Back in high school, recalls Preston Wynne, “The drive-and-fadeaway was my bread and butter.”
But if basketball is a metaphor for life, he soon forgot where his bread was buttered.
He lost his drive and dropped out of high school. Then came the inevitable fadeaway as dreams yielded to the reality of two children and an ailing mother on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
That was in 2005. Today, at 24, the former Wellpinit High School star is in his second year as a starting guard at the Community Colleges of Spokane, setting records – and goals.
Those include playing basketball at a four-year school next year and earning a bachelor’s degree “instead of staying home and making maybe 9 bucks an hour.”
The bread and butter will come later, after he finishes college. Basketball will get him there.
That took some renewed drive, which last year meant commuting 150 miles round-trip from the reservation to the Spokane Community College campus on East Mission.
“Sometimes he’d roll into practice not having slept much,” CCS coach Clint Hull said. “Then he would drive home” after a day that also included classes.
And “sleeping between classes,” Wynne said.
Now he walks 5 minutes each way from an apartment near campus.
“It’s bittersweet,” Wynne said, “because I don’t get to see my kids,” including 7-year-old Jameer, who was born when Wynne starred at Wellpinit. Daughter Isis is 5.
His mother, Judy Lebret, still copes with multiple sclerosis but has attended all of the Sasquatch home games.
“I miss my family back home,” Wynne said, “but I’ve got my family here. My teammates are like a family. We eat together and they keep me sane and my head in the right place.”
Wynne is averaging almost 24 points a game for the Sasquatch, just two less than he scored in the Class B Panorama League as a junior. This year he was MVP of two preseason tournaments and has led CCS to a record of 19-4 and 8-2 in conference play entering today’s home game against Columbia Basin.
Last week against Treasure Valley, he put up 44 points, a school record, and is only the second CCS player to score 1,000 career points.
Driving the lane is a lot easier than negotiating a snowdrift on Highway 2, just to get to school and back. And when the food comes from a team training table instead of something you grabbed on your way back home in the car.
“It was brutal,” said Wynne, who more than once had to bag the whole day because of a snowstorm. “Now I’m not missing class, and I’m home at 5:30 and get to relax for a couple of minutes.”
That leaves more energy for the court. In addition to a heavy scoring load, the 6-foot, 160-pound Wynne also regularly takes on the opponent’s top scorer.
“He has great hands, great feet and if you’re loose with the dribble he’s gonna rip it from you,” Hull said.
That’s led to points at the other end, including 10 steals in just a half against Wenatchee.
“He’s obviously an extremely gifted athlete and gifted person, but he’s been the hardest worker from day one,” Hull said.
The work load got harder when backcourt mate DeAngelo Jones was lost for the season to an ACL injury.
“We were really close, and it hurt personally,” Wynne said.
On offense, he’s kept opponents guessing and “lets the game come to him and doesn’t force the issue,” Hull said. That meant moving his midrange game downtown – he hit 11 of 18 3-pointers against Treasure Valley – and he’s fine with that.
This year, he’s put up 229 3-pointers in 23 games, easily the most in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges, and has hit 39 percent of them.
It wasn’t always that way for the Wynne, who honed his basketball skills in all-Indian tournaments around the country.
“Once I came here, I was amazed how many 3s these guys were shooting,” Wynne said. “The way our offense is run, it was easy to run through these big screens and get wide-open shots.”
When the shots aren’t open, Wynne uses his “old-man strength” to drive to the hoop.
After next weekend, the Sasquatch will move on to the postseason, and Wynne will soon move on. He has been contacted by several NAIA and Division III schools, including some in the area.
Academics are no longer an issue. After a slow start, he’s on track to get his associate’s degree.
“I dug myself a hole, but I guess I’m a really good finisher,” Wynne said.