From the time he first started dribbling a basketball in the driveway when he was 5 or 6 years old, Drake Weber loved basketball.
“When the ball goes right through the hoop and it’s a perfect swish, that’s just the best feeling,” Weber said. “(I love) when you get a nice move, a nice 3-pointer or a layup and an and-one and all the excitement not just from you, but your teammates. It’s a great feeling when you’re all together playing.
“I fell in love with the excitement and teamwork of the game.”
Weber has put a lot of basketballs through a lot of hoops in his career at La Salle-Peru.
After being called up to the varsity as a freshman, he became the team’s go-to scorer as a sophomore.
He saved his best offensive season for last as he poured in 271 points — and eclipsed 1,000 for his career — in the COVID-19 shortened season for an area-best average of 22.6 points per game.
“I always liked scoring,” Weber said. “It always came to me.”
But Weber could do more than score.
He also averaged 6.2 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.7 assists per game as he helped the Cavaliers to an 8-4 overall record and a 7-2 mark in the Interstate Eight Conference.
For all he accomplished this season, Weber is the 2021 NewsTribune Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“Phenomenal,” L-P coach Jim Cherveny said when asked to describe Weber’s season. “I was really impressed with his effort. Obviously, he’s got a great skillset, but he couldn’t have achieved what he did without the hard work put in during summers before this and years before this.
“He’s relentless, and that’s what it takes. In the era we live in right now where everybody wants to be bigger, faster and stronger, you have to be a prisoner of hard work. You have to lock yourself in every single day and say you want to get better, this is how you get better and you put your mind to it. Drake has done that. He puts in a lot of time in the weight room, puts in a lot of time by himself, and really locks in when we get together as a team, too. He’s a year-round guy. That’s just who he is. He shows up every day and he works hard.”
That hard work along with hustle on the court comes from the desire to overcome the fact he wasn’t blessed with the size typically associated with success on the basketball court.
“I don’t really have much height, so I knew I had to give a little bit more to stand out or even just keep up with people who are taller, because you need some height to play basketball,” said Weber, who is listed on rosters at 5-foot-10. “My dad is not the tallest, and he always told me hustle wins everything no matter how tall you are.”
Weber’s hustle helped make him a reliable rebounder despite his size disadvantage. He hauled in 6.2 boards per game, which ranked second on the team.
“That’s something he works on in practice,” Cherveny said. “He works on weak-side rebounding. He works on blocking out. He has a lot of intangibles that don’t show up in box scores. That’s something that separates him from everybody else and makes him a special player.”
Weber is admittedly “not really the best defender” but his hustle helps him take charges and jump passing lanes.
“As an on-ball defender, he’s very active,” Cherveny said. “He has a knack for finding the ball. When he’s a weak-side defender, he has a knack for finding the bad pass, getting deflections off the dribble or getting steals when guys try to make long skip passes.”
And Weber’s hustle helped him capitalize on L-P’s philosophy this season to put up shots more quickly and take more shots in games.
The result was a 6.8 point-per-game increase and Weber surpassing 1,000 career points and finishing in the top 10 in L-P history in career scoring.
“People told me I could have been higher or could have done this [without COVID shortening the season], but it was just fun to go out there and play,” Weber said. “It was a great feeling for me, and a great accomplishment. I wasn’t worried about that. I was worried about winning, and more than that, having fun with the guys.
“The 1,000 points is cool. It was a great accomplishment. It really topped off my senior year. I’m grateful to be up there with some of the greats of L-P.”