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April 15, 2014

Bloomfield Hills High’s Maten named state’s boys basketball Gatorade Player of the Year

By Christian Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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Bloomfield Hills High’s Maten named state’s boys basketball Gatorade Player of the Year
Bloomfield Hills High senior Yante Maten rips down a rebound during a Class A quarterfinal win. For his efforts on and off the court, Maten was named the Michigan boys basketball Gatorade Player of the Year.

Even as a freshman, Bloomfield Hills boys basketball coach Duane Graves could see that he had someone special in Yante Maten.

After the first practice with Maten, then at Bloomfield Hills Lahser, Graves shared the news with his mentor, former Lahser coach Paul Galbenski.

“When I first saw Yante, I couldn’t call Paul fast enough to tell him I had the next big thing,” Graves said.

Maten started that season, something he admits he didn’t expect.

“I didn’t see any of it coming. I liked basketball in middle school and all that, but I wasn’t the biggest basketball fan. I did have a desire to win. That’s in my nature,” he said.

Maten didn’t let his coach down. The 6-foot-8 big man helped lead the Knights to division championships as a sophomore and junior, and then he took Bloomfield Hills High (after Lahser and Bloomfield Hills Andover merged) to the Class A state championship game in his senior season.

For his efforts, Maten was named the Michigan boys basketball Gatorade Player of the Year.

“I was with coach Graves, and he told me that I won it. I was pretty ecstatic,” Maten said.

The award’s criteria include successes on the court, in the classroom and in the community.

This season, Maten averaged 19.8 points, 15.2 rebounds, 6.6 blocks and 4.8 assists per game.

In the playoffs, he put the Black Hawks on his back with 31 points in a quarterfinal win, then 25 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks in the semifinal.

In the state championship, a 91-67 loss to Muskegon High, Maten saw limited time due to foul trouble. He still managed 13 points, five rebounds and three blocks in 18 minutes of play.

He also gives back to the community, volunteering at the Bloomfield Hills Recreation Department, an assisted living center and within his church youth group.

Graves said it’s Maten’s humbleness that makes him a special person.

“He’s grounded — a very different young man than you’re used to seeing,” the coach said. “Just the fact that he’s thankful for everything he has, he doesn’t take anything for granted. He plays with a passion and a love for the game. He’s a pure young man.

“He’s one of the greatest guys with kids in our summer camps. The kids flock to him. They see how big he is, but he’s also so soft and gentle with them.”

Maten said he learned the importance of giving back to the community and keeping his grades up when he entered high school.

“I just realized that it’s my future that I’m holding,” he said.

Maten’s future now includes a scholarship at the University of Georgia. He’s expected to sign his National Letter of Intent April 16 after picking the Bulldogs over offers from Michigan State University and Indiana University.

He said it wasn’t an easy decision, but that he and his mom, Toiya Paige, prayed for guidance.

“It felt like God was telling me to go there. My mom also heard from God, and we both decided at the same time,” he said. “Once I heard from God, everything became a lot easier.”

Maten added that he waited until after the season to make a choice on which school so that he could focus on his current team.

“I was trying to get my priorities straight, to go out this season strong and get a ring; then after that, I would focus on where I was going for the next four years,” he said.

It’s the bonds he created the last four years that he said he’d miss most after high school.

“I’ll definitely miss the team the most, and coach. We’re all friendly and brothers,” he said. “That made it so much easier on the court.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Christian Davis at cdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1062. Twitter Follow Christian on Twitter.