Welcome back to Phil for the Game, your glimpse into the sports community of Lincoln and Boone counties.
Before I close my prep basketball notebook for another season, I wanted to recognize and acknowledge the prep career of Lincoln County High’s John Blankenship.
The 6-foot-6, 165-pounder’s senior season was shortened by a fracture of a metatarsal bone in his right foot, which caused him to miss nine games and play hurt for a couple before he knew what had actually occurred.
His coach, Rodney Plumley, spoke highly of the work ethic and toughness of his versatile wing player, who averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds on one leg in 2021. The shooter averaged double figures in scoring throughout his high school career for the Class AAA Panthers.
“John worked on the little things as much as he did the obvious skill things,” Plumley said. “And in this era of (class of this year, class of that year), John never let the recruiting process overshadow or get in the way of him making sure he was doing all he could to give our team the best opportunities possible. Lincoln County basketball and his team always came first.”
Blankenship remembers when he knew that he had a problem in his foot.
“We played Huntington before the season in a scrimmage and I turned my foot in a weird way, and it started to hurt then, but it wasn’t really bad, and we were practicing in February and I came down with a rebound on someone’s foot and I turned it in that same way — and I knew it was hurt worse and I could barely walk.”
What hurt worse for the senior leader was watching his teammates from the bench as he healed.
“It was tough and I try to be encouraging and be the best teammate I can be, but it was hard to sit out,” he said. “I had to trust the process and do all I could to get back out there, and staying off of it was part of it.”
Blankenship recently chose the University of Charleston to further his education and continue his basketball career at the next level. He has goals both academically and physically. Part of that is hitting the weight room this summer in preparation for the fall.
“I want to put on good, healthy weight,” he said. “I have to prepare for the next level and I’ll be working with (local trainer) Kyle Garretson with the goal of adding weight and getting stronger.”
The scorer with both post power and perimeter prowess said UC met his academic and athletic desires.
“It was both,” he said. “They reached out to me last year and they have been a school at the top of my list. It is a good fit for me in the classroom and their style of play on the court fits what I do. Their culture seems very good with the way (head) Coach (Dwaine) Osborne and (assistant) Coach (Brett) Rector run things. It really is a family oriented culture there.”
Blankenship will major in exercise science and is considering physical therapy, but isn’t sure yet where he may take his education after college.
Blankenship spoke fondly of coach Plumley and what his guidance and presence did for him.
“I can’t thank him enough for a great four years,” Blankenship said. “He pushed me to be a better player and person in general. He taught me how important it is to take pride in your school, your community and where you are from. He accepts nothing less than your 100% effort, and it makes you better.”
John is the son of Justin and Christie Blankenship.
“My dad always made the extra effort for me and got me access to things I otherwise wouldn’t have had and he’s helped me with so much skill work in the gym, and was always there to rebound for me and teach me moves. He made me work on being a good person, too. It has been a fun ride and I can’t thank my parents enough for all they’ve done for me along the way.”