Basketball coaches at every level worry daily about personnel issues. Perhaps nothing is a bigger worry than identifying a player who can consistently bring the ball up the court and create offense with his court vision.
Homestead coach Chris Johnson has not had to worry about that issue for the last few years as 6-foot senior point guard Nick Gamble has kept his head coach fretting about other things and not his backcourt.
That is one of the reasons why Gamble, who recently committed to NAIA Davenport University in Michigan, was voted The News-Sentinel Boys Basketball Preseason Player of the Year by fans.
“With the teams we play, including the teams in the NHC and SAC, we have to have somebody you can trust to get the ball where it needs to be,” Johnson said. “Nick is a smart kid and understands the game of basketball.”
Gamble averaged close to 16 points and six assists per game a year ago as the Spartans went 23-3 and advanced to the regional championship. While some point guards are too selfish or selfless with the ball, Gamble is one of those rare high school players who shows the maturity to know when to pass, when not to take a bad shot and when to pull up for a jumper or drive to the hoop.
In a nutshell, he is a player Johnson can trust on the court at all times.
“He understands that in order for a team to be successful, other kids need to get involved,” Johnson said. “It has been a blessing where we have a kid on our side to help us play team basketball.”
Make no mistake, when Gamble is needed to get big baskets, he will do just that. Outside of Bryson Scott at Northrop, there may be no better player getting to the bucket than Gamble.
Homestead has not had a consistent big man for several years, including during Gamble's years as starter. But that has changed this season in the arrival of 6-foot-7 freshman forward Caleb Swanigan. While Gamble will help Swanigan's game in feeding the big guy the ball inside, Swanigan will be an added dimension to the Spartans, forcing defenses to defend the interior more and thus opening up more opportunities for Gamble.
“Last year, we were more of a jump shooting team with (graduated senior Zach Terrell and current senior forward Seth Coate),” Gamble said. “Caleb is going to allow us to get more easy buckets inside.”
While Gamble continues to refine his game, he is looking at other aspects of his on-court demeanor to improve.
“I think I have become more of a leader,” Gamble said. “I have not gotten a lot of publicity because we preach team at Homestead, and that's fine.
“I just like being patient and learning where guys want the ball.”
Barring more Division I offers that Gamble said he would entertain, the senior will head to Davenport University next season. The Panthers currently reside in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference of the NAIA, the same league as Indiana Tech.
Despite the early-signing period beginning last week, Gamble intends to hold off on signing with Davenport, in case other offers materialize.
“I like the coaching staff (at Davenport) and how it is not too far from home,”
Gamble said. “(The preseason award) feels good. I have always thought I could play on the same level as some of the (other highly publicized area players). Now, I have to go prove it.”
To most people, Gamble has already proven enough.