All Daily Record Boys Basketball Athlete of the Year: Zach Heeman of Mount Olive

All Daily Record Boys Basketball Athlete of the Year: Zach Heeman of Mount Olive

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All Daily Record Boys Basketball Athlete of the Year: Zach Heeman of Mount Olive

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As an athlete, one has to understand that winning and losing go hand in hand. You win some, you lose some. But if you’re Mount Olive boys basketball player Zach Heeman, losing just isn’t an option.

The junior center is a three-sport athlete for the Marauders, playing football, basketball and track and field. Heeman picked up basketball in the first grade because his brother started to play. Football came when he was in the third grade and track and field (shot put and discus) followed in the fifth grade.

“I really do not like to lose, it’s always been something about me, whether it’s in sports or just outside with friends or my brother, I can’t stand to lose,” Heeman said. “I try to be my best and infect my team in hopes that that competitive edge is contagious.”

This season for the Mount Olive boys basketball team, it was. Heeman led the Marauders with a double-double every game this season, averaging 18.6 points and 14.2 rebounds per game. He helped the team to its first Morris County Tournament title in school history with a 67-54 victory over defending champion Chatham and a school-record 23 wins. Mount Olive also won its first state tournament game in school history, advancing to the North 1 Group III sectional semifinals.

Which is why Heeman is the 2012-13 All Daily Record Boys Basketball Athlete of the Year.

“The first thing that comes to mind immediately is his work ethic, he has an amazing work ethic,” Mount Olive coach Kevin Moore said, explaining that during halftime of every game this season, Heeman would seek out his coach and ask what he could be doing better.

“I’ve never had a player do that before, at least not to that extent,” Moore said. “It’s just a great attribute to have. The desire to succeed and he’s a natural leader. Everyone looks to him and it’s great because he sets the standard with work ethic and as a natural leader, everybody else falls in line and works because they see him working.”

Heeman was named to the All Daily Record First Team last year and has shown nothing but improvement this season. After losing eight seniors to graduation last year, Heeman stepped up his game. He scored a total of 64 points and pulled down 51 rebounds during Mount Olive’s MCT run. Chatham held him to only six points in the final, but he pulled down 18 rebounds and was named the Tournament MVP. During the state tournament he scored 51 points and had 34 rebounds.

He also scored his 1,000th point this season with a 21-point peformance in the state quarterfinals against Ramapo. According to Heeman, the all-time scoring record at Mount Olive is somewhere around 1,480, so his goal is to hit 1,500 for his career.

“We were going into this year after losing eight seniors and no one was expecting much,” Heeman said. “We knew if we put work in that we could be competitive and we definitely exceeded our expectations. I’m proud of what we did.”

Heeman recently gave a verbal commitment to play football at Rutgers, citing the atmosphere and family environment as the reasons why he wants to be a Scarlet Knight. He took his sophomore season off to focus on basketball, but this year returned to the football team.

“During a football game my sophomore year I was in the stands and having fun but I was looking at the field and watching the kids and I said, ‘I need to get back to this,’ ” Heeman said.

Most coaches would be nervous that one of their best players is putting their body on the line playing football, but not Moore.

“I encouraged him last year to return to football,” Moore said. “With a guy his size, you can’t coach that kind of size, and I just wanted to make sure he had all the opportunities available to him. The intense weight lifting that he’s already begun is only going to help us on the basketball court. The stronger he gets helps us even more.”

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