Shannon Stanley is in a position to prove himself every time he steps onto the court for the Bexley High School boys basketball team.
The senior post player is 6-foot-2, meaning he is at a disadvantage when going up against the biggest and tallest players opponents have to offer. Still, Stanley more than holds his own by using quickness and a sound work ethic in practice to lead Bexley in scoring (13.0 points) and rebounding (8.7) though 11 contests.
The Lions were 8-3 overall before playing Washington Court House Miami Trace on Jan. 9. They are is 1-3 in the MSL-Ohio Division.
"There are always so many variables on what practice is going to be like, but Shannon is a fixed variable every day in practice," coach Todd Phillips said. "For the last three years Shannon has worked so hard, so consistently, that he has really become a pretty good post player despite being 6-2. He has a great work ethic and his motor never stops, so with that, his skills really have come along and he has made himself into a nice player."
Sounding much like a coach, Stanley said practice performance is a big indicator of how someone will play on game night.
"Practice is very important because if you practice bad, you'll play bad," he said. "You need to practice the way you want to play in the game.
"You need to always come ready to practice. You have to get your team ready and make sure they come ready to work."
Stanley scored 20 points on Jan. 6 as the Lions picked up their first league victory by defeating London 58-36.
He said confidence and anticipation are integral to success as an undersized player in the paint.
"My first year was pretty tough with a lot of competition for playing time and I wasn't as strong as everyone else," he said. "I'm more confident this year and I have been tough around the basket, going through contact and running the floor.
"Since I'm not as big, I try to go as hard as I can. ... I work to attack the rim and try to draw a foul. You have to go up strong to the basket."
Fellow post player Ryan Callahan also stands 6-2, and the two work together to handle the inside game.
"Heart over height is the way I approach it," said Callahan, a junior. "I just disregard the height (of an opponent) going into a game because you have to want it more. It doesn't matter how high they can jump, you have to play physical and want the ball more. Shannon wants it more than anyone and he brings everything he has going into practice."
Phillips is amazed by Stanley's abilities in the paint despite his smaller stature. His jumping ability, his hands and his preparation are key ingredients to his success.
"Shannon usually is playing against guys who are longer or taller than he is, but he's quick and he has really, really good hands," Phillips said. "When his hands get to the ball, it's going to be his.
"One of his best attributes that helps him stay with the bigger guys is that he gets off the floor quickly. Some guys might be able to jump higher than him, but he gets off the floor so quickly that he gets to the ball before some of the taller guys."
As the midpoint of the season arrived, Stanley liked the direction the Lions were taking. They had won five of six games before playing Miami Trace.
"This year we're playing as a team because no one is being selfish, and we're getting wins," said Stanley, who averaged 6.0 points and 6.5 rebounds last season and was honorable mention all-league. "We haven't been selfish with the ball and we're always looking to pass when another teammate is open."
Phillips said the Lions have been practicing well, thanks in part to Stanley's lead. He said all of his players could learn from Stanley's quiet demeanor and work ethic.
"You practice maybe 70, 75 times a year, so you have to maximize those opportunities and Shannon does that," Phillips said. "He is a unique kid, and he's humble. He's averaging around nine rebounds a game, which is amazing for a 6-2 kid.
"He's so consistent. The kids know how important he is to the team. He's a quiet, unassuming kid who busts his butt all of the time."
Bexley to celebrate basketball legacy
The boys and girls basketball programs will honor their heritage during home games Thursday, Jan. 11, and Friday, Jan. 12.
At halftime of the girls game Jan. 11 against Granville, all of the program's former players will be honored, including the 1999 district championship team. The girls also won district titles in 1988, 1995, 1996, 2003 and 2004.
On Jan. 12 during a game against Worthington Christian, longtime coach Gene Millard and all of the boys program's former players will be honored, with a halftime ceremony highlighting the 1983 state championship squad.
Millard led the boys from 1962-87 and again from 1992-96, winning 496 games, 15 league titles, eight district championships and the 1983 state title. He was athletics director at Bexley for 29 years and also was coach of the girls program for one season, its 1998-99 district title campaign.
"This is a chance for us to reconnect with alumni, and sports gives us a great opportunity to do that," said Jen Bunker, a 1991 Bexley graduate and chair of the alumni committee of the Bexley Education Foundation.
Girls team reaches midpoint of season
The girls basketball team is 8-3 overall and 4-1 in the MSL-Ohio halfway through the regular season.
The Lions finished the opening round of league play by defeating Worthington Christian 57-38 on Jan. 6. Maddy Vincent scored 25 points and Amanda Frey added 11.
Vincent is averaging a team-high 16.4 points. Frey and Maddy Young both average 7.7 points.
Bexley has outscored opponents 48.3 points per game to 34.8.
Three wrestlers win at Harding
The wrestling team had three champions in the 32-team Marion Harding Classic on Dec. 29 and 30.
Seniors Eliot Clark (182 pounds), Grant Robinson (heavyweight) and Reece Wilson (170) finished first, and sophomore Carter Brenner (113) was fifth. Clark also won his 100th career match during the event.
The Lions finished ninth (108 points) behind champion Dublin Scioto (166).
Below are the coming schedules for the Bexley boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 12 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian
Jan. 11 -- Home vs. Granville
*Jan. 13 -- At Whitehall. The Lions defeated the Rams 56-20 on Dec. 2.
Jan. 17 -- At Columbus South
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 13 -- Northridge Viking Classic at New Albany
Jan. 12-13 -- Licking Heights Invitational