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A 3 a.m. wakeup call re-focuses University of Tampa guard Mekhi Biffle

University of Tampa guard Mekhi Biffle (University of Tampa)
University of Tampa guard Mekhi Biffle (University of Tampa)
Published Jan. 8, 2018

TAMPA — He's on a full scholarship for men's basketball. His playing time has increased. Last month, he had his most productive college game. He's on track to earn a degree in human performance.

University of Tampa guard Mekhi Biffle has a perpetual smile on his face.

"I have a great opportunity here," Biffle said. "A great opportunity."

Entitled? Complacent? Unappreciative? Not this guy (whose first name is pronounced Muck-eye).

"Mekhi is very talented, but he already knows the advantage of having a great attitude and coming ready to work every day," Spartans coach Richard Schmidt said. "Those might seem like small things, obvious things. But they are very, very big things.

"And that will allow him to maximize his potential. He has figured out something that some people never grasp."

Biffle, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from Indianapolis, said he gained proper perspective last summer while working his first-ever job. It was back home at an Amazon distribution warehouse.

Clock-in time: 3:45 a.m.

"You're driving in and you're the only one on the highway," Biffle said. "We were packing boxes, stacking boxes, shoving them into containers. More boxes than you could ever imagine. It never ended. You might get a 15-minute break, then you're right back at it.

"It's a tough world out there. It's tough to get a job sometimes. And there's always somebody who wants your job, who will work harder than you. There are people who will be stacking those boxes the rest of their lives. So it showed me I have an opportunity to get an education and play basketball. I have it good. I'm going to take advantage of this."

Biffle, who was a 1,000-point career scorer at Lawrence Central High School, was a prep rival of UT junior Pat Bacon. When the Spartans came after Bacon, they also noticed Biffle.

Biffle said he wasn't sure about his college plans. For a while, he thought it might be community college, then looking for some loans to reach a four-year school.

After a productive senior year, he had about eight Division II offers, mostly in the Midwest, but he was intrigued by UT. Bacon gave a positive review. So Biffle headed to Tampa.

"Being here and having my college paid for is a very, very big deal for me," Biffle said. "Of course, I want to continue improving at basketball and I'd love the opportunity to play overseas one day.

"But I know why I'm here primarily. I'm getting my education. I like to think I put in a lot of work over the years and it has paid off. So I'm having the time of my life."

Biffle, who's averaging 8.5 points per game with a high of 26 against Barry University, is a combination guard who can also play small forward. He has displayed versatile skills, burying 3-pointers, hitting mid-range jumpers and driving to the basket.

Schmidt said Biffle's best basketball is ahead of him.

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"The potential is definitely there," Schmidt said. "He's at his best as a power player, being strong, shooting it off the dribble. He doesn't need to be dribbling through his legs and all that stuff. He just needs to be Mekhi Biffle and he'll be just fine."

Biffle said that's his intent.

He wants to be himself.

He's trying to improve each day.

If his spirits ever get low, he thinks back to those early mornings working in the Amazon warehouse.

"No one gives you anything in this life … you have to go take it and earn it," Biffle said. "Some people might think they don't have to do anything because their dad owns something or whatever, but that's not a good mindset.

"Whether it's basketball or life, you have to put in the work and make some sacrifices. Then you get the reward. That's the way I see it."

That mind-set got Biffle to his college basketball opportunity.

And according to Schmidt, it should carry Biffle well beyond into his life.

"When you're working with a kid like Mekhi, seeing him succeed is very satisfying," Schmidt said. "He deserves this."

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