There comes a time when hype becomes nothing more than just background noise and the concept of potential fades and it becomes time to effectively put up or shut up.
For Chase Jerome, Tyler Gibbons, Trevor Bumgardner and Grant Nearing, that time is now.
The Wildcats’ lethal senior quartet was recently selected to the Intermountain League all-league team, with Jerome receiving the league’s most valuable player honors.
But in the words of Gibbons, the awards don’t mean anything if they come home from Boise empty handed later this week.
“Being picked to the all league team is great, but I would trade this award for a state championship in a heartbeat,” Gibbons said. “These guys would do the same thing.”
That statement is a perfect encapsulation of the current mentality of this Wildcat team, it isn’t individual awards, it is all about the team and winning when it counts.
“It feels good to be called the MVP,” Jerome said. “But without these guys or any of my other teammates I couldn’t have had the success that I did. I owe it all to them.”
Gibbons and Jerome are previous all-league selections (Gibbons in 2016-17, and Jerome in 2015-16 and 2016-17); having that kind of experience mixed with the solid play of their new all-league compatriots Bumgardner and Nearing has made for an even more exciting brand of Kellogg basketball than what spectators have gotten used to.
Being the coach’s son, there were already some expectations of what we would get from Nearing in his second year as key varsity player.
But finding his role wasn’t an easy task.
Is he a skinny post or a stretch wing?
Why not both?
Nearing debuted an aggressive side to himself on the defensive end, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and diving for loose balls, while also find his niche in an offense as a lethal shooter.
Bumgardner’s selection to the all-league team was an anomaly, not that he didn’t absolutely deserve it, but in the fact that you don’t see many guys win the award as a non-starter, in fact, if the IML offered a 6th Man of the Year award, Bumgardner would be a lock for the spot.
Most high school teams see declines in overall skill when they go to their bench, but in Bumgardner’s case it’s a lateral move if not an improvement to the rotation if one of the starters is struggling.
“On any other team in the league Trev is a starter,” Jerome said. “We have a lot of guys like that on our team.”
Bumgardner is a lethal scorer, but the strides he made as a defender really cemented his place among the league’s best players.
These four, along with their (almost unfairly) experienced squad are marching into this week’s state tournament with high expectations, both from themselves and from a community that has watched this group win a lot of games over the better part of the last decade.
“We hear what people say about us,” Nearing said. “When Timberlake’s coach called us the state champions, we heard it. It felt good, but we know that we have to block out the hype and go actually win it. Just because they say we are that good doesn’t mean it’s just going to be given to us.”
Bumgardner feels that the bond that keeps this team going is directly related to the history they have with one another and it’s that history that can propel them to achieving their goals.
“We’re a family,” Bumgardner said. “We have been playing together for a long time and we know what to expect from each other. If we go down there and play the way we know we can good things will happen.”
The Wildcats will open up their quest for gold at the 3A state tournament beginning on Thursday at 1 p.m. (MST) at Meridian High School.