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Melrose-Mindoro High School's Drew Blaken fights for a rebound during the Mustangs' game with West Salem earlier this season. Blaken, a senior, has emerged as one of Melrose-Mindoro's key players.

NATE BEIER, For the Chronicle

Three key components have helped Melrose-Mindoro High School senior Drew Blaken emerge as one of the Mustang’s top playmakers this season.

The 6-foot-1 forward, who has been a varsity starter since his sophomore year, is in his final season of high school basketball and he’s making it count. Blaken’s been achieving consistent numbers every game as he leads the Mustangs in scoring, which brings us to his first key to success — consistency.

Blaken recorded a double-double last week against independence, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Before that, he recorded 20 points against Blair-Taylor, 14 against Bangor, 12 against Sparta. In other words, this guy can score and score some more. Blaken’s big role this season is something that coach Kevin Christopherson said has been brewing since his freshman year.

“This year, Drew stepped into a bigger role,” said Christopherson, who is in his first year as Melrose-Mindoro’s varsity coach. “His sophomore year he got beat around playing varsity, and wasn’t super strong like he is now. He really grew from that to come where he is now.”

Blaken’s consistent outings has made him one of the team’s top all-around players. Although his success has helped the Mustangs excel, he doesn’t like to take much credit. Looking at basketball as a team sport is something that he believes in and emphasizes in his game and in his actions.

“A lot of it is not really making plays for yourself, but making plays for your teammates,” Blaken said. “Using your teammates as a weapon and utilizing the other four players on the court, I think that’s a big part of putting up consistent numbers.”

The Mustangs (8-3, 7-0) currently lead the Dairyland Conference with an unbeaten record, but Whitehall (8-5, 7-1) is right behind, which helps lead into the second key of Blaken’s success — his teammates.

Melrose-Mindoro’s starting roster features a talented group of juniors and seniors. What separates this group is that they’ve been playing together since fourth grade and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as each other’s personality.

The Mustang’s nearly eight years of playing together is something that Blaken capitalizes on each time they set foot on the court.

“Some teams are really diverse and play seniors, sophomores, freshmen and juniors,” Blaken said. “We just play together like we have been for eight years while other teams have been playing together for a year or two, so it’s definitely an advantage on our part.”

The final key to Blaken’s success, he believes, is being a three-sport athlete. That he said, comes as one of the advantages of attending a school with a small enrollment.

In the fall, he’s the quarterback of the football team. After that, he transitions from basketball to track, all with many of the same teammates.

“It’s (Melrose-Mindoro) a small school, so we all get to play,” Blaken said. “The people I’m throwing to on the football field are the people I’m passing the basketball to. It builds chemistry and it’s another thing to use as an advantage against other teams.”

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