It’s a rarity that a high school basketball team returns two all-league players, including the reigning league MVP. It’s ever rarer still that one has already signed a letter of intent to play Division I and the other – a four-year starter at that – will already have his associate’s degree by the time he graduates high school.
That’s the luxury Shadle Park coach Tim Gaebe has entering the Greater Spokane League this season.
But here’s the kicker – despite the talent returning to Gaebe’s team, the Highlanders are still not generally considered the team to beat in the league. That’s how deep the GSL is this season. Really, just about every season.
“This is a really tough conference, it really is,” Gaebe said on Saturday during the WIBCA (Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association) vs. Cancer Boys Basketball Jamboree at Shadle Park High School. “This is one of the toughest conferences in the state.
“I would see a combination of (Gonzaga) Prep, and then Lewis and Clark, Central Valley, us, in whatever mix you want,” Gaebe said, before rattling off the rest of the teams in the league and their various strengths and weaknesses, already looking forward to league play even while participating in preseason scrimmages.
But that’s not to say he doesn’t like his team’s chances. He does. Quite a bit, actually.
“We’re real fortunate to have four starters back,” he said.
Of course, that starts with his returning all-league guys: 6-foot-9 post Tanner Groves and 6-5 “Mr. Everything” Andreas Brown.
Asked about the advantage of returning two players of significance – specifically these two – Gaebe was effusive with praise.
“It’s a major luxury. To have a person of Tanner’s size and Andreas – Andreas is a four-year starter for us – he should be a crafty veteran. If we keep Tanner out of foul trouble we should be in good shape.”
Not only do the two excel on the court, but they are hard-working young men off the court as well.
“Great students and great families. Tanner’s probably a 3.8 student, maybe higher. And Andreas is Running Start (program),” Gaebe offered.
Running Start is a program offered through Spokane Falls Community College to high school students who qualify to take college classes earning credit awarded both by the high school district and by the college while still in secondary school.
“By the time I’m done (with high school) I’ll have all the credits to have an A.A. (associate’s degree),” Brown said following the final match of the jamboree on Saturday. He doesn’t have his college basketball future lined up yet, as his teammate Groves – who signed a letter of intent to play at Eastern Washington – does. But Brown is working on it.
“I’ve talked to a few schools and staying in contact with them throughout the season,” he said.
Wherever he ends up, they’ll get a player that, as his high school coach says, can play everywhere from “1 through 5.” At 6-5, he probably won’t see much post play at the next level, but being versatile will certain help out during his senior year of preps.
“I definitely like to (play all five spots during a game). I just want to help my team out. If it’s playing at the 5 or the 1, I think I can do that pretty well.”
As a four-year starter, even more so than his stats (12.5 points, 5.0 assists per game last season), perhaps Brown’s biggest contribution to the Highlanders will be as a leader. It’s something he relishes.
“I’m just trying to come out here and just be the best leader I can,” Brown said. “We’ve had a few guys transfer in, or from JV that are coming up, so I’m just trying to help them out the best I can.
Groves, on the other hand, knows where he’ll be playing next year, but he also knows that he has to continue to refine his game while also providing his current team the backbone of a returning league MVP.
He said having his letter of intent helps him stay relaxed on the court, but, “I’m still going to try as hard as I can to help my team out the best that I can to win games, go far into the postseason.”
Groves’ strengths – height and length – are obvious. And he’s coming off a season where he averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds in a very competitive league. But he’s also been working hard on the rest of his game as well.
“I’ve been working on my midrange jump shot,” Groves said. “So if I’m in the post I can take a step back, dribble out and shoot a jump shot over a guy – or cut in the paint, catch it and shoot a jump shot. So I’ve been working really hard on that. I think my shooting is definitely a good strength of mine.”
“Tanner can be an inside and outside guy,” Gaebe said of his big man. “He’s strong in the post and a strong rebounder as well – a double-double guy. He crashes the boards really well. He’s got some good post moves, but he can also shoot the 3 as well.”
And what can Brown do for him?
“Andreas is an inside-outside guy too. We can post him up as well. He’s kind of a hybrid player, meaning he can play 1 through 5 for us. He’s just a kid who has been in this system for a long time and we’ll be leaning on him pretty heavily.”
Gaebe said, though, that Groves and Brown don’t have to shoulder the entire load, mentioning senior shooting guard Markeith Brown (no relation to Andreas), Kylan Kelley (sr., g) and 6-4 wing Parker Howard as other potential starters.
“I like what we have,” Gaebe said. “We bring a blend of some veterans and then some young guys that have to learn the ropes. They’re good kids and are working hard.”
The Jamboree on Saturday featured the host, Shadle Park, plus GSL rivals Gonzaga Prep, Lewis and Clark, Mead and Rogers, and included JV and freshman games as well as varsity. Gaebe explained that WIBCA used to participate in the “Coaches vs. Cancer” program, but decided to switch charities to benefit those closer to home.
“Our proceeds now for the last few years stay home here … goes to the Rypien Foundation,” Gaebe explained. “So it stays right here. What Mark Rypien has done for our area through the foundation that he’s created is just phenominal. Totally phenominal. For us to just be a little piece of it is nice, it really is. It’s always nice to give back.”
Brown noted that the jamboree helps to get a feel for the competition. “Just seeing how intense other teams play, and how any team can win any game at any point in the season.”
Knowing the level of talent and competition in the league, then, does Brown or Groves feel any added pressure to repeat as an all-league selection?
“I definitely think that when we work our hardest and play together as a team then we’re the best team,” Groves said, deflecting personal accolades.
Brown added. “I think if we just play our game, both of us, just do whatever we can to help our team win then (success) is gonna be there for us.”
The rest of the GSL is on notice.
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