When you talk with people about an activity they spend hours and hours by choice doing, a palpable sense of pleasure is often contained in their enthusiastic expression. Such is the case for Ilan Zur and basketball. His fidelity to and for the sport is a cup runneth over and some college coach is going to benefit from this affair.
The Small School Bridge League Most Valuable Player, Small School Redwood Empire First Team selection and MVP of the Gene Duffy Holiday Classic last season as part of Coach Mike Carroll's Summerfield Waldorf School team in Santa Rosa, the 6-foot-5 Zur isn't resting on any laurels. His most recent achievements include a trio of double-double efforts: 34 points and 10 rebounds versus Redwood Adventist Academy, 30 and 15 against Napa Christian while playing just half the game, followed by 31 and 11 opposite Archbishop Hanna of Sonoma. His average is 28 points and 11 boards in the 2012-13 season plus he was honored as the Most Valuable Player in this season's Coyote Classic Tournament.
However, he is no Johnny-come-lately to basketball -- Zur has spent thousands of hours working on his craft.
But underlying his burning desire to be his best begins with "I'm really competitive with whatever I'm doing and I'm willing to put in the work I need to do. I started playing when I was really young and I grew up learning the fundamentals, with a fundamentals first attitude," Zur explained. "My Dad played in college in Israel so I was brought up in a European style of training."
His personal workouts for years have consisted of taking hundreds of shots at various positions on the court. Other times, he can be found running sand dunes.
Plus, he's a 17-year-old senior meaning a longer timetable is available to actualize his maximum potential.
Here's Carroll on his young talent: "Ilan just loves the game. He's going to be a 17-year-old graduate and is still growing into his body. We've been working this season on what it means to be a leader and he's taken to it. With a weight program, he'll add explosiveness to his game."
That game already features "my shooting as my best skill -- mid-range, three-point shot and as a postup shooter. I've developed a post game this season and I'm also blocking more shots," according to Zur.
He is also a member of Rick Winter's North Bay Basketball Academy. Here's Winter on his protege: "Ilan's a good ballhandler, who shoots the three and attacks the basket well. He was coming to Marin County five times a week," another display of the willingness to do what it takes to get better.
Winter continued, "We worked with Ilan on his footwork and also to forget about coming across as selfish. He defers too much trying to get his teammates involved in high school when he is so far ahead of most of the kids. We took him to Las Vegas and I think the speed and aggressiveness was an eye-opener in the first game. But then he had a very good game against the Louisiana team that won the tournament.""
Zur owns a 4.03 grade point average and that's with a number of honors classes. He is looking to major in environmental studies at the next level.
Asked how his friends would describe him, he offered, "off the court I'm a nice goofy guy but on the court I don't mess around. I play hard and I'm not out there to make friends with the other team. That's for after the game."
At Summerfield Waldorf, Zur's role is as "the go-to guy." But with the North Bay Basketball Academy, "that's where I'm looking to pass and rebound more."
About his recruiting, Zur said "I'm getting tons of D-III interest and some D-II and D-I as well. I was invited to a couple of D-I camps and took some visits to D-I schools."
With his youthfulness and dedication as positive future factors, as Sinatra sang, "the best is yet to come."
Where he ends up plying his craft in college will be fascinating.