Mick Phelps was growing so fast in high school that his body couldnt handle it.
The 6-foot-5, 270 pound Kiona-Benton senior has missed more games than he would like in football, basketball and baseball because of a myriad of injuries stemming from his growth spurt.
My freshman year I got hurt a lot. Ive broken both my ankles. I broke my metatarsal and the growth plates in both feet. I cracked my fibula and tibia, and broke my pinky, said Phelps, who is currently healthy (knock on wood) and preparing for the Bears Class 1A regional basketball game against Seattle Academy at 4 p.m. Saturday at West Valley High School in Yakima. It sucks seeing your team play without you, especially when you think you couldve made a difference.
Even when hes not playing sports, however, Phelps is still trying to make a difference, and he hasnt stopped growing at least not as a person. Hes an active member of Kiona-Bentons Buddy Club, a big-brother-type program designed to help special needs kids feel included in the schools social fabric.
Were proud of them. On Mondays we get our lunch and go spend time with them. When they see us in the halls, we dont want them to put their heads down, Phelps said, citing his own family as his motivation to help others. Ive been pretty gifted with family. We havent had any major problems. If I ever needed a pair of shoes, I always had one.
Im thankful for what I have.
So is Bears basketball coach Jack Rose, who has been grateful for Phelps steady contributions to the program. In fact, Rose had mentally penciled Phelps into Ki-Bes starting lineup before he even took the floor as a freshman.
Hes an extremely smart player, and it shows in his passing. Hes one of our leaders in assists and rebounds, Rose said. When Mick misses a game, were not nearly as good as we can be. I tell him every game not to get into foul trouble. If he does, it usually means its going to be a long game or a loss for us.
Phelps teammates also recognize his importance on the floor, enough to vote him team captain each of the last four seasons. His role is not unlike that of Ray Lewis, a linebacker for recent Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. He may not score a ton of points (he averages about 10 a game), but he serves as the emotional core of the team.
He motivates us. Hes the one who gives the speeches, said fellow senior Cristian Aguilar, who recently became Ki-Bes all-time leading scorer. But he credits Phelps with helping set up a lot of those points.
Me and Cris have one play where Ill pop up to the high post and hell be on the wing. When I get the ball, hell cut back door and Ill bounce it to him, Phelps said of the play known simply as Beaver. I kind of like our play. I told Rose when we graduate, hell have to retire that play.
Phelps got sick enough over Christmas break that he needed three bags of intravenous fluids to keep him hydrated, forcing him to miss significant time on the floor. The brief illness didnt concern coach Rose so much as keeping Phelps motivation on track.
We had to sit him down with me, Cristian and (assistant) coach Stephens. He wasnt as integral a part of our offense as we needed. We wanted him to be more selfish, Rose said. We all wanted him to step up, and he has.
The next game after that meeting, Phelps scored 16 points in a 63-36 win over Connell.
(The sit-down) was heated, but it was productive, Phelps said. It lit a fire under me.
Phelps has been to state in each of the last two seasons with the Ki-Be baseball team. Hes a power-hitting first baseman who has thought about playing either baseball or football in college. But hes also excited about starting his own car restoration shop.
I drive a 79 Cougar. It isnt the rarest car, but it has its own flavor, he said. I like old things. My dad says Im an old guy trapped in a kids body.
And one who cant wait to keep growing.