By TIM KOELBLE
10:30 PM EST, December 22, 2012
Thomas Blake visited the Great Plains in August with the idea of attending the University of North Dakota. He also had thoughts of attending the school in Grand Forks to continue his athletic career. Blake, who showed skills as a soccer player while at St. Maria Goretti, decided to make the venture in basketball. “When I came here I chose basketball because I felt I had to prove something to myself,” Blake said. “I proved I could play soccer.” Blake, who was a Herald-Mail first-team All-Washington County soccer star, toiled on the basketball court for the Gaels for a couple of years. He held Goretti achieve a winning record last season. After graduation, his trek began. “There is a past family history with the school,” Blake said. “One of my cousins played there.” After passing North Dakota’s ultimate test, little did Blake know he would actually be a member of the Division I team come basketball season. Blake was put in contact with one of North Dakota’s assistant coaches and asked to attend a walk-on tryout on Aug. 18 after two days of workouts. Then, after two weeks of training, he was asked by the coaching staff to join the team. He was the only freshman selected. “It was days of hard work on the fundamentals ... rebounding, shooting, the basic skills,” Blake said. “I was extremely surprised, but at the same time so excited. College basketball is such a huge difference than high school.” The 6-foot-2 Blake, who has put on 10 pounds to reach 202, was immediately redshirted, allowing him to keep four years of eligibility. Blake said all redshirts maintain a diet regiment and work out with the varsity when the team is at home. For now, Blake will be spending his summer in Hagerstown, but will probably remain on campus year-round once he gets on the active roster. Blake, a Philadelphia native, moved to Hagerstown in 2008. He plans on majoring in business marketing at North Dakota. North Dakota’s enrollment is around 15,000 students. Grand Forks, which is located just south of the Canadian boarder, has a population of nearly 53,000. It has a familiar sports figure as one of its alumni — NBA Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson.
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