When teams prepare to play against the fast-paced, 3-point-shot-happy Davis High boys basketball team, they come in expecting that nearly every Blue Devil can shoot from long distance.
However, there is one player who garners special attention from opposing teams: DHS senior sharpshooter Brandon Strong.
Strong remembers growing up with a basketball in his hands at all times, dribbling and playing on a Nerf hoop inside his house with his father Brad.
But Strong was also quite the baseball player in his early years, becoming a dominant pitcher at a young age. But a combination of a few minor arm injuries from pitching and enjoying the fast pace of basketball pushed him toward hoops.
“I played a lot of baseball growing up and I just liked basketball more. I was arguably even better at baseball,” Strong said. “Basketball just interested me more. It was more upbeat, it was more active, and I just loved the sport of basketball.”
Strong added: “When you get to high school it’s hard to play multiple sports at a high level because of the amount of time that’s demanded of you, so I decided to commit to basketball.”
Davis head coach Dan Gonzalez is thankful that Strong chose hoops.
That’s because Strong, who is in his third year playing varsity for the Devils, leads DHS in scoring average (15.2 points per game entering Wednesday). The big scoring number is the direct result of relentless work during the summer to continue to improve his shooting.
“My mom will tell you all the time that I’m always out there shooting,” Strong said. “My teammates would always make fun of me because we would do these shot charts, and I would be shooting 30,000, 40,000 shots every summer. They would give me a hard time, but that’s what it takes to be a good shooter.”
And Strong isn’t just a guy who stands around the perimeter, waiting for an open look. He has worked hard to improve other facets of his game as well.
“I’ve tried to add a few things to my game every year, just always come back to be a better player than I was the year before,” Strong said. “I’ve been adding other things so that I’m not just known as a shooter, that I can do other things as well.”
Since he has been part of The System for all three years that Gonzalez has been running it, his experience has been very helpful.
“Having a player with more experience than some of the other players means that we have a player that understands The System, and has been able to help our new varsity players with The System,” Gonzalez explained.
However, even though Strong’s specialty of knocking down treys is consistent with the basis of The System, he wasn’t so enthusiastic about the playing style when he first encountered it as a sophomore.
“At first, I’m not gonna lie, I was not the biggest fan of The System,” Strong said. “Over these last three years, I’ve really seen how it’s helped our team. We’re not the most athletic team — we don’t jump the highest, or run the fastest, we’re not the tallest — but The System is the great equalizer. We outrun teams and outshoot them.”
During the offseason, Gonzalez briefly stepped down before taking back his position within a week. The veteran coach said that Strong, along with fellow seniors Brett Bloomfield and Matt Michael, played major roles in convincing him to stay for another season.
“I know coach, and his life is basketball,” Strong said. “I told him, ‘What are you going to do if you’re not coaching us?’ He’s always on his computer whenever I go into his room watching YouTube videos, trying to figure out how to do something better or become a better coach. We knew he wanted to be here, and we were willing to do whatever it took to try and get him back.”
Strong wants to continue playing basketball in college, even if it means trying out as a walk-on.
“I’m gonna keep playing basketball until someone tells me I’m not good enough, and even then, I probably won’t believe them,” Strong said. “But I have to put academics first, and that’s how I applied to my schools based on academics. The schools that contacted me to play basketball or work out for them weren’t as good academically as I could get in (to).”
Notes: Strong recently started playing golf more seriously last summer and plans on playing for the Blue Devil boys team this spring. … He is an avid San Francisco Giants fan, and attended the NLCS and a World Series game during the team’s 2012 title run. Strong also is a San Francisco 49ers and Sacramento Kings fan.
— Reach Thomas Oide at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterThomas