When freshman Kody Shubert joined Lincoln Charter’s varsity boys’ basketball team this season, he was confident about becoming a starter.
But Shubert has become much more than that with the Eagles. The freshman is not only starting, but has become one of the team’s leaders through the first half of the season.
Shubert, a 5-foot-10 point guard, is averaging a team-best 19.4 points, as well 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 4.8 steals as Lincoln Charter has gotten off to an 11-4 start (3-0 Southern Piedmont 1A) through games of Jan. 6.
“I expected to be able to hold my own, but I didn’t expect to do this good,” Shubert said. “I feel comfortable with coach (Bradley Gabriel), because I know he’ll let me do things, and if I make a mistake, he’ll let me know it.”
A freshman starting varsity is a rarity even for a small school like Lincoln Charter, which has less than 400 students in grades 9-12. But Gabriel, in his second year as the Eagles’ coach, isn’t surprised that Shubert has had such an impact on the team.
“My expectations for him was to have him step in, maybe not be our leading scorer, but contribute as much as he’s doing,” said Gabriel, who has also coached at Hopewell High, South Iredell High, North Iredell High and Bandys High. “He feels such a comfort level with me, and knows how I coach and my expectations for him, he’s just come in and shined. Even as a freshman, his mark on the team is important.”
That comfort level between player and coach has come over the years. Gabriel has coached Shubert at the AAU level on the ECC Trojans and Eagle Flight Elite programs since age 8.
“He’s been playing on my team with my son (Jackson, now an eighth grader at Lincoln Charter) since the second or third grade,” Gabriel said.
The junior-level AAU teams Shubert played on went on to win two state championships, the fifth-grade title in 2011 and the seventh-grade title in 2013, post a runner-up finish with its sixth-grade team in 2012, and finish fourth in the state among eighth-grade teams last season.
“We were playing against the best competition, and traveling all over the place,” Shubert said.
That helped build the familiarity between Shubert and Gabriel; building a similar familiarity between the Eagles’ new point guard and his teammates came from Lincoln Charter’s summer workout program.
“We had a really good summer – 27-2,” Gabriel said. “We played a whole season’s worth of games this summer. That made him pretty comfortable coming in, and knew what I expected from him.”
The summer workouts also showed Shubert’s teammates – especially returning starter Amir Davis, a senior who led the Eagles in scoring last year at 16.8 points per game – what he was capable of on the court.
“Our expectations coming into this season was for Amir to be that senior leader and carry the scoring load,” Gabriel said. “But Kody’s kind of jelled with him. Amir hasn’t taken a back seat, but he’s moved over and both of them drive the bus, so to speak.
“That’s the sign of a smart player – even though he’s young, he’s got the respect of the seniors, and they expect him to do the same as well. He can play basketball, and they know it. He’s a basketball player, nobody looks on him as just a freshman.”
And Shubert has just one goal with the Eagles.
“We’re only going to get better,” he said. “This is the first year we’ve been really good, and it’s because of all the work we put in during the summer. We’re going to do that every year from now on, and I hope that’s what helps us get those state championships.”