Sewickley Academy athlete of the week: Max Belt

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 | 1:08 AM

Max Belt

School: Sewickley Academy

Sport: Basketball

Class: Junior

Claim to fame: Max Belt and his older brother Donald founded Rebuilding Pittsburgh, a service club at Sewickley Academy that helps families in the region build homes.

He tries to have just as much of an impact on the court as he does away from it.

Belt averaged nearly 20 points and six rebounds in three games last week to help Sewickley Academy clinch its 19th consecutive playoff berth.

You’re often Sewickley Academy’s go-to player offensively, especially for big shots. How have you handled that pressure this season?

I’m just training every day of every week for those moments. I’m working hard all the time to have confidence in those situations and to have the trust of my teammates to shoot consistently and make big shots.

With a much smaller team compared to previous Sewickley Academy teams, how much have you taken it upon yourself to also control the paint?

I’ve definitely gotten a lot more rebounds this year. Since we have a small squad, we have to box out and play at a fast pace to make sure bigger teams can’t keep up with us. That’s something our coach has really emphasized since the beginning of the year.

Your coach said he wanted this to be the fastest team in WPIAL. Do you think there’s a case to be made for that distinction?

We really might be. George Zheng and Sal Laure are two of the quickest players I know. They move the ball fast, and they’re great facilitators. The other guys are great at setting screens. There’s a lot that goes into our game that people in the stands don’t see. A lot of people see the numbers, but there’s a lot of little stuff to make everything we accomplish possible.

The team has played in four consecutive games decided by three points or less. How important is it to learn and grow from those games?

The close games will definitely help us even if we have lost a few of them. We’re learning how to play under pressure before playoffs, which is especially important with a team that is so young and hasn’t had much experience in the playoffs.

You said early in the season a lot of people thought this would be a rebuilding year. Do you feel you’ve proven naysayers wrong?

We’ve already proven people wrong. Coach had said people thought maybe we wouldn’t win a game or win more than a few games. We beat Laurel and came close against Shenango, but we still have more to play for. Hopefully, we can make a statement in the playoffs.

How has Coach Palmer helped you in a year where you’ve stepped up as a leader?

He’s meant so much to me as a player and also as a person. Each day he teaches me something new about basketball and life. He’s given me a big opportunity this year and prepped me for it last year, and I can’t be thankful enough to have him as a coach.

What’s the best advice Coach Palmer has given to you?

I think the best advice he’s given me is to forget about a mistake and move on. That’s something I’ve struggled with. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. If I’m going to be relied on, I can’t think about mistakes. I’ve got to let things like a missed shot go and move on to the next play.

What’s your favorite meal?

Filet mignon and mashed potatoes

Who is the best basketball player of all time?

I’d say LeBron James, because of the way he strives for greatness. He’s also one of the best leaders to ever play the game. He gives out shots to teammates just to build their confidence. He can score a lot of the time on his own, but he knows it’s important to get everyone involved. He’s one of the most selfless players to watch.