Some days, Preston Wynne is up and on the road by 5:30 a.m. and may get home barely in time to tuck in his two children at bedtime. He is 24, back in a classroom after a six-year hiatus, still not completely sure where he’s going but convinced education will take him there.
The definitive non-traditional student.
Especially so if you consider this: He’ll be in the starting lineup for the Community Colleges of Spokane’s basketball season opener tonight, the always-fun stateline skirmish with North Idaho College – this year in the DMZ of the Central Valley High School gym.
In an era in which shoe companies have been known to steer hotshot players toward major programs – all part of the Entitlement Enabling Sweepstakes – having your basketball team actually reflect the makeup of your student body can be a rare thing. This is never an issue at CCS.
The Sasquatch have freshmen from the high schools across town. They have a walk-on whose bio says he’s never before played varsity basketball.
“And sometimes we can have three guards out there with a higher average age than the Thunder,” said coach Clint Hull.
Oklahoma City, he means. In the NBA.
Coaches always value the gravitas of age and experience, and Hull is no exception, being a grizzled old veteran of 28 himself. But in Wynne’s case, it’s not because he’s had an extra six years to hone his jump shot, necessarily.
“He brings a perspective,” Hull said. “We’re running lines and then you have to go home and do some schoolwork? Not bad. It’s not like changing diapers or commuting an hour each way.
“But it doesn’t hurt that he’s pretty good, too.”
If Preston Wynne’s name is at all familiar, you must be a devotee of the newspaper’s tiny type – with memory burn. He played his high school ball at Wellpinit, lighting up the Panorama League for 26 points a game his junior year. But that summer, he became a father to an infant son named Jameer, and basketball was properly shuffled in priority.
“His mother worked full time, so I dropped out of school to help take care of him,” Wynne said. “After a while, I got into home alliance – a home school type of program – and got eligible and played the last seven or eight games of my senior year, but I didn’t graduate until a couple of months after everyone else.”
But going off to college didn’t seem that realistic. Wynne’s mother, Judy Lebret, has long suffered from multiple sclerosis and needed help at home. A year passed, and then another, and then a daughter, Isis, was born. Yet Eric Hughes, then the CCS coach, kept calling. So did Mike Burns when he took over the program. But whether it was a lack of motivation or maturity – or just an inability to figure out how it all could work – Wynne seemed to be letting go of any notion of playing in college, though he sharpened his game in All-Indian tournaments that eventually took him all over the country.
“I always wanted to go to college,” he said, “but if I didn’t play basketball, I think all of my family and friends would have been disappointed that I didn’t try because they know this is what I love to do.”
Eventually, a younger friend – Jake Green – was going off to play at Peninsula Community College in Port Angeles, Wash., and encouraged Wynne to join him. He weighed that distance against his dream and finally called Hull to say, “I’m coming.”
“I came here with Cody Flett, who was our manager in high school when he was in the seventh grade – that’s how old I am,” Wynne said. “But my kids are in school now and I felt it was my time to go back, too. I wanted to be part of something, the way I was in high school.”
He isn’t doing it the easy way. He commutes every day from Wellpinit, a 75-minute drive – including the days the Sasquatch practice at 7 a.m. Often there’s a team study table to keep him current in class. Even the practices can be a challenge for a player raised on what’s called, with affection and pride, rez ball.
“Screen, pass, deny – I haven’t had to do that ever in my life,” he laughed. “I was one of those players that if you got the ball, you did what you could to score. I don’t have to do that anymore, so I’m trying to unlearn some things.”
Non-traditional, all the way.