Michigan-bound Donnal pushes Anthony Wayne toward NLL basketball title

1/31/2013
BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Anthony Wayne's Mark Donnal grabs a rebound against Perrysburg. The 6-foot-9 senior averages 19.5 points and 10.8 rebounds for the Generals (13-2, 8-1 NLL).
Anthony Wayne's Mark Donnal grabs a rebound against Perrysburg. The 6-foot-9 senior averages 19.5 points and 10.8 rebounds for the Generals (13-2, 8-1 NLL).

There was a time in Mark Donnal's life when he was a three-sport participant.

Mark Donnal has signed to play at Michigan and hopes to lead AW to its first NLL title since 1998.
Mark Donnal has signed to play at Michigan and hopes to lead AW to its first NLL title since 1998.

He played football, basketball, and baseball right alongside his close friends and other classmates.

That stopped shortly after playing football and basketball as a freshman at Anthony Wayne.

Donnal, who was a 6-foot-5 tight end as a freshman, determined he would concentrate on basketball. It paid off.

"Basketball was always my favorite sport," said Donnal, a 6-9 senior averaging 19.5 points and 10.8 rebounds.

Donnal's decision came with plenty of thought, as well as from some sound advice from a couple of key influences who saw something in his ability.

"Coach [Bryan] Borcherdt had a big part in that," said Donnal. "He was telling me how much potential I had and I could be a Division I [college] player. That's when I decided to focus on basketball and focus on my skills."

Borcherdt saw great potential in Donnal.

"I told him you can take this as far as you want to take it," Borcherdt said. "You're big. You've got great hands, and you've got good feet, and you run the floor well. I told him we can work on his outside shot. I think at that point he realized maybe he's got something here.

"I told him he's been blessed with some gifts other kids hadn't been blessed with."

Donnal took the advice and ran with it, becoming a frontcourt force for the Generals over the next three seasons.

His steady development landed him many offers, but he chose the University of Michigan.

Donnal said Michigan and Butler were the two schools that showed the most interest. Duke showed interest, too, but the Blue Devils came into the picture late, a day prior to Donnal set to make a verbal commitment to Michigan.

"I was the head coach for two weeks, and I had to go to one of my players and say, 'Duke assistant coach Chris Collins just called and what do you want me to tell him,'" Borcherdt recalled. "He said, 'Tell him I want to be a Wolverine.' That was kind of a hard thing to do two weeks into the job.

"But it was all neat because Mark is the kind of kid that doesn't like all that spotlight and he found a good fit. They offered and he jumped."

There's been no looking back. In the meantime, Donnal has continued to get better.

"I think I've come along a lot," Donnal said. "My freshman year I was too tentative offensively. I was too unselfish. I was looking to pass the ball more than I was looking to shoot it. I've worked on my skills and I look for my shot."

An All-Northern Lakes League player the last two seasons, he averaged 19.6 points and 9.2 rebounds as a junior.

He averaged 15.7 points and 7.0 rebounds as a sophomore after averaging 7.0 points as a freshman.

Donnal also credits former Bowling Green State University coach Dan Dakich with helping him raise up his level of play after participating on Dakich’s AAU team during the summer between his sophomore and junior years.

"He just told me to just go out there and play my game," said Donnal, who israted the 107th best player in the nation by Rivals.com.

Donnal has thrived even though every opponent makes him a priority when it comes to defending the Generals.

Borcherdt credits Donnal with playing with a focus and energy that has helped him overcome a constant dose of gimmicky game plans with the main purpose of trying to limit his impact.

The AW coach said he's coached few like Donnal, who can single-handedly take control of a contest.

"[Southview graduate] Tim Hausfeld was a great player who was a guy like that who could take over a game by himself," said Borcherdt, who was an assistant for the Cougars. "Mark's had a great high school career and he's been a great kid to coach and definitely, without a doubt, the best player that I've coached."

Donnal understands he needs to continue to improve heading to a college team that currently ranks No. 1 in the nation.

"We've got to keep working every day," he said. "I've got to get stronger and keep working on my overall game."

Donnal, who ranks second at AW all-time in scoring (1,181) and first in rebounding (610), also wants to keep working on trying to win a NLL title. AW hasn’t won a title since the 1997-98 season.

It's a topic Donnal and the rest of the Generals, 13-2 overall and in first place in the NLL with a 8-1 record, are quite familiar with.

"Records get broken, but years on league championship banners can never be taken away," Borcherdt said. "As long as the school exists that banner will be there with those numbers on it. He understands that and the seniors on the team understand that they'll have a legacy that they'll leave behind."

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.