He may be faster than a speeding bullet when he heads to the hoop and so strong that he makes Arnold Schwarznegger look like a girly man but remember that Wendell McKines is but a high school senior-to-be in real life.
Not that this stops numerous critics from offering unique comments about McKines' intelligence or birthright from the safety of the bleachers or behind the anonymity of message boards. Some see on-court displays of emotion and moments of animated play and decry such behavior. Whether they be old-timers or opposing fans who can't bear to see their players dunked on or jealous opponents, the barrage of insults and invectives keeps coming.
All directed at a teenager.
One who laughs, jokes, bleeds, takes aspects of his life with the seriousness that it deserves and sometimes makes mistakes--just like we all do.
Abuse is hurled regardless.
Even prep athletes have worked up a description of such antics, a label for the uber-obnoxious: haters, with whom there is no reasoning, just further strings of vituperative insults.
As McKines self-assesses, "[I and good friend Eli Holman] sometimes get misread and misjudged as hotheads when you wouldn't be able to stop laughing if you were around us."
Oakland Soldier coach, Lou Richie, agrees: "Wendell is a fierce competitor, a true hard hat kind of warrior who never likes to lose. He reminds me of myself in that he is going to put in the effort, whatever it takes to win." Richie recalls McKines' first Las Vegas basketball tournament as a 14-year-old. "He was very quiet, barely said a word. Now, he and Eli Holman are a tag team in joking around. Both Wendell and Eli are incredible kids with good personalities."
Carl Foster, co-director of the Slam N Jam organization, adds that McKines is an evolving leader and candidly notes that "leadership is done before the game starts." Foster describes McKines as "ultra-competitive, driven by the desire to be seen as one of the best. He has the best motor of any player in Northern California and his "want-to" is so much better than anyone else."
Regardless of the feelings of some detractors, the 6-foot-5 McKines is set for his senior year at Richmond (Calif.) High. He has been plotting out what needs to be accomplished in the classroom in 2006-07. Stoking his motivation is the pride his family has in anticipation of him being the first McKines to attend college.
McKines is looking for a college program that offers "a good coach, a family atmosphere and plays with an up-and-down tempo." Miami has already offered, as has Nevada, San Diego State, St. Mary's, San Francisco and San Jose State. McKines is also interested in UNLV, plus others are on his trail. He plans to take unofficial visits to a number of the Bay Area colleges. "I'm a west coast guy," he said but added that he will go anywhere if it is the right fit.
McKines notes that athleticism and strength are his two biggest assets and the areas of his game needing work are ball control and finesse around the basket. As he says, "I won't be able to dunk in college like I've been able to do in high school." Many have offered that McKines needs to demonstrate a more consistent outside shot and he agrees. But while better range and handle can be worked on in practice, he faces the puzzle of coaches preferring him to dunk if he can, rather than take an 18-footer.
Answering the question about McKines' future college position, one college coach adamantly stated: "He can play power forward in Division I, no doubt. He is the toughest player I've ever seen."
The final word from McKines: "I want to get better as a player and as a person."