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Stepney fuels Chargers' regional playoff run
As the Kentridge High School boys basketball team sweeps an undefeated path through the 2013-14 season, senior Jawan Stepney continues to perform highly, his accomplishments including the South Puget Sound League North Division MVP award among other things.
He also has led the Chargers (23-0) to a berth in the Class 4A state regionals that open next week with a chance to make it to the eight-team tournament March 6-8 at the Tacoma Dome.
Kentridge, which plays Bellarmine Prep on Thursday in a district semifinal game, already has earned a regional berth with a district playoff win on Saturday over Puyallup.
Stepney got an early start in basketball when his father took him to the gym to train, from left and right hand layups to running full court.
"Growing up, probably every day my dad took me to the gym," Stepney says.
Stepney has carried on the tradition his father started, taking his brother, Jaylyn, and sister, Jlyce, to the gym as well as to practice.
The game runs deep in Stepney's family on both his mother and father's side. His uncle, Gary Gardner, played basketball at the University of Washington and has mentored Stepney to help him move into the next level of play.
From his uncle, Stepney's learned more than just hard court skills. He's learned the mindset of a professional. Confidence and a belief in yourself is important, but more important, he says, is teamwork.
"Jordan, LeBron, Kobe, any of 'em couldn't be where they've gotten, being great, without having a team," he says.
There's more to the team than just playing together on the court. They also find time to bond outside of the game.
"Outside of basketball we're all pretty good friends, and that brings us together," the 6-foot-3 Stepney says.
The team bowls together, or watches other teams play together.
"And that outside of the court, that comes to on the court: trusting each other more," he says.
One of the most important lessons for Stepney was the reminder that basketball "isn't a one-person sport," and he says that neither he nor any other single player is responsible for the team's success this season.
"We all can't do everything 100 percent," he says. "We put the pieces together — everyone from the team — we all gel and come together."
While Stepney readily acknowledges his skill around the court, he says that the most important trait a basketball player can have is humility. Admitting mistakes and realizing faults allow for improvement.
"There's no limit to how good you can get, but if you stay humble and work harder, you can reach your full potential," he says. "If you say cocky and say you are the best and you can't get any better, you won't reach your full potential."
Stepney is close to committing to Seattle University on a basketball scholarship, not only because the school is closer to home but he also says that coach Cameron Dollar appeals to him as a coach.
"He met my family, talked to my grandma and everything, and showed me that he actually cared," Stepney says.
While he'd like to play in the NBA and turn basketball into a career, he also is interested in studying engineering or journalism in college.