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Basketball: Providing a spark – Chavana’s emergence helps Eagles into the playoffs

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, February 17, 2018
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SPARK PLUG – At only 5-foot-5, Decatur’s Izek Chavana has given the Eagles a much-needed jolt. Chavana has emerged as a lock down defender late in the season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

It’s not hard to spot Izek Chavana on the court.

A fiery defender and crafty ball-handler, Chavana is almost always at the center of the action – even though nearly everyone towers over him.

“I think I listed him the other night at 5-foot-6,” Decatur coach Drew Coffman joked. “That may be a very generous 5-foot-6. He’s not very big.”

BELOW THE RIM – Decatur’s Izek Chavana looks to drive. Although he is only 5-foot-5, Chavana does not let his height hold him back, as he is averaging five points over the last four games. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Opposing teams notice his size, too, and never fail to let Chavana know. In Decatur’s win over Gainesville on Feb. 6, Chavana said it didn’t take long for the chirping to start.

“Their point guard said something about me being small,” Chavana said. “He was trying to post me up and was like, ‘This small kid can’t guard me.’ It just made me want to fight even more. I just thought, ‘All right, it’s time to shine, D him up and get on his nerves.'”

The 5-foot-5 sophomore is often asked to guard the opposing team’s best player. Against Bridgeport, Chavana helped hold Andrew Horton to just 10 points. Horton averaged over 20 points per game on the season and shot 43 percent from the field.

Against Gainesville, Chavana held senior Josh Kemp to nine points. Kemp averaged 17 points a night.

“He’s fearless,” said junior Wilson Hicks. “He’s not afraid of anyone or anything. We like putting him against another team’s best player.”

After opening the season as role player off the bench, Chavana was thrust into the starting lineup after an injury to starting point guard Dane Fitzgerald two weeks ago. In the past four games, Chavana has averaged five points and given the Eagles a much-need jolt.

“He’s kind of a pest,” Coffman said. “I don’t think people like being picked up 94 feet from the basket. He’s been a difference-maker the past few games. There’s a certain toughness he brings to the game that I appreciate.”

Chavana was not even on varsity or junior varsity last year, instead playing on the freshman team.

“I was very nervous when they called me up [to start] when Dane got hurt,” Chavana said. “I couldn’t believe it since I started on freshman last year.”

Chavana’s tireless work ethic has rapidly developed his game.

Coffman said at times, he will finish a long practice with the team and go to the local gym only to find Chavana there looking for a pickup game.

“He’s been one of my favorite players to work with and be around. He’s just a go-getter,” Coffman said. “The thing that probably separates him from others is the passion he plays with. I don’t think we’ve ever had a kid who loves to play as much as he does.”

In last Friday’s loss to Krum, Chavana made an impact early, picking the pocket of the Bobcats’ point guard. Chavana then dove on the floor for the loose ball and corralled it, leading to a transition opportunity for Decatur.

Even though the layup attempt at the other end was blocked, the play momentarily shifted momentum back to the Eagles.

“He makes something happen,” Coffman said. “Sometimes that something that happens isn’t always good for you, but something is going to happen when he gets the ball. It’s almost like a little spark plug you can put in there. He’s going to drive the ball and harass [people].”

Now that Chavana has burst onto the scene, he has no intention of going anywhere anytime soon.

As Decatur prepares for the 4A Region II bi-district game Tuesday against Dallas Carter, Chavana continues to lean on the support from his teammates. He says they have all given him confidence and guidance, and at this point in the year, that is all he is listening to.

The smack talk from other teams doesn’t faze him anymore.

“It goes through one ear and out the other,” Chavana said. “I just let my play speak for itself. I get the vibe all the time that [I bother opponents]. I try to get on their nerves. I do whatever I can to get them out of their game – torment them.”

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