Rock Bridge senior Erik Darkow can’t remember the first time he picked up a basketball.
He can recall however, the countless hours he spent shooting around his driveway growing up and how he’s always seemed to make a lot more than he missed.
Darkow’s shooting ability was on display Tuesday night. He scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers, during a 61-21 Bruin win over the visiting Jefferson City Jays (7-12).
“Ever since pee-wee basketball, I’ve always been able to drive to the basket or step out and shoot,” Darkow said. “What amazed me back then is that the shots just always seemed to go in.”
Darkow’s shooting ability isn’t a surprise to any of his teammates or coaches, even though he hasn’t had as much scoring success this year as he had last year.
“He’s struggled from 3-point range a bit this year,” senior Logan Gray said. “We really relied on him last year. When he starts hitting shots like tonight, it really opens it up for everyone else.”
Even when Darkow’s shots aren’t going in, he contributes in many other ways.
“He works so hard to make this team good,” coach Jim Scanlon said. “He’s a great leader who works incredibly hard to do whatever he can to help this team succeed.”
Gray echoed his coach’s assessment of Darkow, someone who he’s played basketball with since the first grade.
“He’s definitely a leader of this team,” said Gray. “Even if he’s not scoring, he’s always pulling down rebounds and getting loose balls. We’ve been together for a long time and have built a pretty good chemistry over the years.”
Partly because of the success Rock Bridge (17-1) is having this season, Darkow has noticed that he’s being recognized almost everywhere he goes, especially by younger fans.
As a result, he makes a effort to set a good example with his behavior both on and off the basketball court.
“I’m starting to notice that a lot of younger kids are looking up to me and yelling my name from the stands,” Darkow said. “I just try to set a good example for them by the way I act. I just want to be a character person.”
Darkow remembers that he was the boy in the stands yelling out different players’ names just a few years ago, except the players he admired played for MU.
“I don’t think I ever missed a Mizzou home game growing up,” Darkow said. “I was always at the Hearnes Center. That’s probably where I fell in love with basketball.”
While Darkow never had a favorite MU basketball player because of the quick turnover of players in college basketball, he recalls admiring the play of Melvin Booker.
“It was like he never missed a shot,” said Darkow.
When Darkow’s not on the basketball court, he is just a normal high-schooler.
“I’m just like anybody else,” said Darkow. “I’m pretty laid back. I like just hanging out with friends.”