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January 30, 2014

Getting Jazzed up

VELMA — A lot goes into being a good basketball player. The first things people notice are size, speed and agility.

Jaz Gayanich is a coach’s dream, a six-foot six-inch forward who can run, jump and shoot with any of his high school opponents. What the fans don’t see is what makes him so good.

Adjusting his AAU national championship ring, which he won this year with the Oklahoma Explosion, he points out all of the hard work that goes on when the blechers are empty.

The work shows in the smoothness of Gayanich’s game. There is a natural order to how the forward plays, especially on the offensive end. It’s like a ballet with each move being applied at exactly the right time. That didn’t come naturally.

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve spent a lot of hours just by myself working on that,” Gayanich said. “You think about a play and everything is choreographed. Basketball is a choreographed sport if you have and know the moves and you can do them.”

Gayanich is a good all-around player, but he only has one main job. As coach  Kenny Bare put it, “I don’t put him as a defensive stopper. I put him in as someone who can score.”

He has broken out this season. He scored 26 in the first half of the team’s most recent game at Fox. As the only returning starter this season and with current Oral Roberts sophomore Corbin Byford not stealing the spotlight, there was pressure for Gayanich to assume that role. Though Bare never had a one-on-one detailing the ramifications of his play, the expectations were always present.

“It’s never just one conversation, but you say things to build him up and let him know, ‘this is your last go around and we need you,” Bare said.

He doesn’t need much help on that front. Gayanich rarely gets discouraged and is confident in his abilities. It’s just like as he said after the first game of the Stephens County Tournament. If he thinks his team needs to step up, he’ll step his game up first. Bare admires that attribute.

“Jaz has never met a shot he doesn’t like,” Bare said. “He never thinks we’re going to lose. He never thinks he can’t make the next shot. So, I like that about Jaz.”

That fire of confidence has been stoked by the realization that this will be his final year as a Comet. Since he moved from Davis in the seventh grade, the forward has soaked in as much as he can about the history and excellence of being a Velma-Alma basketball player.

“It was a tradition before I got here, and it’s something I’ve enjoyed,” Gayanich said. “Being coached under (Bare), I’ve learned a lot of stuff and it’s been an honor for myself to carry on this tradition.”

Another teacher Gayanich had was the six-foot seven-inch Byford, whose skill became a goal for the current team-leader. Gayanich saw Byford’s exceptional play and tried to replicate it.

“I would say, ‘man that spin move he does works. I might try to do that,’” Gayanich said. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll look at something else or put my own twist on it.”

Now Gayanich is the go-to option. During the game, he will get in the zone and once that starts to happen, his teammates know how important it is to get him the ball.

“When he is hot like that, hitting like that, you’ve got to,” senior Alan Beck said.

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