By Mark Gregory
Anyone who watched Bolingbrook’s run a third-place finish in the IHSA Class 4A boys basketball finals is very familiar with Malik Binns.
The senior averaged 13.4 points and a team-best 7.1 points per game and was selected to the IBCA Class 3A/4A All-State special mention team.
With all those factors in play, it would not be a shock that Binns is set to play in college next season – it just may surprise them what he is playing.
Binns will attend Waubonsee Community College next season and play baseball.
“I thank God for giving me the chance to play with coach (Rob) Brost and Nana (Akenten) and all the players and it has been a great experience,” Binns said of basketball. “I will never forget (that). I am really going to miss this, but the next chapter in my life is baseball.
“I have played both sports since I was four, but when I pitch I have a different edge to me.”
Binns has a fastball that ranges in the high 80s to low 90s on the radar gun, but even more that what he brings on the field, is what Binns brings to the club off the field.
“Malik has an infectious personality,” said Bolingbrook coach Scott Thyer. “He has a ton of energy and is an extremely positive person. To have that kind of energy around our players only benefits our team. The experience of going downstate and all they accomplished as a basketball program was a lot of fun to watch from my perspective and I think those experiences are only going to help us as a program as Malik can inject some of those experiences as the season goes along. I have really enjoyed having him around us this year and I am looking forward to the rest of the year.”
Binns’ love for baseball was born when he was a young athlete watching college and professional players.
“My brother, Maurice Binns, played baseball for Southern Illinois University and we used to always travel with him,” Malik said. “And when I was homeschooled when I was younger, like 10 years old to 12, my parents took me to spring training three years in a row in Mesa, Az.”
While baseball was an early love, Binns played travel basketball from an early age, beginning with a team coached by his father. He then worked his way up through the AAU ranks, and grew to 6-feet, 6-inches tall, eventually landing on the Mac Irvin Fire – one of the top programs in the country.
However, he knew heading into the state tournament this season that when the final buzzer sounded, it was the end of his basketball career.
“He is excellent in both sports,” Thyer said. “But, as a kid, you fall in love with a sport and his first love was baseball. It is refreshing to have a player not let outside influences impact his decision. Whatever decision he made, he was going to have my full support and coach Brost’s full support.”
While baseball may have always been the way he was leaning, Binns said the recruiting during basketball was a great experience for him.
“It was cool in a way and a lot of coaches were talking to me and I was getting double offers and it was cool in high school to balance baseball and basketball,” he said. “But me and my parents decided that I am not going to balance that in college.”
Binns is not the only thing going for the Raiders this season as the Bolingbrook will look to follow up a successful 2016 season.
Binns is still working to get his arm in pitching form and the team is without University of Illinois-bound Jeremiah LeBron.
There are host of players filling LeBron’s shoes now to carry the offense, including Binns.
“It is really a team effort and next man up mentality,” Thyer said. “When guys get their opportunities, they need to take advantage of it and they have. It is great to have a guy like Jordan Jackson lead the way, he is really an incredibly hard worker and I know I will get a professional at bat every time in the box,” Thyer said. “Then Malik, who is really a strong kid and he can fight off tough pitches and find open spaces when it may be outs for other guys. Cameron Falk, a junior third baseman for us is also having a great year so far, hitting over .450 for us right now. Those guys have really set the table for a productive order even with Jeremiah out and when he comes back, our offense will only get off and running.”
On the mound, the Raiders graduated a lot of talent from last year’s squad, but the staff is getting the job done, with the help of Binns in a bullpen role currently.
“We lost a lot of arms from last year. We were pretty senior dominated,” Thyer said. “But, what that has led us to this year is allowing us to get some guys in there that hadn’t had opportunities. So far, senior right hander Josh Klatt has been good for us, as has Matt Dinkel, who is only a sophomore and he has done a great job. We know it is great to get him varsity experience because he will only be better for it later on. In addition to Malik, we had another transfer, Jake Anderson, who plays middle infield and is a right handed pitcher and an excellent hitter.”
Not only did Bolingbrook lose senior pitchers from last season, but seniors that went deep in games, meaning this season the bullpen is more critical.
“Our bullpen has been huge,” Thyer said. “Matt Bielawski, Dylan Murillo, Malik as well as junior Sebastian Trevino-Ramirez
and I think he will be a good one for us as well this year.”
Thyer said he is hoping that the Raiders can get healthy and get up to speed come playoff time.
“We will see our guys playing better as the season goes along,” he said. “We are already playing better than earlier and if we continue the trend, I think these guys can do some special things together. Once playoff time comes around, I think we will be ready for that.”