The scene was the Clayton Center: There was always a little boy on the basketball court. Sometimes, he was alone. Sometimes, he was with his father. But he always was with his basketball. Perhaps nobody in our town has shot more basketballs than Blake Ahearn over the last 15 years.
It’s paid off for the former De Smet star. Think about this: Ahearn is the No. 1 free-throw shooter in the history of college basketball. He made 94.6 percent of his free throws at Missouri State. Of course, one afternoon at the Clayton Center, Ahearn made 266 freethrows in a row. After college, Ahearn took his game all over the world, playing for teams in Italy; Spain; Eerie, Penn.; Austin, Texas; and Reno, Nev. He has played in the NBA with the Heat, Spurs and Timberwolves. Ahearn is now trying to make it with the Clippers. We talked right after one of his practices at training camp.
WHAT WAS YOUR ‘AWE’ MOMENT IN THE NBA? It was my third game in Boston: I am guarding Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. I am thinking I can’t let Ray shoot, but I can let Rondo shoot. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are on the same floor. I won’t ever forget it!
WHO IS THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU’VE HUNG OUT WITH? It was Thanksgiving. I am playing with the Spurs. My teammate, Tony Parker, says to me, What are you doing for dinner? I tell him I am going to a restaurant with my fiancée, Ricky Giancola. He said, You’re coming to my house. So Tony’s wife, Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) greets us at the door. She cooks four different types of turkey. She was really down-to-earth.
BEST BASKETBALL STORY OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY? Ricky and I are in Italy, driving through the mountains. First, we get attacked by white wolves. There are no guard rails, and I am driving a stick shift for the first time in my life. Wolves are running at us and along the car. The road is narrow. Ricky is crying. Then, all of a sudden a huge bull shows up in the middle of the road and won’t move. It was nuts.
TELL ME ABOUT RICKY (WHO MAY ACTUALLY SHOOT THE BALL AS WELL AS YOU DO)? We’ve been married for 6 months and are going to have a baby girl this summer. Ricky averaged more points a game than me in high school. She has never beaten me in horse. The bet is, if she does beat me, I have to put on a dress.
HOW ABOUT YOUR DAD’S ROLE IN YOUR SUCCESS? My dad, Danny, has played the biggest role. I have learned everything from him. I would not be here without him. For the last 16 years, I have charted every shot I have taken. I have 16 little notebooks that show how many free throws, jump shots and three-pointers I made during those sessions with my dad.
DID YOU ENVISION THIS SUCCESS OR ARE YOU SHOCKED? I expected it. Ever since I was a little kid, I never had a backup plan. I was going to play in the NBA. I have done that. I want to continue to do that. I want to play like my basketball hero, Pete Maravich.
5 RANDOM THOUGHTS:
◆ If you haven’t sampled the Denmark ribs at Rib City, you are missing something special. I have to smoke a cigarette after a platter.
◆ I haven’t seen many quarterbacks throw the ball better in high school than Thomas Militello from MICDS.
◆ I can’t think of any sport I would rather not do than wrestling, but I am not sure if there are any harder-working athletes than wrestlers.
◆Wouldn’t it be great, if, for one day, the top basketball players in our town all end up at Mizzou and SLU? How many games do they have to win this year to seal the borders?
◆ Keep an eye on Westminster junior Mitch Penning. He headed to California over the holiday break as one of 32 players for the U.S. Youth National Volleyball Team practice squad.
Frank Cusumano is a 14-time Emmy Award winner on KSDK-TV, and he also can be heard on 590 KFNS Radio.