BLOOMINGTON — In the offseason, Bloomington High School’s basketball team would run on the track at Fred Carlton Field before going into the gym to play five-on-five pickup games.
This wasn’t your halfcourt "go through the motions” kind of thing.
"We practice like we play, so we’re guarding fullcourt man-to-man,” said junior Patrick Fisher.
Something became apparent right away. No one wanted to guard Fisher’s brother, senior point guard Dazon Farris.
"For some odd reason, he never runs out of energy," Fisher said. "He’s coming at you 100 percent all the time."
It was only June, but Farris was shaping the Purple Raiders’ identity. His message was clear: the previous year’s trip to the Class 3A sectional final was a positive step, but it wasn’t good enough.
To push beyond that, Farris was determined to "push my team." While his slender build is an issue with Division I college recruiters, Farris carried plenty of weight on a 27-5 team that placed third in the state in Class 3A, won a second straight Big 12 Conference championship and set a school record for wins.
He earned Associated Press first-team All-State honors along the way and has been named The Pantagraph Player of the Year.
"I just wanted to show everybody the work ethic that we have and to get everybody in the gym," Farris said of his summer mentality. "In open gyms we usually had 10-12 people (in the past). There were 25 and sometimes 30 people here in open gyms.
"I was telling everybody they needed to get in there. Even if you weren’t making it (the team), I wanted you there so in case you did you’d be ready to play. I just wanted basically to get winning players so everybody would be used to winning and want to win."
The payoff was immediate. The Raiders went 31-1 in summer competition, winning multiple shootouts before losing their final game of the summer to Rockton Hononegah.
That one still bothers Farris a bit. In his mind, you always play to win, whether it’s at the state Final Four in Peoria, in a summer shootout or, yes, in those fullcourt scrimmages at BHS.
"Nobody wants to play weak pickup games," Farris said. "I would make it intense. I would trash talk to get other players involved, get them mad so everybody was playing hard.
"We want to have intense games. You don’t want to be wasting your time. I’d start trash talking with Patrick and then he’d get mad and his team would get mad. Then we would just go hard at each other. It was making me better and I’m making them better, more competitive."
Once the season rolled around, Farris inflicted a team-high 17.6 points per game on the opposition. He shot 51 percent from the field, had a team-leading 79 steals and averaged 4.5 rebounds.
Farris also had 2.2 assists per game and made 38 percent of his 3-point attempts (46 of 121) on his way to Big 12 Player of the Year honors.
"He’s a coach’s player," BHS coach Micheal Mosley said. "He’s done things the right way and it’s benefited him.
"He works the same way in practice every single day. They (teammates) just saw that leadership. It wasn’t as vocal as people would think just because of his personality. But in the postseason run this year he was very vocal and had command of our team."
Mosley called Farris "a high-quality point guard" who will "definitely help somebody at the next level."
Where that will be remains undetermined. Farris was listed at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds this year, but said, "I’m about 6-1, 6-1½ ... I weigh about 150."
Division I recruiters have shied away because of his size — "They say I’m too small to play at that level," he said — but Farris is doing what he can to add pounds. His mother, Lydia Fisher, gets an assist.
"I’m always eating," Farris said. "My mom makes me eat about five meals a day. She’s always feeding me."
Problem is, the active Farris typically burns off whatever Mom can pump into him. His plan is to adjust a bit and try to "rest after big meals … take some naps or something."
He also looks to get in the weight room and "get ready and get my body right and prove everybody wrong."
It may have to be on the junior college level initially. All Farris wants is an opportunity.
"I’m just like, 'Give me one chance,' " he said.
Patrick Fisher considers his brother to be "very underrated" by colleges. Farris’ value is fully appreciated at BHS, where the returning players — Fisher in particular — must carry on his mindset.
"For sure I have shoes to fill," Fisher said. "We have shoes to fill. I think he set the bar pretty high."