Some might consider Columbus East forward Zach Martindale as the guy who has to do the dirty work.
Then again, Martindale’s value to the Olympians is far more than mop-up duty.
At 6-foot-4, Martindale is kind of a “tweener,” a guy who could easily play the wing but by necessity slugs it out in the middle, usually against bigger bodies.
“I like the challenge of guarding a bigger person,” said Martindale, a senior. “I’m used to all the battling. But I do have court burns on my hips, and I have bruises and scars.”
The Columbus East boys basketball team has lost three straight games after an 11-3 start.
Friday’S OPPONENT: Madison Cubs
TipOFF: 7:30 p.m.
where: Madison High School, 743 Clifty Dr., Madison
Although Martindale believes he could be an efficient outside shooter if the need was there, he admits, “I’m not as good a shooter as guys like (teammate) Nate Rich. My priority is scoring down low because that’s what is best for the team.”
Martindale has a knack of losing his defender under the basket. Countless times this season, opposing coaches have twisted in agony watching Martindale find a seam in the defense, take a pass and turn and score an uncontested layup. He has turned that ability into an art form.
“But it’s my teammates,” Martindale said. “They drive and dish off to me. And if the other team is focusing on me, then it leaves other people open. If I score two points and we win, I’m satisfied.”
East coach Brent Chitty said Martindale simply is willing to tackle any assignment that comes his way.
“He is a team player,” Chitty said. “Zach is that kind of guy who always is around the basket. He has done a great job for us. He can guard quickness and he can guard size.
“I always tell people that Zach is the kind of guy who will get the rebound at one end, then will dribble down the floor and get the layup at the other end.”
Those who watch East know that Martindale doesn’t do a whole lot of dribbling. He usually is bumping around in the paint with the big guys.
“You have to see that open spot,” he said. “You see a miscommunication by the other team, or you give your guy a shove toward the middle. It can really be a tough game down low.”
On defense, Martindale said his toughest work has to be denying bigger players the ball.
“Whenever they don’t have the ball, I don’t want them to get it back,” he said. “I try to get my arms in the passing lanes.”
Consistently scoring in double figures for the Olympians, Martindale will be a key to the team’s hopes in the tournament. Last week, Martindale was ill and the Olympians weren’t quite the same.
East started 11-3 but has lost three consecutive games as it has battled some illness and injury, plus other complications, such as missing senior forward Ridge Harris for a one-point loss to Ben Davis on Saturday because he was taking the ACT.
Nonetheless, the Olympians have two games remaining, starting with Friday night’s game at Madison, to get some momentum for the playoffs.
Martindale, who isn’t sure if he will continue playing basketball in college, said he isn’t stressing that he is coming to the final games of his high school career. “I don’t like to think about it,” he said. “I want to think like I’m still a freshman.”
Chitty said Martindale simply isn’t the kind of player who stresses out.
“He is a quiet kid who always has a smile,” Chitty said. “Life is good.”
Dirty work or not, Martindale has carved out a place for himself on the court.
“It’s always been a lot of fun just being around the guys,” he said.