The art of dunking from high school to college

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SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School boys basketball head coach Jeff Martini remembers Gus Wright’s first-ever in-game slam dunk. He recalls Wright, a then freshman, throwing down an and-1 jam that ignited not the only the team, but Wright especially.

“I don’t think he played defense that possession or the next three possessions,” Martini laughed. “He was just so excited.”

Since that day, dunking has lost some of its flavor for the Broncs with good reason. While it’s still an impressive athletic feat — one that registers two points and can swing the momentum in a game — dunking has become somewhat old hat for Wright and the Broncs.

“There are some dunks where I look back at the bench and I get a couple claps and some like [on Saturday] where I’ll get one and everyone will be hyped,” Wright said. “It just depends.”

Wright vividly remembers his first jam. The then-gangly 6-foot-4 eighth-grader threw one down after practice and since then has pulled off numerous dunking feats in practices, open gyms and games.

Wright, a junior who now fills out his long 6’7” frame, can perform many different dunks. He can receive a pass midair for alley-oops. He has the ability to handle the ball in the open floor for fast-break jams. Wright has even shown the capability to collect a pass that bounces high off the backboard and throw it down in traffic.

Martini has enjoyed his front-row seat to each and every slam this season. The former player — who starred for the Broncs and Generals before finishing his career at Southern Utah University — has seen a lot of high school basketball in his time as a coach and player, but this year’s Sheridan team tops them all in dunking ability.

“I’ve never seen a team that’s been able to get up and elevate like this,” Martini said. “We can play above the rim. We sometimes throw chest passes that end up being dunks, which most high school teams don’t do. It’s just a different level of athletic ability that they have.”

Wright and Josh Ahrens — two of the many Broncs that can rise above the rim for jams — both took flight for dunks during the Broncs’ victory over Thunder Basin Saturday. Later that day, just across town, another team having a similar high level of success threw down its fair share of dunks, as well.

It is easier to identify the players on Sheridan College’s men’s basketball that can’t dunk than it is to point out the ones that can. So many Generals have more than enough spring in their step that fans receive a vast array of high-flying theatrics during any given game.

“We get so many people coming out here just watching No. 5 and No. 2, and seeing what dunks they’re going to give them,” SC head coach Matt Hammer said.

No. 5 is Cam Reece and No. 2 is AJ Bramah, and the pair have thrown down in a variety of ways in their career as Generals. Reece has performed windmill dunks in traffic, aggressive alley-oops and many one-handed jams. Bramah showcases a little more finesse with his innate ability to compete one-handed stick-backs and fast-break backward slams.

“It’s a thing where teams that scout us and play us, they know how athletic Cam and AJ are,” Hammer said. “Well, they think they know, until they actually get out on the floor with them, and they see how explosive they are, and how they attack the rim. You can see in those instances where it just kind of deflates the other team.”

Hammer, much like Martini, has laid witness to many uber-athletic athletes from his playing days at Northern State University to his various coaching stops thereafter. He understands the effect a slam dunk can have not only on his club but the residual effect it can have on the opponent.

But what Hammer enjoys most about the authoritative two points, is how his team goes about getting them.

“The only way that works for you is if you have unselfish guys,” Hammer said. “Cam’s dunks and AJ’s dunks, a lot of that comes off guys setting them up.”

Not all can do it. Not every player has the height necessary or athletic ability to rise above the rim and throw down a hard two points. But the ones that can, love it, and the town of Sheridan has plenty of them.

By |Feb. 19, 2019|

About the Author:

Bud Denega joined The Sheridan Press in November 2017 as the primary sports reporter. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Wyoming. Prior to working in Sheridan, Bud spent time as a sports reporter for the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota, before being a sports reporter for the Laredo Morning Times in Laredo, Texas. Email Bud at: bud.denega@thesheridanpress.com

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