Region hoops fans all know Nate Bubash is handy with a basketball.
Not too many folks outside of the Munster senior's Construction Technology class at the Hammond Area Career Center know he's also adept with a hammer and saw.
Bubash, a 6-foot-6 bulwark for the unbeaten Mustangs, hopes to help his team go all the way in the state tournament, and that's not his only competitive venue involving wood. On Feb. 9, Bubash won the SkillsUSA contest in construction, building a two-by-three mock-up of a home with a Gable roof over a span of about three-and-a-half hours, with nothing to start with but the raw materials and a blueprint.
"With sports, you always knows the score, if you're winning or losing," Bubash said. "With this, you're always graded at the end. You have to make sure everything is correct early on or you can mess up the whole thing."
Bubash, who makes the 15-minute trip from the high school for the two-and-a-half hour class each day, was unable to participate in the event last year due to a conflict with sectionals. It came a little earlier this year and thanks to coach Mike Hackett giving the team the day off, Bubash was able to show his wares.
"It was my only chance to do it," Bubash said. "Of course, you want to come out on top. With both, you always want to win, to do the best job you can."
Instructor Scott Ciupak said the additional preparation time served Bubash well, not to mention the height and wing span that gives him a reach and leverage advantage.
"His experience in sports shows in his daily work," Ciupak said. "I was told he played basketball and I can see in his demeanor how sports helps. You get in competition, a lot of kids get frazzled. He's calm and deliberate. He works very hard. He's always very polite. He's not afraid to ask questions."
The construction tech class, which draws from 11 area high schools, has more than a few parallels with a basketball team. Like players watching tape or going over plans before a game or practice, students spend time learning in the classroom before heading out to the sprawling shop that resembles a job site. Group projects, likewise, succeed as teams do -- through a cooperative effort.
"(The coaches and teachers) know more than me, so I take what they say and put it to my skills," Bubash said. "It's a little different tension. Basketball, you have a few thousand watching. Here, it's only a handful. If I can handle a few thousand, I can handle a few. I just stay calm and make sure I do the job I know I have to do."
The SkillsUSA state finals are April 19-20 at Warren Central and the Walker Career Center in Indianapolis. The winner there qualifies for nationals.
"With his talent, I think he's got a really good shot," Ciupak said.
As the cliche' goes with basketball, Bubash is taking it 'one step at a time.'
"You get more excited as you go on," he said. "Just being able to show off your work hard and abilities, it's something that's nice to do."
Like basketball, carpentry came naturally to Bubash, whose dad Leonard is a licensed contractor. When Nate was younger, his dad would give him tasks to do during projects, and his interest developed from there.
Bubash will play basketball at Indiana Wesleyan, and may study business with the possibility of going into that end of the construction field.
If nothing else, he's building (pun intended) another skill set that will serve him well the rest of his life.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.