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Maine East junior Marko Protic (center) goes up for a basket against Guerin junior Gavin Byrne (right) while junior Anthony Marra (left) looks on during the Battle at the Ridge basketball tournament at Northridge Prep High School in Niles
Maine East junior Marko Protic grew four inches this summer, giving the Maine East boys basketball program something it desperately desired.
Protic played small forward on Maine East’s sophomore team last year, but he grew to 6-foot-5. Protic’s growth spurt made him the team’s tallest player and resulted in a move into the post. It also provided Blue Demons coach Dave Genis with the backup post player for which he was searching.
“He’s coming along. He’s a very credible backup to Ezeke (Omeke) now,” Genis said. “He’s sprouted and he’s put on a lot of muscle, compared to what he was. He’s done a lot of work in the offseason with us. If you would have seen him last year as a sophomore ... it’s like a completely different kid.”
Protic said he worked on his strength, post moves and finishing around the rim this summer.
Protic is now somebody who can challenge Omeke, a 6-4 sophomore, in practice and give the offense a different dimension.
While Omeke is better suited to bang with opposing posts down low, Protic can step away from the basket — opening the lane for Maine East’s slashers — and knock down jump shots.
He did just that in the team’s 60-44 win over Guerin on Friday. Protic scored seven points and snared a team-high five rebounds. Protic also showed that he still possesses some of the skills he developed as a perimeter player.
The junior made a jump shot from the free-throw line in the first half. He also went 3-for-3 on his free throws, draining all three opportunities with a smooth stroke.
The Maine East coaching staff has been trying to accelerate the junior’s development in the paint. He’s constantly working with Omeke in practice.
“Without (Omeke), I don’t know if I would be where I am now because he really pushes me to be the best I can,” Protic said. “And I try to push him to be the best he can be.”~.
Omeke has taken it upon himself to help Protic grow. Considering the evolution Protic’s body and game have undergone since the end of his sophomore basketball season, Omeke said he expects the junior’s development to continue as the season progresses.
“He had a really big growth spurt and he had to play the post and get familiar with that spot,” Omeke said. “This year, I think he’s way better than he was. He’s been working on his hook shot, his spin back, everything.”