The Devoe family was asked to take a 1,000th point photo for this story after Avoca/Prattsburgh’s Far West Regional win over Panama. From left, Henry Devoe (brother), Zac Devoe (dad), Sawyer Devoe, Tessa Olsen (mom) and Sawyer’s “little buddy,” Simeon Archer. Photo by John Anderson.
By JOHN ANDERSON
The basket Sawyer Devoe scored on for his 1000th career point probably sums up the Avoca/Prattsburgh boys’ basketball team the best.
In an era where kids start warmups with 3-pointers and layups, this team relies on making the extra pass, sometimes eight in a possession, yet never, and I mean never, come close to a shot clock violation.
In the Far West Regionals on Saturday at Rush-Henrietta against Panama, forward Haden Abbott came up to set a screen to allow senior guard Evan Campbell to get off a good 3-pointer or drive the lane for a shot. Like hockey, Campbell saw an opportunity for an assist, an assist on the first of two passes.
Campbell stopped his drive when Panama’s defense switched on the pick and fired a left-handed pass to junior guard Macoy Putnam, who didn’t have the ball in his hands for a second when he found Devoe on the baseline open for a baseline, mid-range jump shot.
With 3:14 left in the first quarter, the ball swished through and A/P had a 14-2 lead and you knew they were heading back to the New York State final four in Glens Falls. It was like any other basket in the game, except on the other end of the floor, the entire A/P team stood and cheered as did a few pockets of fans and family members who knew it was his 1,000th career point.
No one else knew. Not during the game or after. The only hint of the milestone was a small sign on a white piece of paper that looked like it was drawn on the way up to Henrietta in the car with a Sharpie.
This is not a knock on the sign maker or the lack of celebration. Many times when a player reaches 1,000 or 2,000 points, a vinyl banner comes out, balloons, flowers, a commemorative basketball with white panels and calligraphy with the name of the player and the milestone.
It is a special moment, whether it’s during or after a game. It’s a memory and milestone to cherish and puts you in exclusive company. To score 1,000 points at this moment is difficult, as many players missed games because of the pandemic. With Devoe, he was 20 points from the goal for about five games. And A/P won each game, whether he scored two or 10.
After the victory Saturday, the A/P team took a photo with the Far West Regional trophy and walked off to the locker room. Coach Brian Putnam spoke to the team, went over the practice schedule, let them know who they were playing on Saturday and left. I grabbed Devoe, his father Zac (an assistant coach) and made sure the family got the 1,000th point photo on the court, with the game ball and the handmade black Sharpie sign.
The family was grateful and the moment was over.
It was so low-key, I had to know more about Sawyer Devoe and basketball.
JUST ANOTHER MANIC MONDAY
Devoe attends Prattsburgh Central. The sports teams are merged with Avoca Central School, but the student athletes go to separate schools. That dynamic makes winning a little more special when you overcome the challenges of playing and practicing in two different schools with players you don’t go to school with.
The school is small and Devoe has the same teacher for his last two classes of the day, a small room off the library. You pass kindergarteners in the hall with seniors and they all know each other.
“I don’t mind it, I have a great teacher,” Devoe says about his last classes. He agrees to a sit-down interview. I find a space in a copy room with a high table and two stools.
I know I’m interviewing a basketball player, so when he walks in, two basketball-related actors come to mind. Woody Harrelson who played Billy Hoyle in the movie White Men Can’t Jump and Mario “Salami” Pettrino played by Timothy Van Patten in the TV series The White Shadow from 1978 to 1981.
It’s not just the looks. Sawyer is a throwback. You could mistake him as a casual surfer off the court, but on the court, he’s the closest to Dennis Rodman you will find in New York State. Undersized, but somehow, it seems he gets every single rebound. Rodman, like Devoe, could score, but focused on rebounding, as he led the NBA in grabbing boards seven straight years.
To Devoe, it’s an art form.
“Rebounding is about moving when the ball is in the air. You read it. I look at the flight of the ball and the pattern of the ball before it hits the rim,” Devoe says. “When you see that, then you know where it’s going to go and that helps my chances.
