TERRE HAUTE —
The Indiana High School Athletic Association’s new rule about recruitment of athletes prior to their high school years might not have applied to Kevaris Gregory.
Terre Haute South’s senior guard didn’t see much action during three years of middle school basketball at Woodrow Wilson — maybe because, as South coach Scott Ridge recalled this week, “He was the smallest, skinniest kid on our freshman team [three years ago].”
The tiny left-hander had one skill back then, however, and thanks to hard work, perseverance and dedication he now has a lot more than that. He’s gone from being a specialist his first two varsity seasons to being one of the Braves’ best all-around players as a senior.
“He’s shown as much improvement over four years as anybody I’ve been around,” said Ridge, who coached Gregory’s freshman team before becoming South’s head coach. “Defense, ball handling, rebounding … he’s gotten better and better every year.”
Gregory didn’t need to get a whole lot better at outside shooting. That one skill he displayed as a freshman — “all he could do was shoot the 3,” Ridge noted — happened to be just what the South coaching staff was looking for.
“That’s what [former South coach Mike] Saylor wanted, and [Gregory] embraced that,” Ridge said. “He’s got one of the best shots around.”
“That’s what I’m best at,” Gregory agreed this week,”so I fit perfectly and coach Ridge knew that. He tries to get us all in our best roles.”
Gregory’s varsity contributions as a sophomore and a junior, therefore, were almost always when the Braves needed instant offense. Now that he’s a starter, that part of his game hasn’t been forgotten.
“Coach tries to get everyone involved,” Gregory said. “The main role he wants for me is to come off screens and get open. I have the ultimate green light.”
As Ridge pointed out, however, that’s not the only way Gregory has been helping the Braves this season. While he’s second on the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game, he also leads the Braves in steals (nearly three per game), averages two assists per game and is also grabbing nearly four rebounds per game. In the tough, hard-fought game against Terre Haute North last week, the 5-foot-10 Gregory — who admits to about 140 pounds — had eight rebounds, and only his 6-4 teammate Timmy Herrin had more.
“We competed well,” Gregory said in looking back at that game, “but some shots didn’t fall … and there were some dumb mistakes, by me, in the first half.”
Gregory is doing more this year than lurking at the 3-point line waiting for a shot, in other words.
“I’m trying to work on getting to the rim more,” he said this week, “and be more aggressive on defense: get to the right spot and make plays for my team.
“I’m also trying to be more vocal on the floor … get other players in the right spots,” he added.
If vocal leadership is something new for the soft-spoken senior, the leadership-by-example role is something he’s always done.
“He’s our team captain,” Ridge pointed out, “and you never have to worry about him hustling. He plays as hard as he can all the time.”
Although the Braves lost that game against the Patriots, in a lot of ways it was one of their better efforts of the season. They’ll need the same tonight, when they face a tough Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference road game at Ben Davis.
Gregory will be ready.
“It’s my senior year. I know it’s my last year [at South] so I’ve got to work harder, not only playing but in getting people to follow their responsibilities,” he said.