There are hard workers, Gwynn Park High School boys basketball coach Michael Glick said, and then there is senior forward Ackhel Bazil.
The 6-foot-6 post player is here for a reason, though, and he plays like it.
Bazil uprooted himself two years ago, left his family in the Virgin Islands to come to the continental United States where he lives with his legal guardian, Sheniko Frett, in Brandywine, to pursue a basketball scholarship.
“That is what drives me to play every night, to be the best I can be. In the Virgin Islands, my opportunities were very limited. If I came [to the U.S.] I would have the opportunity to help my mom out, she would not have the money to send me to college. I could get a free education and then when I'm done, I would go back and help her, do what I can for my family,” Bazil said.
Glick said there is no doubt in his mind Bazil will earn a scholarship and attend college. Right now, he added, Bazil is focusing on the season and playing his basketball and the two will get to work on making college decisions in March.
Though Bazil quickly adjusted to his new surroundings in Maryland, he needed work on the hardwood, Glick said.
The Virgin Islands are U.S. territory but the style of basketball Bazil grew up playing in no way resembled American ball, he said.
The speed of Gwynn Park's game, the organization and offensive/defensive schemes, Bazil added, was a shock to his system.
But the raw talent was there, Glick said. And in just a year Bazil has gone from being a role player on last year's squad to a prominent post player in the paint this winter, one the Yellow Jackets (4-4), who didn't win the Class 2A South title last year for the first time in three years, have become reliant on.
“It's a totally different game. It was probably hard coming in, not being the best, being a role player. It's a much more up and down, racehorse type of game,” Glick said.
The 20th-year high school coach added that Bazil's experience playing with the Virgin Islands' U-18 National Team at the FIBA Americas U-18 Championship for Men in Brazil over the summer did wonders for his game and confidence.
Bazil is a more well-rounded player this year, Glick said. He has developed better court awareness and the ability to make quick decisions. Bazil said he also now understands the importance of playing strong defense, as well.
Two losses at the Montgomery County's Springbrook High's holiday tournament extended Gwynn Park's skid to four games after a 4-0 start to the season — Glick said only good can come of playing perennial powers such as Springbrook and defending 4A state champion Col. Zadok Magruder.
But Glick said in his time coaching basketball he has learned to look at the big picture, where the team will be in February.
The Yellow Jackets are still adjusting to the loss of seven of their top eight players from last year's team.
Senior leading scorer Jalen Harris (18.9 points per game) is still growing into his own new role as a standout player, Glick said.
Despite the recent losses, Harris and Bazil's dynamic has grown and will only get better.
“We play well together. [Harris] controls the outside and I can control the inside,” Bazil said.
Bazil averages 10.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. But in the past four games, as teams have applied more pressure on Harris, he's averaged 14.25 points, more than double his 6.25 average in the first four contests.
Though only in his second year with the program, Bazil was named a captain this year. Glick said his work ethic and drive immediately earned the respect of his peers.
“When you come from less, sometimes it makes you more motivated. [Bazil] is a kid who is focused and driven, that is his way to college. He has done a tremendous job and he is someone all the kids respect because of how hard he works,” Glick said.