By DAVID GREEN
He’s the big guy on the team, the one who naturally comes up with the most rebounds and blocks.
But he’s also the leader in scoring and he has the best free throw and three-point shooting percentages. On top of that, he finished with a strong second place in assists and he tallies the most steals.
Zack Craig plays a balanced game of basketball. He’s everywhere and he does it all.
His four year’s on Morenci’s varsity team culminated last week with a selection to the first team Class C all-state squad.
Four years ago, Morenci coach Jim Bauer brought the lanky freshman to the varsity team without much hesitation.
As a general rule, he said, there are three factors to consider when moving a younger player to the varsity. Is he going to play more than half the time? Is he going to help the team? Is he going to help himself?
“The answer was ‘yes’ to all three,” Bauer said.
That first year Craig played behind Aaron McClue, the Bulldogs’ most recent all-state player until last week. McClue played underneath and Craig started popping in three-pointers from the outside. He scored 17 points in his first game.
“If there were any doubts,” Bauer said, “that certainly showed that he belonged.”
That was the beginning and he progressively improved each year, Bauer said, not just physically but in how he handled himself on the floor.
“Zack really learned how to adapt in games,” he said. “He gave the team whatever the team needed, whether it was scoring or passing. He always made such an impact on the team one way or another.”
In his junior year, he really started to make everybody on the team better, Bauer said. The Bulldogs ended with a 43-6 record in Craig’s final two seasons.
“Not many players can put up the well-rounded numbers that Zack did,” Bauer said. “The most amazing to me is his 50 percent shooting from three-point range. That’s uncanny.”
Craig scored in the 200-point range as a freshman, then beyond 300 points as a sophomore and 400 as a junior. Finally, he reached 548 in his senior season and ended at 1,606.
“He had his hand in a lot of points, whether it came from him or someone else,” Bauer said, “and that’s just the offensive side.”
He had a team-leading 36 steals this season, along with 66 blocks and an average of 10 rebounds a game.
The moral of the story? You get what you deserve, says Bauer.
“There are probably not many kids in Lenawee County who put up as many shots as him. He’s getting rewarded now for the time he invested.”
For Craig, he still thinks about low points of his career. The loss in this year’s regional finals still stings.
“I can only remember the bad things,” he said.
However, there was a dunk or two that can bring back a smile, and he can easily come up with his favorite moment. It happened this season, when classmate Jed Hall scored his first three-pointer and the assist came from Craig.
Hall was working his way back into the lineup after suffering two broken legs and other injuries in an automobile accident last summer.
“Austin [Wolf] was driving and I’m pointing to Jed,” Craig remembers. “Austin passed to me and I got it to Jed.”
“Zack and Jed played so much together, it was like they could read each other’s mind,” Bauer said.
Craig made a college visit earlier this week to check out a program that has his interest and there are others to consider.
Coach Bauer hopes his star’s prowess on the court will lead to a free-ride at some school.
But before college practice begins, there’s some other athletic activity to attend to: baseball.
Yes, there was a time when Zack Craig did something besides shoot hoops and he’s heading back to the baseball diamond this spring.
Just one more facet of the well-balanced athlete.– March 28, 2007