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Teenager basketball phenom has eye on NCAA Division I

EDMOND, Okla. (BP)–At 6-foot-8, 236 pounds, Drew Haymaker of Edmond, Okla. is a potential franchise player who has college basketball coaches across the United States drooling and scrambling for pens and letters-of-intent.

Not bad for a boy who is 14 years old and in the eighth grade.

Considered by some experts to be among the top five players in his age group in the country, Mountain Drew, as he is affectionately called, is projected to be an NCAA Division I player, and an odds-on pick to run up and down NBA hardwood in the not so distant future.

Still a boy at heart in a big man’s body, Haymaker, the son of Judy and Rex Haymaker, pastor of Seward Road Baptist Church near Guthrie, Okla. has caused commotion virtually since the day he was born, when he weighed in at 10 pounds, four ounces and measured 23 inches long. He now wears size 18 shoes.

Those who know him best describe the aggressive athlete as gentle, humble and compassionate.

“Drew is such a humble kid; that’s what is amazing about him,” said Greg Swaim, who tracks and rates upcoming players for college coaches. “There are kids with one-tenth of his talent who have 10 times the ego that he does.

“Drew and his family know that God is No. 1, and the Lord has given him his talent for a reason. I think its real neat you can find a kid like that.”

“With all the things he has going for him, he is really concerned that he doesn’t get the big head,” added Robin Stinchcomb, who was Haymaker’s Sunday school teacher when he was 3-years-old and has been his prayer partner ever since. “He doesn’t brag about what he does; he just gets out there and does his best, and whatever happens is fine with him.

“He has a tender heart; he wouldn’t do anything that would hurt someone else’s feelings. He has to learn to be more aggressive when he plays; he’s not really timid, but he doesn’t want to hurt anyone.”

Don Rogers, pastor at Beaver Church in Panhandle Baptist Association, who watched Haymaker grow up when the family lived in Hennessey, Okla. said, “Drew is a boy in a man’s body who has a sweet spirit and loves Jesus. He is a genuine Christian who just happens to play basketball. He always stood out to me during programs such as Vacation Bible School. He just loves to be in church.”

To the rest of the Haymakers Rex, Judy, Abby, 22, and Doug, 20, Drew is just a son or brother. “We know God has blessed him,” his father said, “but he is going to be a person long after he is a ballplayer. He can have a big basketball game, but he still has to come home and mow the yard.”

Swaim says the young ballplayer has the tools to play at the very top level of Division I NCAA basketball and is a viable NBA prospect.

“He is a major prospect at the highest level in the country,” Swaim said. “There is a fine line sometimes between a mid-major and a Duke-type player, and the one thing that makes me think Haymaker will be a high major is because he works hard. And, to be honest, there just aren’t that many good big men out there and coaches are always looking for them.”

Swaim said he obviously has the one thing that a lot of kids would like to have and don’t have — height.

“He has that size which has made a lot of college coaches take an early interest in him,” he said. “There aren’t many like him. He is a very strong kid. A player can make himself stronger, but he can’t make himself taller.”

Among those high profile college programs that already have shown interest in Haymaker are North Carolina, Illinois, Kansas, Purdue, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. During various vacations, he and his family also have visited the campuses of Louisiana State University, Baylor and the University of Southern Louisiana in Lafayette.

Because the Haymakers are a close-knit family both Abby, who is a teacher at Harding Middle School in Oklahoma City and Doug, a sophomore at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, still live at home. Haymaker is drawn to OSU, a place he feels has that family atmosphere.

“That’s the place I really want to go because it’s so close to home and all of the coaches are really nice,” Haymaker said.

Since then, Mountain Drew has preached a message of gentleness and common sense.

“You have to keep your head straight; you can’t buy into something or someone who doesn’t do right,” he stressed. “You have to trust in the Lord to help you.”

Haymaker accepted Christ as a third grader. A few years later, his salvation was affirmed at Falls Creek when he stayed up late one night and discussed it with his youth pastor.

Mountain Drew has played basketball for three full years. Amazingly, Haymaker played in his first organized basketball game as a member of the Enid AAU team in a state tournament.

“He had never shot a free throw in a game, of course, and as we drove to the gym, his mother asked him what he was going to do when he got fouled and had to shoot a free throw,” Rex recalled. “He just bowed his head and began reciting, ‘Our Father which art in Heaven…’

“He’s stuck with it, too. The other day, I caught him reciting the Lords Prayer again when he was at the line.”

At the end of his sixth grade year, a group of Hennessey high schoolers were messing around with a ball and challenged Haymaker to try to dunk it,” Haymaker said.

“They were all bragging that they could do it, and asked me to try,” he added. “I don’t think they thought I could do it, but I did, and everybody went crazy.”

Athletics runs in the Haymaker family. His father was a football star at Hennessey and was recruited by OU, OSU and Missouri. However, he chose to attend Oklahoma Baptist University and fulfill his calling from God as a preacher.

Rogers said he always admired the Haymaker family as he watched Rex in bivocational ministry. “Here is a family that was called into ministry as a whole and they love church,” he said. “They were always driving to either Marshall or Seward Road 40 miles one way each time and it was a team effort; they are proud to serve together in ministry as a family.”

That influence has helped forge Haymaker into an effective witness for Christ.

“I think Drew has been a real good influence on the other kids around him,” Stinchcomb said. “It’s not so much what he says; he is very careful about saying anything at all and chooses his words wisely its more the way he acts. He has a very gentle spirit; he’s like a gentle giant.”
(Editor’s Note: A former basketball star now wins souls instead of games. Read his story at BP Sports, www.bpsports.net) (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MOUNTAIN DREW.

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  • Bob Nigh