’ll sneak up on anyone.
The leader is 6-7 senior Zach Gunn. He’s simply an exceptional talent and a versatile basketball player who can shoot the rock. The 4-year starter has improved each season. He had a big hand in leading the Royals to a sectional title as a freshman.
Gunn, an Indiana Junior All-Star selection averaged 17.2 points and 8.6 rebounds despite missing six games because of a concussion last season.
Good health will loom important for the Royals, who play host to Perry Meridian at 1 p.m. on Saturday, kick off the regular season on Nov. 22 at Muncie Central, and make their home debut on Dec. 2 against Avon.
Another talented player is 6-2 Connor Rotterman, who only played in 15 of the team’s 26 games and was one of 2 players sidelined by mono. He averaged 8.3 points, and should be headed for a solid senior season.
Such a disruption forced Satterfield to make some major changes in his offense.
Still, the Royals — whose 14-12 record can be attributed to not being at full strength throughout — also won the Hoosier Crossroads Conference championship and were runners-up to the Greyhounds in the Carmel Sectional.
The Royals shot 42 percent from field as a team, 36% from behind line, and 75% at the free-throw line.
Rotterman and 6-foot senior guard Jack Davidson each shot 46 percent from behind the arc, along with 53 percent and 49 percent from the field, respectively.
Seniors Austin Holzum (6-1) and Jack Habegger (6-0) could give the Royals quality minutes. Both are good shooters, and Habegger was a top scorer and a steady top-of-the-key shooter on the JV squad last season. Another solid outside shooter looking for playing time is 6-1 junior Nick Bowman, who was a prominent JV player who was another steady shooter and scorer a year ago.
Seniors Aaron Shank (6-5) and Zach Mutchner (6-4) should get some minutes, too, along with sophomore left-hander Noah Smith (6-1), who appeared in all 26 games and even started several times. Shank got some minutes last year, and Mutchner, also a solid football player, does a lot of the dirty work for the Royals.
Junior Chaz Birchfield (6-4) and Aaron Etherington (6-5) should also be in the mix for ample playing time.
Smith and Etherington and Birchfield have great athletic ability, which will add a great deal to the overall make-up of the team.
Chris Grubbs (6-4) is also a quality player in a strong freshman class; and Jerron Bond, a 6-1 junior transfer from Lawrence North, also has caught Satterfield’s eye. He has a chance to do some special things for the Royals.
“We have a good situation. We have depth and experience. We actually have 12 players we think can help us,’’ Satterfield said. “It’s probably the best chemistry we’ve had. The kids, especially the seniors, have been together (for awhile) and they get along very well.
“We can spread the floor much better now….and we love to push the ball. Mabor can also run the floor, so he won’t be a hinderance to us.’’
How far can these Royals go? Well, it could be a fun ride!
Satterfield says he’s excited. So are the Royals. And so are we!
*—Mark Morrow, who has resided in Fishers since 1989, has been a journalist for 53 years. He formerly owned the Hamilton County Sports Daily website. He was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters-Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 2015. He now blogs for hseroyalsathletics.com(.)