La PORTE — From seldom used to a complementary role player who's dramatically improved. That's been the circuitous journey for Grant Gresham.
The La Porte 6-foot-6 senior forward has improved by leaps and bounds since last year, when he rarely played for the Slicers. He's made even more progress since he transferred from New Prairie prior to the 2017-18 season.
“It's still crazy for me to believe, because just two years ago I played basketball at New Prairie, but I didn't work on it,” Gresham said. “I got to where I am now just in the last year of training, since I came to La Porte. I feel like it's really made a big difference. I almost wonder what I would be like if I did start training when I was in middle school, like all these other kids.”
In the offseason, he played AAU basketball with the Valparaiso-based Indiana Elite Northwest. Gresham played on the Adidas Silver Gauntlet and traveled all over, but primarily played in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. In addition, he trained in early mornings at the home of the Lands, who have an indoor gym, while at night Gresham would lift weights.
“It was just a lot of reps, multiple games, even when you were tired,” Gresham said. “That really showed who I was as a player, how hard I hustled. And then, it was just repetition. I got to work on my playing style, what I could do and really perfect it.”
La Porte coach Kyle Benge has witnessed Gresham's growth up close, watching him mature over the summer and into this campaign.
“The improvement he's made from last year to this year is just tremendous,” Benge said. “He put in a lot of time. He put in a lot of effort. Obviously, him transferring over from New Prairie, he didn't understand our system right away. But he was also playing behind two of the best bigs in our conference with Drake Gunn and Grant Ott-Large. So just an opportunity of getting stronger. He worked on his jump shot a lot. And you can't teach the athleticism he has.”
Gresham registered a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds in the Slicers' 81-71 win over South Bend Clay on Nov. 30. Gresham has converted all 14 of his free throws so far this season as well.
“I'm really proud of the jump he's made,” Benge said. “I'm more proud of the fact that he's not settling for things. He's working hard. He got a double-double a couple games ago and he came back the next game and had a good game, so the consistency is starting to pick up. He would have some good games (last year), and then, he'd have some games where we knew he didn't play up to his potential. Now every game we expect it on the floor because we see it every day in practice."
Gresham credits a good amount of his development to Slicers teammates Garrott and Grant Ott-Large, whom he regularly worked out with last offseason.
“They know what they're doing and what to expect," he said. "So really, just doing what they tell me to do and it's paid off.”
Besides his drastic improvement, Gresham has shown exceptional athletic ability and could be the team's most athletic player. He's already thrown down a few dunks, something he relishes.
“It benefits me in certain situations, just being able to take one step and getting up higher than all these other kids when they had multiple steps,” Gresham said. “So I feel like I really use that to my advantage when I rebound or I play defense, just by being able to explode quicker than the other kids.”
Off the floor, Gresham thrives in the classroom, too, earning 'A' and 'B' grades. He takes dual-credit Business and Math classes and last year he took Advanced Placement English.
“I'm a good student,” Gresham said. “I always try and help the teachers. I'm not a disruptive student. I prefer to be the quiet kid and listen to everybody, instead of being the one people listen to.”
He also participates in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), French Club and Unified Track.
Gresham plans on attending college and majoring in Business. He's applied to some schools and been accepted, it's just a process of visiting those colleges and whittling down his decision. He hasn't entirely ruled out playing basketball, saying he'd love to if possible, but stressed that education comes first.
La Porte has claimed two straight victories to get above the .500 mark for the first time this season at 3-2.
“We need to keep our heads, not getting too big of egos with a winning streak,” he said. “We just need to realize, no matter your win streak, you still need to come out every game ready and prepared and play your hardest every time.”