For Malcolm Colbert, pain had become an everyday part of his young life.
It was the constant reminder of an injury he suffered in middle school, a dislocated right kneecap that followed him on the basketball court, where the 6-foot-1 guard shined despite the tendon damage in a four-year varsity career that culminated in a state title this year. And it followed him around the classrooms and hallways of Post Falls High School, where the 18-year-old had built a reputation as a leader.
But, most importantly, the pain didn’t limit Colbert – it only motivated him to become a better student and stronger individual. In just a few days, the determination that drove Colbert as a player and a student will be rewarded with a high school diploma when he joins his classmates at graduation.
Born in Coeur d’Alene, Colbert picked up the game of basketball at a young age. Watching NBA players such as Allen Iverson and Ray Allen sparked a commitment in the young player that would translate into success on the courts. In the four years Colbert played varsity, he started every game possible – only when the throbbing in his knee was too severe did he ever sit out.
“I always wanted to be in the NBA,” said Colbert, while seated in the library of Post Falls High School, his knee wrapped in a brace from a recent surgery to fix the troublesome injury. “I’ve loved the game ever since I was a little kid.”
However, it wasn’t just in the realm of hoops, hops, shots and crossovers that the Post Falls graduate thrived. His parents also encouraged Colbert to put as much dedication into his schoolwork as he did into his game. Thanks to them, he says, he will graduate with a solid 3.3 grade-point average.
“Growing up, of course my mom and dad were my biggest influences. They always made sure I did well in school,” Colbert said. “They’ve definitely been on me about school my whole life.”
Bryan Kelly, a history teacher at the high school and assistant basketball coach, said Colbert was a good student and selfless player – a hard worker in the classroom and pure shooting guard on the court.
“He’s an excellent student, one of those kids who are a pleasure to have in class,” Kelly said. “And he’s a very good leader on the court, vocally as well as leading by example.”
On the blacktop and hardwood courts is where Colbert found his true calling. As he often did, playing through pain became second nature, with ice treatments a common pre-game warm up.
Despite the soreness, he played well. At the state 5A championship game against Eagle High at the Idaho Center in Nampa, Colbert was named the most valuable player after posting a game-high 19 points and dishing out three assists.
“He had one of the greatest championship games I’ve ever seen,” Kelly said.
Family friend and physical therapist Nate Thoreson watched Colbert mature in the decade he’s known the family. In working with the young man, Thoreson saw a resolve to help the team no matter what, even if it meant playing with the chronic knee ache.
“He’s the kind of kid that sacrifices for the team a lot. He was the glue that held the team together,” said Thoreson. Thoreson added that he believes Colbert would make an excellent physical therapist.
“He’s going to be a success because the kind of person he is – he’s intelligent and he cares about people, so he’s going to do really well,” he offered. About the possibility of a pain-free future playing basketball at the college level, Thoreson said, “If there’s a kid that deserves it, it’s Malcolm.”
Outside of school, Colbert enjoys playing music with friends. He also tutored third-grade students at Prairie View Elementary his senior year.
Colbert said the things he will miss the most about North Idaho are his family and the friends he made in Post Falls. “It’s been awesome, there are really great people here,” he offered when asked about his high school years. “Definitely winning state was the most memorable, but otherwise all the teachers I’ve had have been awesome.”
Colbert received a scholarship to continue his basketball career at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. He plans on pursuing a degree as a physical therapist.
“That’s what I’m going to do is physical therapy,” he said, adding he wants to help people who, just like him, endured years of an ongoing injury. “Me going through (pain) so much, which is why I want to help other people. As a physical therapist, you have more of a relationship with your clients, too.”
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