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Mayo senior's game has grown over the years in boys basketball

Mar. 4—ROCHESTER — Sawyer Markham has done a lot of growing during his three-year varsity career with the Mayo boys basketball team.

Markham is a 6-foot senior guard for the Spartans, and still a lean 160 pounds. As a freshman he was just 5-foot-5 before he hit a growth spurt. He has been a starter since he was a sophomore and his game has certainly expanded over the years.

"I've always had some speed, which helped me a lot," he said.

He also has had the ability to shoot the ball very well. This season Markham has been Mayo's only real consistent scoring threat. The youthful Spartans posted a 13-13 record during the regular season and are the No. 6 seed in the eight-team Section 1, Class 4A tournament which begins on Tuesday.

Markham has averaged 20.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists for Mayo this season, but he has been more than just a scorer.

"I trust my teammates," Markham said. "They know how to get me the ball when I'm open and know how to find open shots for me. And this year I've got a lot better at creating my own shot."

Markham has scored just more than a third of Mayo's points this season despite drawing a lot of attention from opposing defenses.

"I think they single him out and try to do what they can to stop him," said Mayo coach Braden Markham, Sawyer's father. "But I think our guys do a good job of finding him when he's open and try to free him up for some open shots."

Sawyer has come to expect extra defensive pressure from opponents in every game that he plays. But he has managed to thrive despite the added attention. He does his best to get his teammates involved as well.

A big reason that Markham's scoring average has jumped up seven points per game this season is because his offensive game has evolved. As a sophomore and junior he was primarily a spot-up outside shooter. This season he is still very capable from the outside, shooting 38% from 3-point range, but he has also attacked the basket with greater frequency.

"Sophomore and junior year, shooting threes was my main thing," he said. "But this year, I've just taken that step and have learned how to use my body more and how to create contact and get into the paint and be stronger with the ball."

When Markham is able to get inside, a signature shot that he likes to use in the lane is a floater over taller defenders.

Heading into the Section 1, Class 4A tournament, Markham has 974 career points. Hitting the 1,000-point mark has been a goal of his, but

the Spartans play at No. 3 Lakeville South

at 8:01 p.m. Tuesday, so he may have just one game left in his career.

"I would love to hit 1,000 points, but it's not the end of the world if I don't get it," he said. "I'd rather, of course, get this win. It's not the top thing on my mind, but it was a goal I wanted to accomplish at the beginning of the season."

Part of Markham's growth with the Spartans this season has been his role as a leader. Mayo has a young team with a number of sophomores playing key roles. Markham, who was once in their shoes, has taken it upon himself to be a mentor to the younger players.

"They need that player to look up to and I've just kind of helped them out being a leader off and on the court, being their friend, getting to know them a lot," he said, "and also encouraging them and giving them confidence to show I have trust in them to win these games."

Despite his strong offensive game, Markham also takes great pride in his defense. That was one area that helped him earn a spot on the varsity as a sophomore.

"That's definitely been a top part of my game all my life," Markham said. "... I still put in 100 percent every time I'm guarding my opposing player."

He often guards the point guard on opposing teams and has used his speed and quickness to his advantage and to generate a lot of steals. He has averaged about two steals per game throughout his three-year varsity career.

"He's tough on the defensive end," Braden Markham said. "He's tough to get around. He really takes it personally on the defensive end."

Markham has hopes of playing college basketball and he is being recruited by a number of Division III schools in the MIAC. He said he has received the most interest from Hamline University, St. John's University and St. Mary's University.

During the summer, he enjoys boating with his family. He grew up playing baseball, but quit after his sophomore year. He is contemplating going out for the Mayo baseball team again this spring since he won't be playing AAU basketball.

"I just love being outdoors in general," he said.

And despite his busy schedule, he has worked at Mr. Pizza South in Rochester for about a year. During the basketball season, he works there most Sundays.