Just like the generations of Richland Bombers basketball players that came through the program before him, Jacob Devries considers it a privilege to play at Art Dawald Gym.
“The competition, the environment with your teammates, the chemistry you feel playing with friends,” are all part of the joy of being a part of Bomber basketball, Devries said.
“But getting out in front of the crowd. That’s one of the best things.”
Lately, the Bomber faithful who line the stands at Art Dawald may be getting something special from Devries, too. The 6-foot senior guard has scored at least 30 points in three of Richland’s 12 games this season, most recently in a 90-59 home win over Chiawana on Tuesday.
He’s averaging more than 17 points a game — his high last season was 18 — but his contribution doesn’t stop at scoring. He’s also among the team leaders in field goal percentage, steals and rebounds. He’s one of the best free-throw shooters in the league at 85 percent.
Mike Neill averaged more than 28 points a game for Richland in 1974-75 and broke 30 points on a routine basis. But even Bombers coach Earl Streufert, who has had close ties to the Big Nine/CBBN/MCC dating back to his own playing days at Walla Walla in the early 1980s, can’t remember any recent player hitting 30 more than once in a season.
“He’s done it in such different ways, too,” Streufert said. “Against Shadle Park, he did it with 3-pointers (31 points, 5-of-7 on 3s). Against Kennewick (30 points, 11-for-11 free throws, one 3-pointer), we were struggling from outside and he just decided to take over inside.”
Devries may even have a few more 30-point games in him.
“There might be a couple more in there,” he said after Tuesday’s win.
Devries is shooting 41 percent (23-for-56) from the 3-point line this season, but he certainly hasn’t limited his game to behind the arc.
“It’s fun to get physical down low. When Nathan (Streufert) isn’t in the game, I’ll play the 5 (center). When Nathan is in, I’ll guard the second big,” he said. “It’s better than covering a quick guard and having to keep them in front of me.”
Not that Devries wouldn’t be up to the task.
“You always try to explain to kids how hard work pays off. You tell them they just have to keep going and keep grinding. Jacob is like that,” coach Streufert said. “He is always giving his best physical effort. I have never, and I mean never, had to ask him to play harder. He just won’t accept not giving his best effort.”
That doesn’t get lost on his teammates, either.
“He’s a grinder for sure. He takes care of the dirty work and sets the tone for us in terms of physicality,” Nathan Streufert said. “At the beginning of the year in practice, Jake hit five or six 3s in a row from the same spot working on our zone offense. We started calling that shot a layup for Jake. He’s going to make that one.”
Coach Streufert was reminded of an advertisement in Sports Illustrated that described the different roles of hockey players.
“The playmaker makes everyone better. The superstar does things nobody else can do. The captain is the guy that tells guys what to do and the right way to do it, and the grinder is the one who goes into the corner to get the puck,” Streufert said. “Jacob pretty much embodies any one of those things at different times. He just won’t be denied.”
Streufert admits Devries can be streaky — before going 5-for-6 behind the arc Tuesday, he made just 2 of his previous 12 attempts — but says when he’s on, it’s something special to watch.
“When he’s got it going, he’s one of the best shooters we’ve ever had here,” coach Streufert said. “He’s always been one of my favorite players. He’s always going to come to play.”
w Jack Millikin; 582-1406; firstname.lastname@example.org