Size, improvement put Comfort on all-conference hoops list

Falcon senior forward Zach Comfort was selected to the first team all-conference for the Cascade Conference.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon senior forward Zach Comfort was selected to the first team all-conference for the Cascade Conference.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — At 6-feet, 8-inches, South Whidbey boys basketball senior Zach Comfort is hard to miss. This past basketball season was all his Cascade Conference contemporaries and competitors needed to see to vote him to the all-conference first team.

“It’s an honor well deserved,” said Falcon head coach Henry Pope.

“He was a kid who could create for himself with his height and foot quickness.”

If not for his unmistakable size, he doesn’t look like a basketball player. At times, he’s like one of those Pemco Insurance commercials — “You’re one of us” — like the one about the socks and sandals guy. That’s Comfort. He wears flannel, does well in school and rides a longboard.

Though that longboard put him in a sling last fall. He had a spill and broke his left collarbone in August, just before school began. Comfort, who was one-half of the Falcons’ top doubles team last year, missed the tennis season while he was healing.

On the mend until November, Comfort found solace in the conditioning he did during the spring and summer. His coach credited football coach Mark Hodson for Comfort’s vast improvement from a reserve the past three seasons to the offensive priority in Comfort’s final year.

“The first thing, is he got serious about weight training,” Pope said.

“He was a lot stronger and able to get shots off in traffic.”

Comfort made those shots, and lots of them. Through 20 games, Comfort averaged 15.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.3 blocks and 1.3 assists. Those 4.3 blocks equal about 8 points Comfort, who his coached called “a natural shot blocker,” took away from opposing teams, not to mention the adjusted offensive schemes teams used to counter Comfort’s size near the basket.

“I just did my jobs, and I think that’s what it came down to,” Comfort said.

“What I wanted to do, and what I kind of forced myself to do, was at any one point I was doing something. If I wasn’t shooting, I was trying to get a rebound. If I wasn’t getting a rebound, I was boxing someone out.”

The 2011-2012 campaign bookended nicely for Comfort. In his first game of the season against Friday Harbor, Comfort scored 18 points, snared 15 rebounds and tallied four blocks, and the Falcons won. Comfort scored his career-best 23 points in his final game, a victory against Lakewood. Neither game was his most memorable performance, however.

“I had the most fun at Coupeville because I dribbled the ball a lot,” Comfort said of the Falcons’ 52-38 victory. “I crossed the half-court line one time, probably the only time in my career. I think I got an assist, actually.”

The season wasn’t all highlights for Comfort. He struggled in the early part of the year, and as his scoring vanished, so did the Falcons’ hopes of a winning season. Worst of all for the team was South Whidbey’s 64-18 loss to Lynden in December. Comfort scored a season-low three points.

Even a victory came with its low moments for Comfort. During a 54-42 upset win over Archbishop Murphy, Comfort had the task of going against one of the conference’s other premier big men — senior forward Zach Gordon. It was a game of Zach-on-Zach blocks, boxing out, rebounds, hook shots and turnaround jump shots. There were also the two dunks Gordon threw down at South Whidbey’s Erickson Gym, and then there were the two blocks he had against Comfort.

“Zach Gordon blocked me twice. That was pretty embarrassing. That never happened to me,” Comfort said. “When you’re 6’ 8”, you don’t really think about fading away because you’ve been told not to for so long. But when you’re going against a guy the same size as you, that can jump higher than you, you have to think about it at least.”

Comfort has a lot to think about in the coming months. He said he will attend Willamette University in Salem, Ore., and plans to play for the Division III Bearcat men’s basketball team there.

“I really like their coaching philosophy. They don’t have a ton of rules for their players — they just have three: Don’t embarrass yourself, your team or your family. I really like them and their attitude,” Comfort said.

“I’m going D-III, because I want to get an education, then play basketball, not play basketball then get an education.”

Get cozy, Salem, because Comfort is coming your way.

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