Shooting straight for State

unior transfer Steven Gray goes to the hoop. The Spartans’ new point guard was named state player of the year last season while a sophomore at Chimacum High School, averaging 27 points per game. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
unior transfer Steven Gray goes to the hoop. The Spartans’ new point guard was named state player of the year last season while a sophomore at Chimacum High School, averaging 27 points per game.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

A solid core of seniors and a talented new point guard have the Spartans looking ahead.

The question was simple: Does the Spartan varsity basketball squad have any weaknesses?

Head coach Scott Orness tried to think of a response, but couldn’t.

“It’s hard, because this is the best team I’ve ever been around,” Orness said. “Talent wise, I think we have the best (players) that I’ve ever had. Not just our top five guys, but all the way down to our 12th player.”

That talent will be on display as the Spartans compete for a state title in the 2005-06 prep basketball season.

The team went 14-10 last year and made it to the district tournament. With seven players returning, they’re good enough to earn a number six ranking in preseason polls.

There may not be any weaknesses, but there are many strengths to keep the team in any ballgame.

Forward Theo Miller, guard John Bruns, forward/center Coby Gibler and guard/forward Chris Kelly, all seniors, anchor the lineup.

All four have extensive varsity experience and were among the team leaders in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and assists last season.

“I’ve been on varsity all three years I’ve been here, and this is the best team I’ve ever been on,” said Bruns, a team co-captain. “We try to improve every year, and I think this year is the culmination of our hard work.”

Kelly, another co-captain, agreed.

“The work ethic has improved from year to year and the amount of work we’ve put in has escalated,” he said.

Bainbridge also has size, as Orness could start a lineup of Gibler, Miller, Austin Wood, Nick Fling and junior transfer Steven Gray, who stretch 6-8, 6-7, 6-6, 6-4 and 6-4, respectively.

“We have seven or eight guys who could be the leading scorer for a number of teams,” Orness said of his team’s ability to put up points.

The team also has depth, with junior guard TJ Benz, senior guard Zach Peach, sophomore guard Caleb Davis and senior guard Luca Fontana available.

The fifth starter is newcomer Gray, who transferred to Bainbridge from Chimacum with his sister Brittany over the summer. The point guard is a two-time all-state first team selection and was named AP state player of the year at the 2A level last year.

Orness is happy to have Gray on his team.

“Steven is a very unselfish player. He’s really making everybody better, and he’s got players he can do that with,” he said. “The ball is in his hands to make big plays, whether it’s giving the ball to people or creating his own shots.”

Miller, a co-captain, appreciates not only Gray’s scoring average – 27 points a game last year – but his attitude as well.

“He’s a good guy to play with,” he said. “Very humble. There was a lot of hype (about his move), and he’s done a very good job of keeping his head.”

Gray, who worked with the team in the summer, said he gets excited the more he thinks about playing in the Metro League.

He is also glad that he doesn’t have to come in and be “the man” for the team.

“There are three seniors that have been playing varsity for a while that have let me know what to expect,” Gray said. “The coaches have helped, too, so it’ll be an easy adjustment for me.”

How easy it will be is still up in the air, as Bainbridge must contend with two-time state champion O’Dea, this year’s preseason favorite Rainier Beach, as well as Seattle Prep, Bishop Blanchet and Cleveland.

Orness understands the tough road they have to travel.

“This year we have a target on our backs,” he said. “How we deal with being a team that’s hunted and being able to handle the pressure (is important). We need to show up every night ready to play.”

Miller, who has been working through knee problems, echoes his coach’s view.

“There’s a lot of people who are jumping on that bandwagon, but we haven’t proven a thing yet,” he said. “We’re definitely not going to be able to waltz into State, District or even Metro thinking that we’re going to win easily.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to get these guys ready to go and have no upsets against us and have a very successful season.”

The Spartans lost their road opener to Cleveland, 85-84, and played Rainier Beach yesterday.

They open home play today against the Sequim Wolves at Paski Gym. Game times have been changed: the JV will play at 3:15 p.m., followed by the varsity tipoff at 5 p.m.

* * * * *

Spartan boys hoops

Sat., Dec. 3 - Sequim, 5 p.m.

Tues., Dec. 6 - Ingraham, 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Dec. 9 - @ Seattle Prep, 6:15 p.m.

Tues., Dec. 13 - Eastside Catholic, 8 p.m.

Thurs., Dec. 15 - Lakeside, 8 p.m.

Mon., Dec. 19 - N. Kitsap @ Key Arena, 2:15 p.m.

Wed., Dec. 28 - @ Olympic, 7 p.m.

Fri., Dec. 30 - Clover Park, 5 p.m.

Tues., Jan. 3 - @ O’Dea, 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 6 - Bishop Blanchet, 8 p.m.

Tues., Jan. 10 - @ Chief Sealth, 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 13 - West Seattle, 6:15 p.m.

Tues., Jan. 17 - @ Nathan Hale, 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 20 - Seattle Prep, 8 p.m.

Tues., Jan. 24 - @ Eastside Catholic, 7:30 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 27 - @ Lakeside, 6:15 p.m.

Tues., Jan. 31 - O’Dea, 8 p.m.

Thurs., Feb. 2 - @ Bishop Blanchet, 6:15 p.m.

Feb. 6-11 - Metro League Tournament

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