OSCODA – What isn’t known is if Oscoda senior Brayden Mallak has played his final high school boys basketball game. What is known is that Mallak just might be one of the best Owls to ever put on a blue and white uniform. As of March 12, the day the MHSAA announced the postponement in its post-season tournaments, Mallak sits at 1180 career points, good for third all-time in program history and 388 career assists, a program record.
“It is very tough, it sucks because this was my last year and we were going to get to see what we were made of,” Mallak said of his high school career possibly being over. “My heart just kind of dropped when I heard the news, I was just mind blown that it could happen especially when we won our first district game just a few days earlier. On the way back from the game (a district semi-final win over Johannesburg-Lewiston on March 11) we started to hear some things. Then the next day at school, in my last hour (Oscoda athletic director Scott Lueck) told me that the season was postponed. I really didn’t know how to react. I was just in shock and it took a little bit for it to actually set in.”
If it is indeed the end, Mallak can take solace in the fact that he was a key cog in some of the best basketball teams Oscoda has put together. His junior year saw Oscoda raced through the regular season undefeated, winning North Star League Big Dipper and district titles along the way. Oscoda went 19-1 this year, winning the NSL Big Dipper once again and was well on its way to another district title, if not setting up for an even deeper run, before the playoff stoppage.
“I think it has been a really good career,” Mallak, who averaged 17.3 and 6 assists per game this season said. “My freshman and sophomore years I had slow starts, it was hard to play with people that I wasn’t used to. I got used to them along the way and eventually the rest of the guys that I played with came up to varsity and we were all together again.
“All of the players had built good chemistry and we just had a love for each other and loved playing every single day,” he added. “It takes a good group of kids to enjoy it and make good memories. We enjoyed every single minute of it.”
While Mallak made the offense click as he seamlessly played the point guard position, he was also a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball, quite frequently getting tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player.
“It is hard to find a much better all-around guard in the area,” his head coach, Mike Poland said. “He has the ability to score the basketball, he can defend and of course he is a great passer and just and all-around good athlete. He puts a lot of time into it too. In his four years, he missed very few things. He has put a lot of time in to get better.”
So, what was it exactly that made Mallak tick? Poland feels he has a pretty good idea.
“I think his desire to win is tremendous, he is just an extremely tough competitor,” he said. “Whatever it takes to win a basketball game, he will do it. His passion to win is just huge and I think that he played that way through his entire career in basketball, football and baseball. He just loves to compete.”
Mallak feels his coaches’ analysis is spot on.
“I hate losing so much,” he said. “Ever since I was young, I just couldn’t stand it. I really enjoyed guarding (Mio standout) Drew Hess and (Hale standout) Joseph Kimmerer. I tried as hard as I could against them and left everything on the court. I just love being challenged to win and I just love basketball so much; that’s why I want to play at another level in college.”
Reaching the 1,000 point mark has long been a special milestone for high school basketball players; something that Mallak had his sights on for a long time.
“It means a ton, I will never forget that night (scoring 1,000 points),” he said. “I saw a few do it in front of me and I remembering looking at it my freshman year and thinking about what it would take for me to get to that mark. It was really great to have all my family there, it makes a great memory for me for the rest of my life.”
And as for the assist record?
“That’s just being a team player,” he said.
With a lengthy playoff run, Mallak might have been able to reach the top of the program’s all-time scoring list. Nik Alda, a 2000 graduate holds the record of 1,260.
“He has had a fantastic career, and I really feel bad for Brayden,” Poland said of the season likely being cut short. “Scoring hasn’t always been his top goal but he was so consistent at it, he had a chance to break the record. It’s too bad, but that’s the story being told all throughout the state of Michigan.
“I’m just proud of him,” he added. “He never became complacent.”
Mallak hopes to take that hate-to-lose attitude and never-ending drive to get better to the next level as well.
“I am still looking at a few colleges, trying to work things out, but it is just going to take a little bit of time, especially with the coronavirus getting in the way of a lot of things,” he said. “I just want to thank everybody that came out and supported me along the way.”