Photo by Bill Roseberry
Roxana leading scorer Trace Gentry looks to get around a Bunker Hill defender during the Metro East Lutheran Turkey Tip-Off Tournament earlier this season. Gentry is currently 74 points away from 1,000 in his career.
Most senior varsity basketball players want to finish their careers with a season to remember.
And in the early weeks of the 2015-2016 campaign, Roxana’s Trace Gentry seems to be racking up accomplishments and creating memories. Gentry averages 16.7 points per game and his team has compiled a 7-3 record.
In addition, the senior made the all-tournament team during the Thanksgiving holiday at the Metro East Lutheran Turkey Tipoff Classic. Roxana coach Mark Briggs talks of Gentry’s abilities and his work ethic.
“He’s one of the better shooters that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Briggs said. “He was a spot shooter when we started coaching him, but he can get to the rim now. He also works exceptionally hard on the game. He’s in the gym every time he can get in here. He’s a gym rat. In the summertime, he shoots every day. He’ll get about 400 or 500 shots in. He had to work really hard to become the shooter he is right now.”
Gentry, a guard, would have dressed varsity as a freshman but missed the opportunity because of an injury. However, he started playing varsity as a sophomore.
“It was a little scary at first, but then I got used to it after the first two weeks,” he said.
As a junior, the guard earned all-South Central Conference honors. When asked about Roxana’s success, the senior talks about the relationship between the players.
“Our team chemistry is really coming together now,” he said. “I think we’ll be really good later on in the year. I care about winning more than anything. I’d rather win than be a star.”
Although he plays in the point some, Gentry mostly plays shooting guard. That was highlighted by his buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the Turkey Tip-Off against Bunker Hill, cementing a 52-51 win over Bunker Hill for the silver bracket title.
“I’m pretty good at shooting, but I’m changing my game up to driving the ball a lot more so I can be a two-way shooting guard,” he said.
Gentry is 74 points away from 1,000 in his career. He had a frustrating couple of games on the scoring front last week, only scoring 9 points in a win over Litchfield and 4 in a loss to rival Civic Memorial.
“Trace is an 18-year-old adult and he knows what he’s going to see every night,” Briggs said following the loss to CM. “Teams like this hopefully continue to make him even tougher. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, so hopefully he can learn from the way he’s being defended and what he needs to do to help himself.”
But Gentry also acknowledges the defensive side of the game.
“Defense is really important,” Gentry said. “Defense wins games. If we play really good defense, our offensive game will come to us. I think we’ll win games off of defense.”
While conference and postseason glories ignite the imaginations of many varsity basketball players, Gentry prefers to think of goals in the short term.
“I prefer to take this game by game and just get the wins,” he said. “In the postseason, we’ll grind it out then.”
The Shells grinded it out during his junior campaign, surprising basketball pundits by upsetting top-seeded Southwestern 56-53 in the 2A Southwestern Regional championship. He’s no stranger to postseason sports.
A two-sport athlete, Gentry played tight end and defensive end on the football team for the last three years, earning him all-SCC honors. He was a key component in back-to-back postseason berths for Roxana on the gridiron after a lengthy playoff hiatus.
“It’s fun and I really like it,” he said of playing more than one sport. “I think it gives me the chance to become more athletic.”
Gentry plans on playing basketball in college, but says he doesn’t have a school picked out at this time. For now, Gentry and the Shells will turn their attention to the Duster Thomas Hoops Classic in Pinckneyville. Roxana opens the holiday tourney at 2:30 p.m. Monday vs. Red Bud and then plays host Pinckneyville at 7 p.m. to find out where it lands for the placement games on Tuesday.
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