Brownell’s hoops heroes

Brownell point guard E.J. Harrell drives past South Valley

Talk about a basketball revival in Gilroy.
Talk about a hoop revival in Gilroy.

The GHS boys’ varsity team is vastly improved from last season. The JV team is 16-4 and won all three tournaments it competed in. The freshmen are 19-1 and have beaten the likes of Mitty, Bellarmine and Valley Christian.

And guess what?

Looks like it’s only going to get better.

The Brownell Academy boys’ basketball team is absolutely steamrolling through its schedule. The eighth-grade Bruins are now 15-2 after taking out cross-town rival South Valley for the second time this season Friday night.

“I feel lucky to have the amount of talent we have here,” first-year coach Joe Lampkin said.

There’s been nothing lucky about the team’s success, though. Every win has been by double digits, and most have been over by halftime. No one even knows what the final score was in Tuesday’s game against Bernal.

Along with a running clock, they stopped keeping score after the Bruins took a 49-6 lead in the third quarter. This happens all the time.

When it doesn’t, it really gets ugly. Earlier in the year, Brownell squeaked by an opponent, 82-8.

“And honestly, it could’ve been worse,” Lampkin said. “We don’t try to run it up. We play everyone … pull our starters very early.”

So everyone plays and everyone contributes. Four players do stand out, though: point guard E.J. Harrell, forwards Tony Travis and Jamie Jensen and man-child center Richard Reyes, a 6-foot-6, 270-pounder who wears a size-18 shoe.

Naturally, Reyes tallies plenty of rebounds and blocks, while the first three players – despite usually never playing a full game – still manage around 50 points a game combined, Lampkin said.

Think that sounds like a lot for a middle school team? Don’t tell that to the Bruins, who routinely reach the 80s during their wins and losses.

Both the team’s setbacks have come by three points to Valley Christian. In last week’s Evergreen Tournament in San Jose, Brownell lost to the Warriors, 87-84.

“Two middle schools teams scoring over 80 points? That’s NBA scoring right there,” Lampkin said.

It’s also a whole lot of fun for the participants, Harrell added.

“It’s real fun – especially because we all grew up together,” he said. “That’s why I think we’re real good … because we’re all friends.”

That seems to be the consensus.

Nearly all the players have known each other for years, some as far back as first grade. They played together in driveways. They played together in the Parks and Rec leagues.

Seven of them even play together on the South County Jammers, a successful summer travel team coached by Brownell assistant Ed Jensen.

That familiarity has led to some noticeable chemistry on the court.

“There’s really good ball movement,” Travis said. “It’s almost like street ball out there from when we were little kids.”

It might have a street-ball feel, but the Bruins are also “good with sharing the ball and being not greedy,” Harrell added.

“We all have chemistry together,” he said. “Knowing what each of us is going to do and where we’re gonna move … that’s real good for the passing game.”

It’s also real good for the Bruins, who are readying for the invite-only San Jose Mayor’s Tournament, which takes place the first week of February. Right after that comes the Santa Clara County Championships, where Brownell finished second last year during a 22-3 season.

Many of the players from that team are currently on the dominating Gilroy High freshman squad.

“But I think we could hang with them,” Harrell said with a smile.

“I know the high school has a real good future,” he added. “I think the next four or five years will be some of Gilroy High’s best seasons.”

His coach has no doubt.

“I’m not saying we have the next Jordan or anything,” Lampkin said. “But as far as work ethic matched with ability and doing what I ask them to do to get better, this group is pretty good.

“The high school should be happy to be getting a collection of boys like this.”

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