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On the bench, she pined for playing time

02/01/2014, 7:47pm PST
By Terry Monahan, Special to the U-T

Inactivity of freshman year prompted a transformation for Mount Miguel senior standout.

Mount Miguel’s Deijah Blanks (left), who’s averaging 22.5 points a game, has helped boost the Matadors to a No. 3 ranking.

Every time Mount Miguel High girls basketball coach Robbie Sandoval looked down the bench three years ago, there was this freshman sitting there.

Deijah Blanks didn’t play much that first season with the Matadors. Even though the team earned a league championship and won a lot of lopsided games, Blanks sat.

“I saw some potential,” Sandoval said. “But I never thought this was possible.”

Blanks has blossomed to such an extent that the 5-foot-10 guard, now a senior, was chosen Grossmont Valley League Player of the Year last season.

The transformation can be traced back to one thing, according to Sandoval.

After that ninth-grade season on the bench, Blanks became a gym rat, spending nearly every waking moment in the gym, any gym, to work on her game.

“I felt like I would improve after freshman year,” said Blanks, one of only two seniors on this year’s team. “Mount Miguel has won CIFs and league titles, so I had to get better to leave the bench.

“One thing I knew was I couldn’t go a second year sitting on that bench.”

Mount Miguel has not lost a league game during Blanks’ time on the Spring Valley campus.

With her in the lineup, and not on the bench, Mount Miguel is 64-11 with two more league titles. The Matadors, 17-4 overall and ranked No. 3 in the San Diego Section, are undefeated in league play again this year at 4-0.

And Blanks has a major hand in the team’s success.

She averages 22.5 points, eight rebounds, three steals and, for good measure, three assists after averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds as a junior.

“I knew I’d have to wait my turn here,” Blanks said. “Sophomore year I worked on my conditioning and my whole game changed.

“My mom wanted me to play T-ball or taekwondo, but I got my first basketball when I was 6 and it’s been the driving force for me.”

Blanks spent her pre-Mount Miguel days playing in the Paradise Hills rec league. Her first team was the Celtics.

But she always knew she wanted to be a Matador, to play basketball every day because the gym became her second home.

“I admit I wasn’t that good a player as a freshman,” Blanks said. “It would be a lie to say anything else.

“I wasn’t ready to play at that point. The older girls treated me like a little sister, but they all seemed like mature women to me.

“I used to worry about a bad play. Two plays later, I’d still be talking about that last mistake. I learned how to not let the last play affect the next play.”

Now Blanks is one of those seniors, finishing off her Matadors career before playing in college.

A fourth straight league title is high on her priority list, along with taking a serious shot at the San Diego Section’s Open Division crown.

Said Sandoval: “I wish I had 10 Deijah Blanks.”

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