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Verbeek follows father’s footsteps at Calvin Christian

By: Lenny Padilla, February 17, 2016, 2:27 pm


Grandville – Blake Verbeek displays a big smile when he talks about his height.

After all, the Grandville Calvin Christian forward is 6-foot-9 and he’s only a sophomore.

“Six-foot-nine and a half,” he’s quick to say.

There is door in the Verbeek home with numerous pencil marks notched in it that serve as a growth chart. The West Michigan family might run out of space soon as Verbeek is sprouting like a weed.

“I’ve always got to measure when I walk past it,” Verbeek said. “Everyone in the family does to see how much we’ve grown.”

He is averaging 12.5 points and 9.3 rebounds and is one of the top players in the class of 2018.

College coaches have taken notice of Verbeek, too. Six or seven teams have contacted Calvin Christian coach Ryan Stevens about the smooth-shooting, right-handed forward. He’s made several unofficial visits so far, including trips to Central Michigan and Oakland University.

“It’s fun. I’m having a good time with it,” he said of the recruiting process. “The cool part is hearing coaches that call coach Stevens and making college visits.”

So where would he like to play?

“I’d love to play somewhere in the Big Ten,” he said. “I don’t know where yet. I love Michigan State, being from Michigan and all. But, if there was an ideal place, it would probably be Duke.”

College is still a long way off. Verbeek still has much to learn in what consistently been one of the state’s Class C programs. The Squires (13-2, 6-2 in the O-K Silver Division) were ranked as high as No. 8 earlier this season.

“He’s gotten better from the beginning of the year,” said Stevens, who is in his 18th season at Calvin Christian. “He’s gotten stronger with the basketball. He’s learning where he should be and where he can score and he’s getting a lot of rebounds and blocking some shots. I think he’s progressed a ton.

“We’ve also learned how to play with him, too,” Stevens added. “It’s a process when you have three returning seniors (Braden Stevens, Tony DeWitte and Jake Arnoys) who have played a long time together.”

DeWitte leads the team in scoring and Braden Stevens, the coach’s son, is the facilitator and floor leader. He’s also the first person to get on Verbeek when he needs to be challenged on the court. “He tells me stuff that I need to be doing,” Verbeek said. “But him being a senior, I understand it. It makes me better.”

Height runs in the Verbeek family. Blake’s father, Nate Verbeek is 6-6 and was a solid player in his day, too. He led Calvin Christian to the Class B state championship game in 1992 and holds the school’s career scoring record with 1,450 points. He went on to a four-year career at Grand Valley State where his 1,394 points are 12th in school history. Nate’s brother, Ben Verbeek, scored the game-winning layup to win the 1994 Class C state championship game in overtime to beat Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

So can Blake break his dad’s prep scoring record?

“We joke about that every once in a while,” Nate said. “If that happened, that would be awesome if he broke my scoring record.”

Blake isn’t so sure, however.

“I’ve thought about it, but I don’t even know if it’s possible,” he said. “I look at his points and I’m like ‘wow, I’d have to average like 25 to get there.’ ”

Nate and Lisa Verbeek have two other children, a daughter, Anika, 13, and son Trey, 8. Blake will turn 16-years-old in March. He’s quickly growing out of his clothes and can’t wait to get his driver’s license.

Nate said being a parent in the stands isn’t always easy.

“It was easier being a player than being a parent,” he said. “It’s more nerve-wracking being up in the stands seeing my kid play.”

Blake is a very good shooter for a player with his height. He’s also been working on his post moves. But the last thing he’s worried about is dunking. That doesn’t take as much skill when you are 6-9.

“I’ve dunked twice this year,” he said. “Sometimes it’s (the lack) of opportunity and sometimes it’s a mentality. During practice, I’ll dunk on the break, if I have the chance. I can’t do a drop-step dunk yet. I mean, I can dunk from a stand-still, but not with anyone on me.”

Calvin Christian has a history of tall, lanky players, notably Duane Bosma (6-9, Hope College), Tyler Kruis (6-9, Calvin College), Marcus VanderHeide (6-6, Canisius/Hope College) and Brandon Geels (6-7).

“Blake has great hands,” Stevens said. “He probably is the tallest kid that I’ve had that can shoot it like him. Tyler Kruis was 6-foot-9 and he could hit a midrange shot and hit a three here and there. Blake has no problem shooting anywhere on the court.”

His teammates don’t go easy on him in practice, and he welcomes it. 

“They get to foul me as much as they want,” he said. “Fouls don’t count in practice.”

He does have two other post players to practice against. Juniors Mitchell Tanja is 6-6 and Jake Bouma is 6-4 keep him honest. 

At 170 pounds, Verbeek said he needs to add weight to increase his effectiveness inside.

“I lifted weights and tried to put on weight last summer and it didn’t work that well since I’m still growing,” Verbeek said. “Hopefully I can put on some pounds this summer.”

He has much of his summer planned out, participating in camps and playing travel ball with the Michigan Basketball Academy team.

Verbeek said there isn’t anyone he patterns his game around, but really likes college players who are similar to him.

“There’s a guy at Syracuse, Tyler Lydon. He’s a freshman this year,” Blake said of the 6-8, 210-pound Lydon. “He’s exactly like me. He shoots the ball really well and has good post moves … and he’s tall and skinny.”

But his father is still his hero and the person he measures himself against. Blake passed him in height last winter, a proud moment for Nate. But that doesn’t mean Blake takes it easy when they play one-on-one.

“I beat him a few times in the driveway. He doesn’t like to play me anymore,” Blake said with a laugh. “He’s getting a little too old.”