I met Ted Baxa as a 7th grader at Trinity Prep. He was the prized player of Trinity’s 7th grade class. A sturdy built, wing player with incredible tenacity and an ability to score points. The 7th grade coach at the time felt Ted was the jewel of a golden class of Trinity players that would take the school to unprecedented heights.
The 7th grade coach was a delusional jackass. His golden class had done little more then enjoy success in a barely competitive Maitland Park and Rec league. And the jewel, Ted Baxa’s father was all of 5-7 in height. Ted was bright, competitive and somewhat blessed to make it to somewhere near 6-0. Ted left Trinity before reaching high school to go to a public school at which point I proclaimed his basketball future DOA (dead on arrival).
I followed Ted to Winter Park a few years later, and did not believe Ted had any role in our plans for Metro Conference domination. He proved me wrong. He was the perfect last man on our state runner-up team.
Ted’s self-driven nature made him value every minute on the floor in practice. He would not let rotation players go through the motions. He was skilled enough to get through even the most intricate drill without slowing the team down. He was smart enough to know every set and defense from every spot, and could easily pick up a scout team assignment. And he was likeable and low to no maintenance on a team with plenty of characters.
I would be remiss if I didn’t retell my favorite Ted Baxa story. It was a practice midway through the year the team was scrimmaging and a loose ball headed out of bounds near the ticket table in the corner of the gym. Ted, and only Ted, went after the ball which was easily out by the time he left the floor to get it, but this detail did not prevent Ted from flying into the table and nearly getting decapitated. A strange display for someone so smart, but an indelible moment none the less.
The last man standing is a special role with a defined skill set. You are not looking for a player who thinks he should be starting, but rather someone who plays like he is starting. A player can move through practice without drawing attention to his shortcomings as a player and is respected and preferrably liked by the rest of the team.