Sports Person of the Week
Pearson’s a Team-First Player for the T-Birds
Junior captain Blake Pearson is geared up to lead the T-Birds as both a varsity starter and a junior captain during the 2021 season. (Photo courtesy of Blake Pearson )
Blake Pearson has played a few different sports while growing up in North Branford, but basketball has always been his favorite. Blake is now making a name for himself as a member of the North Branford boys’ basketball team after earning both a starting spot and the title of captain.
“When I got to high school, I needed to manage my time. I was thinking about the sport I loved the most and what I’m best at. That has always been basketball,” says Blake, who has also played football and baseball in town. “I love the team aspect. I love playing with guys I’ve been friends with growing up and being able to compete together.”
Blake started playing basketball in North Branford’s recreational league. He joined the town’s travel team in 4th grade and later played for the team at North Branford Intermediate School. Blake learned a lot about basketball at every step along the way as he came to love the sport more and more.
“It prepared me and helped me develop skills,” Blake says. “When I got to high school, it came naturally, because I had been playing for my whole life.”
Blake signed up to play for the Thunderbirds as a freshman and primarily competed for the JV team that year. Playing JV as a freshman fostered Blake’s growth as a basketball player and gave him a better understanding of what he would need to do to succeed at the varsity level.
Early in his sophomore season, Blake received a big opportunity when North Branford’s varsity squad hosted Westbrook for a Shoreline Conference matchup. After one of his teammates fouled out, Blake, who plays on the wing, had to stay on the floor for the entire fourth quarter. Blake hit four free throws in the frame to help the T-Birds claim a 70-64 victory.
Blake continued to mostly see JV time following that contest, but over the last 10 games of the season, he became a varsity starter while some of North Branford’s players were dealing with injuries. Blake fared well in his stint as a starter and is now entering his junior season as a part of the starting lineup for the T-Birds’ varsity squad.
“It was nerve-wracking at first. I was playing JV and sitting on the varsity bench at most. Then we had a few injuries, and I had to step in and play varsity,” says Blake. “It was a good experience just being able to play with older guys who were better than me. It was great just being able to compete.”
As his junior campaign gets underway, Blake will not only be a starter for North Branford, but will also be leading the team as a captain alongside senior guard Trevor Holzer. While he feels honored to have earned that distinction, Blake is happy to fill any role that his team needs him to.
“It was an honor, but I don’t really look into it much. I feel like every player is an equal part of the whole team,” Blake says. “Whatever role my teammates want to put me in, whether it’s a leader or a role player, I’m interested in whatever is going to help the team win.”
Head Coach Cliff Yerkes was impressed with the work ethic that Blake displayed at the end of last season. Yerkes knows that type of effort is what landed Blake a place in the starting lineup, as well as a seat in the captain’s chair.
“Blake has a great work ethic and attitude. He really competes in practice. At the end of his sophomore year, he was still going hard like he was trying out for the team,” Coach Yerkes says. “He’s a very cerebral player. He knows where he is supposed to be and where other guys are supposed to be. He’s a high-character kid.”
In addition to coaching him on the basketball court, Yerkes has also been Blake’s Spanish teacher. Yerkes calls his junior captain the “Academic Weapon” due to the hard work he puts in during class. Blake was taking high school classes as an 8th-grader and is currently the only junior in his AP Calculus class. As much as he loves shooting hoops, Blake also puts academics first and that wants to continue in the math field when he moves on to college.
Blake is aiming to help North Branford in every way that he can throughout his junior season. Blake understands how lucky the T-Birds to even be playing basketball this year and wants to cherish every moment that he can with his teammates.
“Obviously, the goal is going to be competitive and to stay in games, but I’m just grateful we are having a season this year,” Blake says. “I’m grateful to be able to have something normal and to play a game I love. Coach always talks about the word gratitude and treating every game and practice like it’s our last. It could always be taken from us.”
Blake feels excited to get back to playing basketball for North Branford. Blake prides himself on being a team player and appreciates all of the life lessons he learns through his experience in the sport.
“I work well with people, and I’m a good leader,” says Blake says of playing. “All of that comes out on the basketball court, where I’m able to compete.”