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Sarasota Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 2 years ago

Riverview star's offseason injury puts talent in perspective

Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

So often, we take talent for granted when watching sports.

“They have it now, they’ll have it forever. They’re untouchable. Nothing can stop them,” we, or at least I, think to myself often. As a Washington Capitals fan, I’m going through this right now with Alexander Ovechkin (who is leading the NHL in goals, again, by the way).

Then something happens that shatters that false reality. Shatters it like a wrist under the weight of a falling 6-foot-4 body. That’s what happened last summer to Riverview High’s dual-sport star Malachi Wideman, a four-star football prospect who might be even better at basketball. While playing in an AAU basketball game in Augusta, Ga., Wideman went for a chase-down block.

Malachi Wideman is recovered from an offseason wrist injury.

“I blocked it off the backboard and came down awkwardly,” Wideman recalled. “I put my hand down and broke my wrist.”

Wideman’s AAU and high school coach, BJ Ivey, wasn’t there to witness the injury. Instead, the Sarasota County Teacher of the Year was at a conference in Orlando with award recipients from the other counties. He left the conference to visit Wideman in the hospital, he said.

The injury caused Wideman to miss the rest of the AAU season and the Rams’ football season, though he was back on the basketball court a few weeks into the school year. There was no reason to rush things. Wideman is on what he and Ivey call a five-year plan. Stay focused through the last three years of high school on the court and in the classroom. Go to a good school, and do the same thing there for two years. If Wideman does that, Ivey said, “he can set himself up for life.”

Wideman said he never worried about whether he’d return to full-power after the injury. You can’t think about that as a player, or you’ll fulfill that prophecy. I thought about it as a fan of the game, though. Wideman has perhaps the most raw talent of any high school basketballer I’ve covered. A YouTube video of his dunks has garnered more than 30,000 views, and that’s one of many videos of Wideman. No matter your school allegiance, he’s insanely fun to watch. The thought did creep into my mind: “What if he’s not the same?”

“His skill set has improved so much,” Ivey said. “His handling, his shooting, it’s all there, and his athleticism has always been off the charts. That remains consistent.”

I shouldn’t have worried. He dropped 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the Rams’ 80-56 season-opening win against Venice High on Nov. 29, including a breakaway dunk on which he bounce-passed to himself. In fact, Wideman said he’s expecting to be more involved in the offense this season, which has to put a fright into Riverview’s opponents.

Ivey said the injury indirectly helped Wideman. Being forced to miss the football season made him focus on basketball, and for a longer period of time.

“His skill set has improved so much,” Ivey said. “His handling, his shooting, it’s all there, and his athleticism has always been off the charts. That remains consistent.”

For what it’s worth, Wideman said he plans on playing football again next season. When he’s so good at both sports, it’s hard to blame him.

That being said, Wideman is one of the lucky ones. Some athletes never recover from their injuries. So, take advantage of Wideman’s luck. Watch a few Riverview games, or at least search for his highlights on YouTube.


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