Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Catching Up With: Mike Kach, Part II

ZS: What kind of impact did (former Holy Cross guard) Torey Thomas have on you? How did he help propel your game?

MK: Torey Thomas is somebody I have a huge amount of respect for. He was the sole reason I played AAU for the Connecticut Flame. He's somebody that has done amazing things on the court overseas, but more importantly amazing things in the community of White Plains. Just really a solid dude...

As far as from a player's perspective, there's no point guard I would go to battle with more than Torey. He's a crazy competitor, and a point guard that prides himself on making his teammates better around him.

 We had a couple of years with the Flame where Torey and I were just going crazy in the national tournaments. Like I said before, If I'm going to take a point guard on my team--I say it all the time without hesitation--Torey Thomas.

ZS: How intense was the Mahopac/Carmel rivalry in those days? How did your role grow from being an inexperienced freshman to a 1,500+ point scorer against the hiked up Section 1 competition of that era?

MK: The Carmel/Pac rivalry was crazy. Talk about two teams who really hated each other...

I remember for me as a player, I was the leading scorer for a 4-16 team my freshman year. Mahopac went to the County Center that year (2000) and played against Ben Gordon and Mount Vernon. I have always thought Ben to have the smoothest, most effortless game I have ever seen. He elevated like three feet on his jumper.

 I loved his game and loved watching him play. I knew right then I needed to be there at some point in time throughout my high school experience. My senior year (2003), we beat Mahopac pretty good both times we played them. We ended up going to the County Center against White Plains.

In terms of big-time players in high school, just like I said I would take Torey as a point guard on my team, I will also say that I haven't played against anybody as skilled as (JFK Catholic guard) Donnie McGrath. To this day, I know he's an NBA player, somebody I have the utmost respect for.

ZS: What's your experience now training with young players and what habits do you try to instill?

MK: My training with kids is a little different than how I train myself. I work with younger kids so I try to instill in them confidence, perseverance and understanding of the game. They have enough pressure on them from coaches and their parents that I won't add to.

 Don't get me wrong, I'll snap on them if they're not listening or respecting my knowledge of the game. Yet it has always been very important to teach life skills along with basketball skills. Because at the end of the day, all of us won't be Division-I players...But we can all be great people, and nothing has taught me more about life than being a part of the team and playing sports.

ZS: What has your brother John's resiliency and courage in the face of adversity, his survival with meningitis taught you about life?

MK: My brother's resiliency has been integral in my development as a person. 

Every time I get in a situation where I feel things are going to be tough, I think about what he had to go through in order to survive, and I try to push on with whatever I'm doing. 

He's always gotten a kick out of my jumping ability. He couldn't jump over a phone book but he had much better skills than I did. I always say that if you can combine my athleticism with his skills, it would be a wrap...

ZS: How did you initially react when learning of when he was sick?

MK: When he got sick, it was the hardest time in my life. When a doctor is looking you in the eyes saying you have to say goodbye to your hero, to your you're best friend, that's a tough thing for a 14-year-old kid to go through.

 And then after his amputations, after seeing him struggle during the first couple of see him in that dark time was absolutely gut-wrenching. But I always knew that John would change the world not with his hands or his legs, but with his mind and his spirit. And that's exactly what he has done.

ZS: How has the culture changed from the time you were at Carmel to the current day? In which ways has social media shifted a change in today's athlete?

MK: I think social media has had a huge impact...10 years ago today, if you had a good game then it is in the newspapers the next day, end of story. 

If you have a good season and average a lot of points, among the leading scorers in the Section, it will be listed every Sunday, all of that stuff.

Nowadays, kids have access to all different types of immediate information, recruiting websites, etc...Which can do one of a few things...

 It can over-inflate the athlete's idea of how good they really are...

It could make somebody want to do more things on their own for personal recognition, and place less emphasis on a team win. 

Those aspects are definitely the issues with young athletes nowadays. 

However, you're never going to hide true competitors. 

What the internet has also done is spark a fire in people who aren't getting the recognition they deserve. 

And those people will just work that much harder. Shoot a few more jumpers than the others may. Stay in the gym longer. When it comes to athletics, the most important thing is to be a competitor.

 And there's always going to be competitors out there no matter the day and age it is...the cream always rises to the top.

ZS: Is the game still there? Can you still put someone on a poster?

MK: Yeah, I still play. If I'm doing basketball lessons I feel it is in my best interest to continue to play and be somewhat capable. I can still do all the dunks I used to do.

 I can still do the 360s and the wind mills and all that. But now, at 30 years old, it's on a much smaller scale and it hurts a bit more when I land..

But, I definitely continue to try and do all that stuff whenever I can because I know that eventually it won't be there anymore. I know it is a pretty unique thing to be able to do. I still appreciate it.