Off the basketball court, Marcus Schade does not like the bright lights.
The Braden River High senior is reserved by nature. He has no problem practicing by himself and when he finds a pocket of down time, his favorite thing to do is take a long nap, recuperating from all the energy he spends leading the Pirates.
When he's playing, Schade directs his teammates on offense and is not afraid of taking his own shot. In fact, it's his best skill. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard is in the midst of another strong season for Braden River.
He's averaging 22.1 points per game, up from 16.5 points per game last season. As of Jan. 26, it is the 36th-best average in Florida and the fifth-best average in the Florida High School Athletic Association's Class 5A behind leader Ryan Blount of Rockledge High (26.7).
Schade also leads the team in rebounds (5.4 per game), a sign of how hard he works. While he first made his mark as a 3-point shooter, he's added versatility to his game over his three varsity seasons, and now is equally adept at scoring in the post or in transition.
He said his footwork still needs to be quicker, and he is in the process of working on that aspect of his game. Another of his strengths is that he is never satisfied.
"He loves the game of basketball," Pirates assistant coach Jerome Murray said. "He's not LeBron James or Kobe Bryant on the athletic side of things, but he's dedicated to the game and that allows him to elevate and excel."
Schade was modest when told of his coach's remark. It is easy to dedicate yourself to a game when you love it.
He said it is the grind of basketball that keeps him engaged.
Little by little, he said he sees himself improve every day. He said the feeling of seeing hard work turn into something real is unparalleled.
The only thing that comes close is the roar of the crowd when he sinks a big-time shot.
Schade's uptick in scoring this season has been a necessity for the Pirates. The team entered the season with a mix of transfer players along with players with little experience at the varsity level. As a result, the team has struggled at times, like back-to-back losses (Jan. 25-26) to Cardinal Mooney High, a 70-60 road defeat, and to Riverview High, a 46-42 loss at home. The losses brought the team's record to 14-8.
Thanks in part to Schade's play and on-court leadership, the Pirates still have a shot at making noise in the postseason. Braden River is ranked first in District 10 as of Jan. 27 and recorded a 49-42 road win over Parrish Community High, arguably the Pirates' biggest threat, on Jan. 19. Even in the loss to Riverview, Schade scored 18 of the team's 42 points. He also showed a willingness to defend anyone on the opposing roster, even Riverview's 6-foot-5 junior forward Rhys Gamble. He also added emotional support to his teammates when shots weren't falling, doling out supportive high-fives at every opportunity.
Outside of basketball, Schade's favorite way to pass the time is not movies or television, but music. In that regard, he's an omnivore. All genres are open as long as the music is good, with Rex Orange County, SZA and Travis Scott being artists among his recent listens. In the locker room, Schade said, the team looks to him to provide pregame jams. In that context, Schade said, the music tends to be more rap-forward to get everyone in the right mindset. It's another way to bring the team together, Schade said.
"We feed off of each other's energy," Schade said. "When it is positive energy, we have fun. But every now and then, we don't have as much fun. That's when we don't play as well. We need to celebrate each other's accomplishments and not worry about ourselves as much."
Schade and the Pirates will play their final regular season game at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 against Shorecrest Prep at home. The district tournament will begin Feb. 6, time and location to be determined based on seeding. After that, who knows? The Pirates might advance to the regional tournament, or they might be finished. Either way, Schade's high school career will soon be coming to an end. Schade said he's talking to a few different colleges about playing for them next season, though no decision is close.
Schade has not received the accolades that former Pirates girls basketball star O'Mariah Gordon, now a junior at Florida State University, received, but he is fine with that. His main is to do whatever the team needs. That is a similarity between the two.
That desire to drive the team forward made Gordon, who is 5-foot-3, a wonder to watch. Schade's toughness and precision makes him fun to watch, too, and they both helped elevate their respective programs.
In her senior season, Gordon led the Pirates to the regional semifinals. The basketball community will soon see how far Schade and the Pirates can go in his final hurrah. Whatever the answer, he will lead the team his way, playing the pregame music, speaking up when he has to say something, and scoring in bunches.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.