A line drive pass screamed by Jephthah Appiah-Donkor’s outstretched arms and out of bounds during a scrimmage Tuesday afternoon, prompting Fife basketball coach Mark Schelbert to blow another whistle.
“Where are we going?” Schelbert asked, seizing the ball.
“The SunDome,” a few players shot back.
Schelbert tossed a 20-foot floater into Appiah-Donkor’s hands — the SunDome has arc, so should deep passes. Appiah-Donkor snickered, and sent the ball out to reset the offense.
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It was one of few lighthearted moments during Fife’s final practice before traveling to Yakima for the 2A state tournament. Three days removed from a stunning victory against Tumwater, the Trojans struggled with complacency in an afternoon littered with whistles and adjustments. For his part, Appiah-Donkor absorbed every note.
“He’s a sponge,” Schelbert said. “He understands he doesn’t have the background from a real young age on, so he’s always receptive to advice.”
The 6-foot-5 senior post, who boasts a 7-foot wingspan, started playing organized basketball his sophomore season on Fife’s C-team before jumping to varsity as a junior, where he played off the bench.
“I kind of liked it better,” Appiah-Donkor said. “It was more comfortable because people didn’t know who I was, and didn’t double-team me.”
He’s managed the attention well as a focal point this season. Tangled between double- and triple-teams, Appiah-Donkor still averages 12.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game.
But his meteoric rise wasn’t completely fluid.
“It was actually a long journey,” Appiah-Donkor said.
His physicality, magnetism to the ball, and itch to play the game attracted Schelbert’s attention early, but Appiah-Donkor spent two seasons developing fundamentally to become consequential.
Off the court, he had minor run-ins with administration and struggled to focus in class.
“He needed a carrot dangled in front of him,” Schelbert said.
Progressive success on the court became that carrot.
“Basketball helped me be a leader,” Appiah-Donkor said. “It taught me how you’re supposed to act in a public setting. Playing basketball, you have to have discipline.”
Appiah-Donkor rounds out a class of three seniors — including freshly healthy guard Austin Woods and forward Khyri Edwards — who will lead Fife (16-9) against Clarkstonat 2 p.m. Thursday (March 5).
The Bantams’ only loss this season was by a margin of three points.
Intimidating, maybe, but Appiah-Donkor resolves the competition will erase any lingering complacency issues.
“I think them telling us we’re going to lose is all we need,” he said.