High school basketball teams often find their identities during summer play and one team has found a new leader thanks to the last couple of months.
Transforming himself from newcomer to seasoned veteran in less than a year, rising senior Ross Gadd is using this summer to take the reins of the Jay M. Robinson boys' basketball squad.
After one season of apprenticing as a first-year transfer from First Assembly, Gadd's summertime goal was to develop himself as a vocal leader. During several June tournaments and on-going team workouts, Bulldogs coach Joe Pike says Gadd has accomplished that goal.
Gadd first enrolled at First Assembly as a second-grader. He played recreational basketball in the Winecoff Youth League before advancing to play three years of middle school ball for the Eagles.
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As a part-time starter his freshman year and full-time starter as a sophomore, Gadd helped the First Assembly junior varsity team to back-to-back conference championships. Gadd says the team lost just one game over two years, while he averaged double figures in scoring as a sophomore.
Citing that it was "time for a change" after spending so many years at the Concord Christian school, Gadd transferred to Robinson last summer. His sister Madeline, who plays for the varsity soccer and JV basketball teams, switched to Robinson at the same time as she headed into her freshman year.
Ross Gadd started most of last season for the Bulldogs, having a breakout night at South Rowan in just the third game of the season.
"My favorite game was at South Rowan," he said. "We were down by 25 at the half. In the second half, I had 24 points and six three-pointers, including four in the fourth quarter, and we won."
For the season, Pike says Gadd averaged over 13 points, four assists and four rebounds per game. His 41 percent shooting average from behind the three-point line paced the team.
"He had a solid year," said Pike. "He ate it up from the three-point line. He would get on streaks and be unstoppable. He has the potential to be a tremendous shooter."
In a post-season conversation, Pike spoke with Gadd about assuming a leadership role during the summer. That will be important considering that he and rising junior guard Elijah Hampton will be Robinson's only two returning starters.
In order to bond as a team, Robinson's summer play was a focus for the team.
During the second half of June, the Bulldogs played in tournaments at East Lincoln and Asheboro high schools as well as at the State Games in Indian Trail.
Pike said the team finished above .500 overall this summer, a bit of a surprise because of the Bulldogs' youth and inexperience.
Playing his shooting guard position, Gadd averaged 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in those games. But he still admits he has work to do.
"The area I need to improve on is defense," he said. "My scoring has always been there, but our team needs to be centered around defense."
But most importantly to Pike was Gadd showing direction to the younger players, who mostly are coming up from the junior varsity team.
Since the end of the tournament season, Robinson has been holding regular weekly open gym sessions. While 20-30 players attended at the start of the summer, Pike says the number waned to 10-12 during July.
The one constant at all of the workouts has been Gadd.
Gadd has been focusing on improving his agility and footwork.
"I need to be at those workouts to stay in shape and to set an example to other players."