PENDER — Six years ago, the path was set before Sam Mailloux. Now, the path has led the recent Pender graduate to the cusp of a collegiate career at Midland University.
There’s one other stop along the way: the Northeast Nebraska All-Star Boys Basketball Classic on Friday. Tipoff is inside the Cox Activities Center at 8 p.m.
In one way, it will be a reunion of sorts — Mailloux will have a pair of summer ball teammates in Merrix Denn of Osmond and Blake Anderson of West Point-Beemer joining him among the Dark team. Solomon Peitz of Wakefield is another teammate who will be on the Light team.
Those four were part of the Blue Ox Tropics that traveled and played in various tournaments the past four years. As might be expected, Mailloux is looking forward to playing with those guys in particular.
“I just really want to have fun,” Mailloux said. “I think it will be fun to play with them.”
The path for Mailloux was set by his older brother, Mitchell, who has returned to his alma mater as the boys basketball coach this summer. Six years ago, it was Mitchell who completed a record-setting career, but now, Sam’s name has since replaced Mitchell’s throughout the record board.
All of them, that is, except the Pendragons’ scoring record — Mitchell is third in school history at 1,177 points, while Sam finished eighth all-time at Pender with 1,093.
Sam, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard/forward, has the most rebounds in a game (25) and his 323 rebounds his junior year are the most all-time in school history. He also owns school records in blocked shots in a game (17), season (129) and career (318).
In one way, all that’s done is fuel the conversations around the family dinner table.
“We just argue about who’s better,” Sam said. “I let him know that I broke most of his records, so I hold that. But he’s got me in points, so he holds that one against me.”
Now, Sam graduates from Pender just as Mitchell makes his return. The elder Mailloux has been named the new boys basketball coach for the Pendragons. Maybe it’s a good thing that the timing worked out this way.
“I don’t know if that would have worked out, to be honest,” Mailloux said.
In another aspect, it added to the younger Mailloux’s motivation.
“It really helped me,” Sam said. “My brother is a really hard worker, so I’d see him in the gym and I’d be a little third grader and I’d want to come and shoot, too. Once I got older, I followed, and seeing him play college ball (at Doane University) just made me want to do it too.”
MAILLOUX SAID he understood that, while he is taller than most Class D players, he won’t be in college. That realization helped him foster an adequate perimeter shooting game. As a senior, he averaged 16.7 points, including 52% inside the arc and 34% from 3-point range. He had more blocked shots (74) than personal fouls (63).
“On defense, I mostly sat in the middle and waited to play help-side defense, try to block some shots,” he said. “On the offensive side, I like to spread the floor a little bit, stretch it out, play a little on the outside, play a little on the inside, try to do a little bit of everything.”
Mailloux said that Pender entered the season with high hopes, but an overtime loss to eventual Class C2 state qualifier Wakefield in the season opener set the tone. Pender finished 9-14.
“I honestly think that if we had won that game, that would have shifted the momentum of our season entirely,” Mailloux said. “We lost a lot of close games.”