Born in the city, raised in a small town. This is the story behind how Tonopah High School junior Antonio “Tony” Bleasdell became who he is now.
Bleasdell was born in Las Vegas and his family moved up to the small town of Tonopah shortly after he was born. Bleasdell didn’t miss out on living in the Las Vegas area. He mentioned that it’s been good growing up in a town like Tonopah.
“It’s pretty good,” Bleasdell said. “I still have most of the same friends. You know a lot of people here since it’s such a small town.”
Growing up in Tonopah, Bleasdell would see people in town playing basketball and he would attend the games throughout middle school. He would always tell himself that it looked like fun and that he wanted to play basketball.
Bleasdell was in fourth grade the first time he touched a basketball. He said that his first experience was dribbling and shooting with a soccer ball at the park near his house.
Bleasdell made the varsity team for Tonopah in his freshman year. That year, he played as a floater, so he didn’t get much playing time.
“It felt pretty good,” Bleasdell said of making varsity as a freshman. “It felt like I was good enough to be in that position. I tried my hardest out there, every time I stepped foot on the court. I tried to play the hardest defense I could. I tried to play the hardest offense I could.”
Bleasdell’s favorite position on offense is playing point guard. With Tonopah mostly using a zone defense, his favorite position is down low near the baseline. He enjoys getting blocks and helping his team with rebounds, as well.
Bleasdell’s favorite players that he enjoys watching and modeling his playing style after are Lebron James and Michael Jordan. He likes Jordan’s aggressiveness and his leadership. Tony also likes the way that Jordan knows what he wants to do when he has the ball and that he’s able to do it with ease.
Tonopah head coach Adam Siri said that Bleasdell was an outstanding player and he’s one of the leaders of the team. When I asked Bleasdell what it meant to be one of the leaders of the team, he wasn’t too sure how to feel about it.
“It’s something new to me,” he said. “We didn’t have a season last year and my freshman year I barely got any playing time, so I wasn’t leading anything.”
The Muckers are currently looking at an overall record of 1-9 this year. They have resumed playing and are in need of a big turnaround in order to make a push for the playoffs.
When I talked to Bleasdell about what needs to be done, he had four simple words for how the Muckers can start to turn the season around: to not give up.
“When we get down, people like to give up,” Bleasdell said of his team when they fall behind. “I try to say, ‘Don’t focus on that last play’, because once you focus on the thing you did wrong, that’s going to be the thing that you think about the whole game and it’s going to bring you down.”
On top of playing basketball, Bleasdell is also the star running back for the Muckers’ football team.
Bleasdell first got introduced to the game of football when he met one of his best friends, James.
James’ family loved to watch football, so Tony and James would go out to any grassy areas they could find in their neighborhood and start playing catch.
Bleasdell immediately fell in love with the sport and knew he wanted to play in school once he entered middle school.
In Bleasdell’s first two years playing football as a sixth and seventh grader, he didn’t get to play much because he had bad grades and he wasn’t too motivated because he wasn’t playing a position that he liked.
That all changed when he got to eighth grade.
That year, he began getting good grades and switched positions from lineman to running back, where he became a starter.
One of his football idols growing up was Marshawn Lynch, who was a starting running back in the NFL. Lynch was known for his power running, giving him the nickname “Beast Mode.” This is the same style that Bleasdell likes to play with.
“I like watching people just run over other people,” Bleasdell said of playing as a physical running back. “It just, like, I don’t know, gives me adrenaline. When I run the ball, I want to do that.”
In high school, Bleasdell has become one of the starting members on the Tonopah Muckers offense. He is one of the key parts in their three-headed rushing attack that also includes Cody Pippin and starting quarterback Anthony Gromis.
Because of Gromis’ throwing ability, Bleasdell was used as a receiver for a large part of his junior season this year. He finished the season with 317 rushing yards, 756 receiving yards, and had a team-leading 24 touchdowns.
After the basketball season, Tony plans on going out for the baseball team in the spring. He would like to play one of the outfield positions, but he did admit that he needs to work on getting better at batting before the season starts.
In his free time, Tony is your typical high school student. He likes to hang out with friends and play video games. His favorite games to play are NBA2K and Fortnite.
You can see Bleasdell in his next game on Friday, Jan. 21, when the Muckers travel to Pahranagat Valley to take on the Panthers. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.