Graduating with honors

Posted Monday, Jun. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Last Friday, the 2013 senior class at Timberview High School walked across the stage and graduated. Among them were five boys basketball players who had spent the past four years together winning, losing, sweating and growing up. All five of them will be moving on to college in the fall.

“I think it’s a pretty special group in that they’re all going to receive education at a higher level,” Timberview head coach Duane Gregory said. “To have all five moving on like that, it’s unique. It speaks for how special this group was.”

J.V. Long was a first-team all-district performer and will be attending Cameron University in Oklahoma, playing basketball for the Aggies.

Evan Stein will be attending Northwood University and playing basketball for the Knights.

Avery Gilbert will attend Midwestern State University.

Chris Owens will be attending Cedar Valley College and playing basketball for the Suns.

And Cornelius Hudson, a second-team all-district performer, is still deciding between schools, but will likely be headed to a Division I university.

To further illustrate how this group was dedicated to its education, Long, Gilbert and Stein were all named to the Academic All-State team – the first time the school has ever had three members selected for the honor.

For Gregory and the Timberview basketball program, it’s also an illustration of their emphasis on the “student” part of “student-athlete.”

“From the first day they step on the court as a freshman until the day they graduate, we’re preaching to them that when the ball stops bouncing, who are you and what are you about? At some point for everybody, there’s a day when you’re not going to be able to play basketball anymore, and it comes down to your education, character and your work ethic.”

Stein summarizes Gregory’s approach as though he’s heard it for the last four years.

“From day one our freshman year, our coach came in and said that these next four years of your life are going to be based on your academics,” Stein said. “Sports will always be there, but academics is really what you need to focus on. We’ve really pushed the student-athlete participating in the classroom first. We mainly focused on being a student-athlete instead of an athlete-student.”

As much as the accolades for on-court performance, Stein is as proud to have made the Academic All-State team.

“It’s actually a great feeling,” he said. “I was pleased with myself because the past four years of my life – of working that hard – to finally be recognized for that work, it was a feeling I could cherish for the rest of my life.”

Likewise, Gilbert pointed out the effort it took for the trio to accomplish the feat.

“It takes a lot of commitment to maintain that 92 [grade average] for all four years of high school, and it’s an honor to be one of the few people who actually receive the award,” he said.

And all agree that their classroom pursuits paid dividends on the hardwood.

“J.V. Long is probably one the most intelligent guys we’ve had come through from a basketball standpoint, but also from a classroom standpoint,” Gregory said. “He had nearly a 95 average. He was a tremendous leader in actions and words. He’s one of those guys you have a hard time replacing, that’s for sure.

“Avery [Gilbert] was put in so many tough situations all year, because he had to go against the other team’s best big,” Gregory added. “Avery is about 6-2 and he’s guarding guys who are 6-8 and 6-11, so you have to be smart about it. You can’t out-brawn them, so you have to outsmart them. And he did.”

Stein pointed out the similarities between practicing and studying.

“Taking the time to do an extra drill or do the drill right … working outside of actual practice, whether it be dribbling with the left hand or shooting free throws or working with weights. It all ties together. When game time comes – when the test really comes – you’re ready. Those go hand-in-hand together.”

Gilbert, Stein and Long are quick to praise their families for emphasizing academics at home, but also feel it’s a core of the Timberview program.

“It shows that the staff and coaches are sending the right message to their kids,” Gilbert said.

“Timberview is different,” Long added. “Yeah, we love our sports and we are really good at sports, but academics always come first, and I think that shows, not just with us but with other sports. There’s an emphasis on the academics.”

And so the 2013 Timberview basketball senior class has moved on. And they all appear to be moving on to even bigger things.

“For us to have all our seniors do that, I think that’s special about our team,” Long said.

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