Padecky: Big guys don’t scare Vikings’ Templeton

By BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Tuesday afternoon inside the Montgomery gym, Zack Templeton took off running from mid-court, throwing himself into the air, parallel to the floor, until he hit the wood with mostly his chest and stomach, arms out to his side, sliding, grinning, a human 747 making a really terrible landing. Templeton skidded to a stop near the top of the key.

Bob Padecky says Montgomery's Zack Templeton feeds off being a mighty mite, proving that being small is not a handicap. Photo by Beth Schlanker / The Press Democrat

Seconds later, Montgomery teammate Anthony Becker took off, landed, slid, stopped. He didn’t travel as far. Templeton won this one. It’s a scene played out before every Montgomery basketball practice this season. It’s Templeton versus a teammate. And to the surprise of no one, it was Templeton who thought of the slide-and-ride months ago. That Templeton hasn’t done it bare-chested is only because no one has dared him yet.

And thus begins the Zack Templeton Primer, the quintessential example of how the Viking point guard — all 5-foot-8, 135 pounds of him — can drive to the basket without fear, knowing there very well may be someone a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier waiting for him, wanting to grind him to dust.

“Teams try to post me up,” said Templeton, describing a size mismatch, “and I try to give them a little knee, a little cheap shot. I know everyone I play against is bigger and stronger. That’s OK. Big guys don’t scare me. If I get hit, I get hit it.”
Truth to tell, Templeton, 17, feeds off being a mighty mite, proving that being small is not a handicap. He also has another weapon at his disposal. He doesn’t look 17. He has this baby face. He’ll be 50 years old and he’ll probably still be carded for a liquor purchase.

“Against Northgate,” said Templeton of a recent playoff game, “someone yelled from the stands, ‘Hey, go back to the third grade!’ Last year someone yelled, ‘Aren’t you out past your bedtime?’”
And then Baby Face Templeton takes the ball, dribbles like a blur, passes like a fiend, throws a lob shot — he calls it a floater. All of a sudden, just like that, Templeton grows up very quickly in the eyes of the players trying to defend him. Vikings coach Tom Fitchie said, “He’s not only the fastest kid we have on the court, he’s the fastest kid in the school.”
All of which begs the obvious question.

“What kind of player would you be if you were 6-foot-8, 235 pounds?”
“I wouldn’t have the same motivation,” said Templeton, who grew up idolizing former Montgomery and SRJC star Zac Tiedeman. “If I was that big, everyone would have expectations of me. At my size, no one expects anything.”

And that’s the fun for Templeton, to produce a little shock and awe. Volumes upon volumes of sports history have been written about the undersized athlete. That plot line, like Templeton’s face, will never get old. Surprise fuels sports.

“I know we’re not intimidating to look at,” he said. “When people first look at us, they probably laugh at us.”

Zack Templeton was smiling when he said that.

For more North Bay sports, go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.