High School Sports

The News Tribune Player of the year: Malachi Flynn of Bellarmine Prep learned lessons well

Thirty-two minutes of organized basketball is easy for Bellarmine Prep point guard Malachi Flynn.

You want bruising and challenging? Flynn says try playing against six older siblings in the street of their East Side cul de sac, and one in particular — one-on-one with Isaiah, his bigger, stronger brother.

Or how about being taught the ruthless lessons of basketball by 10 uncles, including one who was a starter for one of the greatest prep dynasties at Lincoln High School in Washington state history?

Flynn learned well. And now he is The News Tribune’s 2015-16 All-Area boys basketball player of the year.

The 4A Narrows League MVP had one of those magical seasons, averaging 29.7 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 88 percent from the free-throw line.

The slender Flynn, who is 6-foot, 165 pounds, scored in so many ways, opposing coaches could not really offer a foolproof game plan to stop him.

“He is a guy who scores 40 (points) on you,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said, “and he does not take a lot of bad shots.”

His 743 points set the Bellarmine Prep single-season scoring record, breaking the mark set by current NBA player Avery Bradley (722 in 2008).

In three seasons on varsity, Flynn totaled 1,625 points — second in school history behind Abdul Gaddy’s 1,985, who accomplished that in four years. Flynn also finished second in his career in steals behind Bradley, and second in career assists behind Gaddy.

Bellarmine Prep coach Bernie Salazar said Flynn easily belongs in the pantheon of all-time school greats.

“I’ve told all the college guys, if you want somebody like Steph Curry, there he is,” Salazar said. “He has just a big, big heart — certainly the heart of a champion, and a lot of courage, too.”

Flynn was always a good scorer in those first two seasons. And he became even better this season.

In his first game, against Lincoln, he scored a career-high 43 points. The Lions lost in overtime, 76-73. But Flynn gained much respect.

“That hasn’t happened too many times,” Shelton said. “Dez Trent lit it up a couple of times. David Jenkins Jr. has, too. But usually when guys put up a lot of points on us, they take an enormous amount of shots — and bad shots detrimental to their teams.

“With Malachi, he didn’t do that. We threw a bunch of different guys at him. We tried to double team him, and gave him different looks. And he was still very successful scoring.

“It seemed quiet, too. I knew he had in the upper 20s or lower 30s. I got to the bus, and somebody said he got (43). I said, ‘What?’ It did not stand out like that during the game. He is just special.”

Three nights later, he poured in 36 in a loss to Curtis.

“Early on, he had a bounce in his step and a look in his eyes,” Salazar said. “You knew he was going to have a good year.”

Then came the Mission Prep Christmas Classic at Windward High School in California, which attracts some of the premier programs in the country.

Flynn tallied games of 34, 33 and 37 points in leading the Lions to the championship game against Bishop Montgomery.

“That semifinal game against St. Joseph was beautiful to watch. The moment the game started, that was his gym,” Salazar said.

“He had 37 points against a really good team. And when I took him out with three minutes to go, the crowd went, ‘Ah … leave him in, Coach.’ They just enjoyed watching him play.”

In 25 games, Flynn recorded two 40-point showings, 10 games in the 30-point range and nine 20-point efforts.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Flynn said. “I put in the work to get faster and stronger. I proved it to myself I can do it in games, night in and night out.”

His final big scoring game was a 41-point showing in the Class 4A West Central District semifinals against Curtis. He ended up setting the district tournament mark with 149 points, breaking the record of Kentridge’s Gary Bell Jr., set in 2011.

“He never shies away from the big plays or the big moments,” said Isaac Wojtanowicz, Flynn’s Bellarmine Prep teammate. “I know he has always been special. This year he has been given the opportunity to shine, and show what he’s got. He let himself go.”

Flynn has also accomplished all of this wearing a new jersey number — No. 22.

He took on that number in memory of his late uncle, Ernie Flynn, a point guard at Lincoln High School from 1975-77.

At 5-foot-10, Ernie Flynn was a lightning-quick ballhandler who was really known for his defense.

“They called him ‘Ernie D,’ ” said Eric Flynn, his brother and Malachi’s father. “He was always in one-pass denial mode.”

When the Abes won the Class AAA state title in 1975, Ernie Flynn was a key reserve. A year later, he was the starting point guard when they returned to the state championship game to face Metro League powerhouse Cleveland riding a 38-game winning streak.

Ernie Flynn had a heck of a battle with Cleveland point guard Carl Ervin, who hit a last-second shot to end Lincoln’s reign, 42-41, at the Seattle Center Coliseum.

Ernie Flynn went on to become an all-NWAACC guard at Bellevue College before walking on at Oregon for one season.

Eric Flynn tells stories about when his older brother would come to the house to play basketball with Malachi when he was 6.

And when the tot tried to get a shot off against his uncle, Ernie Flynn would block it with ease, then instruct the child to go and retrieve the basketball.

That relationship carried well into Malachi Flynn’s teenage years.

“It was a good relationship — playful,” Malachi Flynn said. “We were always joking around. Even when he was sick with cancer, he would say he would beat me one-on-one.”

Ernie Flynn was diagnosed with liver cancer a year ago. He died June 13 at the age of 57.

At the funeral, photos of Ernie Flynn were posted, including ones of him in a Lincoln uniform. That is where Malachi Flynn got the idea of switching jerseys — from No. 3 to No. 22.

“I was close to him,” Malachi Flynn said. “I miss him a lot.”

He has also adopted some of the same pranks to play on teammates that were put on him by his uncle.

“They probably get mad because I do little stuff like slapping them on the neck,” Malachi Flynn said.

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