Squalicum senior forward Blake Youtsey began crafting his basketball career four years ago as a freshman on the Storm's state-title runner-up boys' basketball team. Coincidently, it was that same season he developed what is now a passion that rivals his love for basketball.
Youtsey, a versatile 6-foot-4 forward with a strong inside-outside game, is known for his shooting touch, winning desire on the court and is easily recognized when fans imitate shaking dice and yell "Youtsey," pronounced like the board game Yahtzee, following made free throws. But he also performs off the court on a more traditional stage.
When Youtsey isn't working on his game, he's expressing himself through music as a singer in Squalicum's choir group.
"I just play the guitar and piano and I love singing," Youtsey said in a phone interview 30 minutes prior to performing in a concert Friday, Dec. 13. "Actually basketball led me to music, because when I was freshman I played with Nate Mattix and he got me into choir and all that."
Squalicum coach Dave Dickson, who has a son that became a music major, said he appreciates Youtsey's passion for the arts. He sees music as simply another way Youtsey can express who he is.
"The way you play is your signature," Dickson explained. "Some people sign their masterpiece in the right-hand corner when they finish their painting. I think basketball is art. There's an artistic side, a way of self-expression. Guys like me, I can't draw a straight line, but I can shoot the basketball. Blake, he is gifted in a lot areas."
Youtsey said he's always used sports as an outlet, and music is another arena where he can get everything off his mind.
While the Storm senior couldn't explain his specific style of play, he said creativity factors into success when it comes to reading the court and finding the open man.
"Music is a thing that everyone can kind of share no matter what language you speak or what background you have," Youtsey said. "Everyone can sing a song, and it's just a way to bring people together."
Dickson billed Youtsey "the most fun-loving player I have ever coached," and the senior will be relied upon this year to bring together a Storm club full of new faces and one hungry for a postseason berth.
Youtsey's 14.0 points per game last winter ranked seventh among Northwest Conference scoring leaders, and he recorded 20 or more points three times.
His scoring ability comes from being a multi-faceted player, and he credits that to playing two positions at different stages of his playing career.
Youtsey was shorter than most players on his team during youth basketball and ran the point up until sixth grade. His backcourt experience helped him develop his perimeter game, and when Youtsey began sprouting in eighth grade, he started learning how to play inside as well.
"It makes him a very difficult player to guard because of his ability to play inside and outside," Dickson said. "I think he has become a better defender, and that's helped make him a very well-rounded player."
Youtsey's individual play will be paramount for a NWC power that missed trips to the Hardwood Classic each of the past two seasons. But his ability to lead and bring a relatively new team together will be just as important.
"Blake knows what it takes," Dickson said. "I think he has an understanding of the program, and because of his experience and because of his knowledge of the system, he is a natural leader on the team."
Youtsey's personable qualities will certainly benefit Squalicum's aspiration to generate team chemistry.
"He loves to laugh and be with friends and have a good time, but he also loves to win," Dickson explained. "It's really fun to coach guys like that. He has really unique blend of being ultra competitive and ultra fun-loving."
Now that Youtsey's a senior, he has the chance to be a role model for the team's younger players. Squalicum has a pair of freshman in Damek Mitchell and Noah Westerhoff, and Youtsey is an ideal senior to take them under his direction.
He's looking to emulate the same feeling he had his freshman year.
"It was really fun," said Youtsey of playing for a state title three years ago. "It was a really fun group of guys who accepted me, which was cool. It's kind of who Squalicum basketball is, everyone being accepting no matter what age you are, if you are a senior or what environment you grew up in."
Youtsey certainly hopes his senior season will finish much like his first varsity year but with a marginally better ending.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.