Ayares: Blacksburg big man won’t back down
BLACKSBURG – Michael Ayares may have never known a minute of high school varsity basketball in which the play wasn’t highly physical.
When you’re a 6-foot-7-inch center, as the Blacksburg senior is, the reality is, your life will be one episode of inside pounding and banging after another. That’s just the way it is, particularly in the rugged River Ridge District.
That’s just in the games, though. It may get even tougher for Ayares at practice.
It’s true that he’s not going to see many opponents who can look him in the eye during the regular season , but most opposing players who don’t have his height are sure to compensate by doing everything they can in the way of grinding, bumping, elbowing, holding, and shoving – anything short of felonious assault the referee will allow or overlook – to even things up.
Ayares has started since last year and has had varsity minutes ever since he was a sophomore, so he’s used to it by now. Somebody’s always sizing him up for the next play. He gets all the preparation he needs right there in Bruins workouts.
Blacksburg has some other players of good size. Adam Vaught is a bruiser 6-foot, 7-inch center himself. Kaleb Bohrnstedt is more of wing player but he goes 6 feet 6 inches and is football tough. Christian Green is 6-foot, 4-inches but looks taller. He’ll bang with the rest of them.
It all adds up over the course of a season
Looking at it from Ayares perspective, practice can be as much of a test as anything.
“We’ve got some big boys,” he said. “They’ll play you tough.”
Ayares hasn’t backed down. Instead, he’s accepted the challenge and prospered. He’s having his best season and began the week ranked No. 4 in Timesland in rebounding at 8.6 per game and is in the upper ranks of scorers with 16.7 points per game.
Ayares’ play has been one of the reasons that Blacksburg was tied atop the district standings with Salem after the Bruins lost to Cave Spring 59-47 Tuesday.
“He’s a consistent kid,” Blacksburg coach Doug Day said. “He does a lot of things well. He shoots the ball well, he passes well – he’s smart. He’s smart on and off the court. He’s been rock-solid.”
Part of being solid physically is being solid mentally, and Ayares has been that as his coach noted. One indication of the intelligence Ayares brings to the contest is he doesn’t take bad shots. He was shooting 115 of 187 (61.2 percent) from the floor to prove it. That ranked sixth in Timesland. He was also getting the free throw line, too, where he’s made 36 of 50 (72 percent).
Ayares was called up to varsity part of the way through his sophomore year. By the time the Bruins were settling into the district schedule, he’d settled into the starting lineup for good.
“Mike’s always been a hard worker, a good leader, a team player,” Day said. “Toward the end of the season last year, he really started to show some progress and come on strong.”
Ayares had played some football earlier in life, but most of the way through high school, he’s been an all-basketball guy.
“Last summer, I played on AAU team that Christiansburg’s coach Shawn Good coached,” he said. “We had guys from Christiansburg and Blacksburg. We played some good competition and that helped me a lot.”
Day saw it coming last year.
“I knew toward the end of last year when Mike really started coming on that this was going to be a great year for him,” Day said. “He worked extremely hard during the summer and came into the year ready to play.”
Ayares has been at his best of late, never more than last weekend when the Bruins erased a 23-point deficit to archrival Christiansburg and won 69-64. Ayares scored 24. It was Blacksburg’s third win in a row and fourth of five. In the previous two games during the streak he had 21 points against Hidden Valley and 23 in the victory over Pulaski County.
“We’re playing well now,” Ayares said. “A lot of guys are stepping up.”
Ayares is being recruited by Roanoke College among others and is considering his options for after graduation. Wherever he ends up, that team won’t have to worry whether he’ll be reluctant to mix it up in the low post.
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