Zone Read: The Balancing Act

Arizona Sports News online

Three’s Company

Work balance and time management can be tricky to navigate, even as adults.

Try being a sophomore in high school.

While Rowan McKenzie isn’t punching a clock 40 hours a week, the Boulder Creek High standout is somehow finding the time to play three varsity sports at a high level, while maintaining his sparkling 3.4 grade point average.

For McKenzie working smarter, not necessarily harder, during school hours, allows him to hone on his craft in athletics.

“I make sure I get all my work done during class,” he said to the “Zone Read.” So I have little, to no, homework.”

Last fall the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder had opposing defensive coordinators taking notes after shredding Boulder Creek’s 6A opponents to the tune of 2,000 total yards and 18 touchdowns, taking over for BC legend Bear Milacek, who now plays at the University of New Mexico.

Following a year of watching and learning, McKenzie stepped into the starting role and thrived, taking pieces from what he learned watching Milacek.

“When I was a freshman, Bear helped me a lot,” he explained. “[He] made it sure I knew what it takes to go to the next level.”

After leading the Jags to a 6A playoff birth in his first year behind center, McKenzie went from throwing a ball – to shooting one – helping 12th-seeded BC to an incredible run to the 6A semi-finals before falling in a back-and-forth contest at Hamilton. Boulder finished the year 23-9.

The hoops’ stats for the combo guard were nearly as impressive: a team-high 16 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists (also a team-high), and 1.3 steals.

“The hardest part about transitioning sports is improving and staying ready,” he noted. “But I practice them all, even during the season. It takes a lot, but I like it.”

For McKenzie juggling sports, and school, has become second nature since a young age.

“I basically played all sports – tennis, soccer, football, basketball, baseball – until around age six or seven,” he said. “[Then] continued to play football, basketball, and baseball. Basketball is my favorite sport but football is a close second.”

This spring McKenzie will skip the baseball season to focus on the 7-on-7 season and AAU basketball in the summer months. 

Last year as a freshman, he started at shortstop and pitched for BC’s junior varsity team.

Remember the name. 


Another 2024 multi-sport athlete to keep tabs on is Higley running back Daxen Hall.

If you’re familiar with the Higley program and that last name, you can probably connect the dots on why the future is bright in the southeast Valley for the 5-foot-7, 160-pounder who also plays basketball and runs track.

“We are very excited to have Dax as one of our running backs next year,” Higley head coach Eddy Zubey said to the “Zone Read.” “Dax has great speed and balance and is always a threat to go the distance when he gets the ball. Dax is also very versatile. He has great hands and can line up in the slot for us and run routes and catch.”

While Zubey is hesitant to compare Dax to older brother, Knight legend and current NAU running back Draycen Hall, the physical, and athletic, bloodline is certainly in little brother. 

“I see a lot of Draycen in him,” he explained. “Some of the plays Dax had last year on [junior varsity] were plays like Draycen would have – making people miss, breaking tackles, and running away from the other team.”

He also sees several brotherly similarities in the classroom.

“Dax is a great student,” Zubey said. “In the classroom, he has above a 4.0 GPA. He is a good leader and leads by example.”

“It’s a Job”

A common theme of this week’s column has been budgeting time and prioritizing what’s most important to success both in athletics and, more importantly, the classroom.

Any Arizona high school student-athlete who is fortunate enough to have the opportunity to compete in college will be tasked with unexplored adult responsibilities – like finding enough hours in the day when athletics, specifically at the Division I level, demand such a large chunk of time.

“Zone Read” ran into one class of ’21 standout student-athlete who redshirted this past fall but ran scout team as he adapted to life away from home and the seemingly endless commitment of being a Division I football player in the Sun Belt Conference.

“I love school and the campus,” he said between grabbing a cardio workout and lift at our north Phoenix gym. “But’s a job. There really are no breaks. Even this year, as a redshirt, the coaches had us lifting or watching film pretty much every opportunity they could get. I’m home for spring break and the time is already flying by. I know most of the players are really focused on unplugging from football this week. It’s been non-stop.” 

Sounds like a whole different type of March Madness.