“A lot of people wait for it and have it come to you,” Devoe explains. “And, a lot of people position themselves too close to the hoop. A lot of times you think ‘box out, box out, box out.’ But if he’s in front of you, maybe you want to hold him if he’s under the hoop? But it’s really about wanting the ball. You NEED to get that ball. That’s how you win a game by getting the ball. I think rebounding is an underappreciated part of the game.”
I thank him for his time, then realize, ‘Wait, we are supposed to be talking about scoring 1,000 points!’
Here’s what I scribbled in my notepad. He was called up to the Prattsburgh varsity with Macoy Putnam as a freshman. Macoy was in 8th grade. They weren’t scorers, but man could they play defense.
The year before, Prattsburgh lost to Belfast, 60-55 in the sectional finals. That wouldn’t happen again. In 2020, Prattsburgh beat Elba, 72-64.
Devoe and Macoy Putnam made such a difference as JV call ups, they were the first ones off the bench to play in the Section V finals against Elba.
“We weren’t too nervous, we played a lot in the semi-finals game in Penn Yan,” Devoe recalls. “We were the pests at the top of the 2-3 zone. But I remember when me and Macoy got subbed in together during the finals at the War Memorial, he had a dime to me and I had a layup underneath. After that I remember swarming their guards up top and pressuring them pretty good.”
Macoy scored five points in that game and Devoe had four. He was on his way, just 996 more points to go. He laughs at that thought.
“I was not there to score,” Devoe said. “We had scorers, Mason Putnam (over 2,500 career points), Kris Johnson, Ammon (Anderson), James Crowder, my brother Henry, but not Macoy and I.”
As a sophomore, the pandemic hit. Avoca and Prattsburgh merged sports programs and the team was allowed to play a shortened season, getting nine games in between COVID cancellations.
The team beat Notre Dame of Batavia, 79-64, but instead of the War Memorial, it was at Avoca Central School. Kris Johnson not only scored 29 points that night, but also reached the 1,000-point milestone. The season ended and the team was 11-0.
The 2021-2022 state championship season has been well-documented. A/P went undefeated, beat Wheatland-Chili in the Section V finals, once again beat Notre Dame of Batavia (this time in the crossovers) and went 27-0.
LEARNING A NEW SHOT
This season, A/P once again beat Notre Dame in the finals and take a 23-2 record into Glens Falls this weekend. And Devoe now scores, especially on the lost art of the mid-range jumper.
“The mid-range jumper was never really in my game as a freshman and sophomore, but the last few years, I’ve worked on it with a reverse pivot,” Devoe said. “Our last game, I shot three 3’s which is more than I have shot all season. I’m sure I could shoot more 3-pointers, but I enjoy the mid-range.”
And that mid-range shot was his 1,000th point.
“I never even really thought about it. I’m glad I’m there and all of that, but it was never a goal in my mind to get to 1,000,” Devoe said. “A lot of people would ask how close I was, but I wasn’t too worried about it.”
Devoe’s coach, Brian Putnam, knows there won’t be any highlight tapes of Devoe draining long 3-pointers or fancy drives through the lane for his 1,000 points. In fact, Coach Putnam believes half of those points were not even drawn up as plays.
“I would guess 500 of those points are from put-backs of someone’s shots or his own shots,” Putnam said. “He’s a workhorse. That’s how he got 1,000 points. He’s relentless on the offensive boards. Not to take away from his mid-range jumper, but he’s a workhorse on the boards.
“Rebounding is an attitude. You can teach kids, but they have to have a nose for the ball, he reads it off the rim and he has the ability to go get it,” Putnam added.
The coach was not surprised by the lack of fanfare after the 1,000th point.
“That’s just how these kids act. They win and it’s just another game,” he said. “I don’t think they see the personal stuff as big as team goals and that’s a big part of it. They put winning a sectional title and then winning a state title above personal goals and achievements.”
With that, Devoe walked off to check in for the first baseball practice of the year and head home and get ready for basketball practice. He also checked in on his “little buddy,” Simeon Archer, the son of former Prattsburgh star Jesse Archer, who doesn’t miss a game.
He even stopped to pick up garbage someone left behind and threw it away.
Another put back and basket for an unselfish and unassuming senior.
Photos by Corrine Wright: