The Blake Hinze basketball adventure may be ending.
At the least, there will be interruption. The 6-foot former Cody High School all-state guard who just completed two seasons at Northwest College, could have gone on to finish two more years of eligibility at a four-year school next fall.
But he isn’t going to do it. For a guy who is 20 years old, Hinze is starting to develop an old man body, one with a chip here, an ache there, and he is calling a time out. With some reluctance and some relief, he intends to enroll at the University of Wyoming to major in business management while giving his body a year’s rest before deciding if more college basketball is what he wants.
“I’ve decided to take a year off,” Hinze said recently.
During two seasons of play for the Trappers, Hinze was known for his explosive jump shot, averaging around 10 points a game, but he was better known for his stingy defense. Coach Brian Erickson often put Hinze on the opponent’s toughest scorer. Sometimes that meant shadowing someone several inches taller. Hinze didn’t care about such basic logistics. He took the assignment as a challenge and took pride in doing that job well.
“The defensive thing is hard to do well,” Hinze said.
It is often said in basketball circles defense is more about hard work than anything else. The props usually go to the player who scores the most points. Respect is more subtlety earned without the ball.
A gym rat who put uncounted hours into improving his game for years, lately Hinze is on hiatus from hoops. He played the second half of this season with a jammed right wrist, which gave him considerable pain. He could write his name, but it hurt when he took a shot. He is going to need surgery with a month’s recovery time for that problem.
Hinze has had a left ankle problem since early in high school. He either went around breaking it or spraining it. Perhaps he will undergo ankle surgery, too, but rest may be a sufficient tool here. And then there are his knees. Often, they just plain ache after a game or a hard workout.
He is too young for that aggravation. Hinze said he is already thinking about how if he gets married and has kids he would like to be able to play with them pain-free.
This is why for the time being the idea of his most stringent exercise being sitting in a classroom taking notes has some appeal.
In April, when a season has just ended, talking like this is more of a theoretical concept. It is when the next season starts and they are bouncing basketballs and you are in the stands, not on the court, that the challenge really occurs.
“I’m going to miss it when it comes around,” Hinze said. “I really love basketball. It’s just a year to see what’s going on.”
Hinze was the rare Northwest player from Wyoming who did not redshirt coming directly out of high school. It was a last-minute decision between him and Erickson that he would play as a true freshman. Well, this could turn into a postponed redshirt year.
“I would have two seasons left,” Hinze said of resuming play.
Hinze recognizes that by playing two seasons of junior college basketball (and for those with long memories going back a year-and-a-half, also briefly playing for the Trapper soccer team), he beat the odds. Nearly every kid coming out of high school would love to play at the next level. Not one in 10 are able to do so.
Hinze may yet have a second chance, but if not, and this is it for him wearing a college uniform, he will take many things from the experience.
“I’d be glad I got to play two years,” Hinze said. He got to know other former Wyoming high school players like Seth Bennett and Jordan Banks. He met players from foreign countries. He made lasting friendships. “I am glad I played. It’s something I’ll remember.”