Every successful team sport has unsung players who sacrifice their individual accomplishments for the good of their teams.
These role players know their limitations and jobs while making their team and teammates better.
Most every basketball fan, player and coach know who these players are and realize how important they are to their team’s success. In basketball, the role players let the game come to them and don’t force the action.
They don’t seek the limelight and quietly go about their jobs. They accept roles given them by their coaches who convince them they are as important and needed as much as the team’s top scorers.
Unsung players can be a strong rebounder, an assist creator, a defensive stopper or a good screen setter. They do the things that often don’t show up in news stories or box scores.
In 29 years of coaching at the high school level, I had at least one type of these players on each team. I was fortunate in those years because we were always in the running for a tournament spot, sometimes right up to the last game of the season.
Some of the most memorable unsung, role players who I coached were:
— David Graves, a 6-foot-4 1968 Orono graduate who quietly did his job by being a solid rebounder, passer and defensive player on a team that went 60-21 and was twice the Eastern Maine B runner-up and a state champion.
In 1968-69, Orono went 22-0 and won the state title. We were led by one of the best high school players in Maine, 6-7 point guard Peter Gavett, along with 6-6 big man Fred Radke. They got all the attention while brothers Tom Prouty (6-4) and Randy Prouty (6-2) went about doing the unnoticed work of setting up Radke and Gavett offensively.
— Randy Prouty, who transferred to Bangor and sacrificed for the good of the team. His leadership of team play and defense led the Rams to the Eastern Maine championship game.
— Artie Mathieson, a 5-10 point guard who used those same skills to lead John Bapst to a 1988 Eastern Maine C runner-up and a 1989 Class C state championship. He was my coach on the floor. He had to make foul shots late in games and run the entire offense from his point position.
— Brett Soucy a 6-3 forward on that same John Bapst team who moved from shooting forward to point guard and sacrificed his potential 20-plus points per game to lead John Bapst to another Class C state championship in 1990 as the team’s best leader, defender and playmaker.
— Dorian LeBlanc, a 6-4 forward on the 1992 Eastern Class B John Bapst runnerup team who moved to point guard and was a big key to the undefeated 22-0 Class B state champs on a team of one of tallest ever in Maine (6-11, 6-8, 6-8, 6-4, 6-2). Dorian was also the team’s best playmaker and defender who could guard any positional opponent.
Over my coaching career, I was fortunate to have many other unsung, role players The next time you go to a high school game, take the time to see if you can identify those type of players and give them a little extra applause when they make a good play.