When Joe Bradburn took over the Greenwood boys basketball program in the spring, he inherited a group of four returning starters heading into their senior season.
Three of those starters — Braydon Kincaid, Eric Moenkhaus and Jeffrey Reynolds have been more recognizable because of the big numbers they put up on the stat sheet. But Bradburn quickly became a fan of guard Max Raker, the fourth and least heralded of the group.
Read a box score, and Raker’s stat line won’t usually jump out at you. But on the floor, he’s been an indispensable cog for the Woodmen, who at 6-2 are off to their best start since the 2005-06 season.
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“My first impression of Max was the same as it is now,” Bradburn said. “He is a bulldog, and I love having him on our team. I love that he’s a part of what we do. He sets the tone for us on the defensive end every night, every day in practice, every possession.”
That may not translate into numbers; Moenkhaus leads the team in steals, and Reynolds serves as the big shot-blocker in the middle. But the quiet Raker is often counted on to silence one of the opponent’s top offensive threats.
“That’s my biggest part, just taking out their best player,” he said.
Bradburn says that the struggle with a lot of aggressive defenders is getting them to scale the aggression back and be a bit calmer once they regain possession of the ball.
Having that poise is particularly important for someone like Raker, who is counted on to be one of Greenwood’s primary ballhandlers.
“He’s getting much better at that,” Bradburn said. “He’s controlling the ball much better and he’s limiting his turnovers. That makes him so valuable, we have to have him on the floor.”
Much like a great band relies just as much on an unsung bass player or DJ as it does on its star front man, a successful basketball team needs players who will do the yeoman’s work without worrying about making headlines.
For the Woodmen, Raker has been that guy. He’s a capable scorer (and one who has upped his shooting accuracy from 34 percent as a junior to around 50 percent this year) but he’s fine with being the fourth option. His contributions don’t always earn him individual accolades, but as long as they continue to help Greenwood rack up victories, the 5-foot-11 senior will be perfectly content.
“We have a lot of scorers on my team, and I know they can score,” Raker said. “I don’t really need to score.
“I just try to go hard and go all the time.”