WASHINGTON — Washington's Austin Ghirardelli has seen the highs and lows of a basketball season in more ways than one.
The junior started with the varsity, went to the junior varsity after suffering a two-week illness at the first of the new year and now has moved his way back into a starting role for Washington as the Hatchets prepare to face Vincennes Lincoln in Friday's second game of the Class 3A sectional at the Hatchet House.
"It was difficult at times at first," Ghirardelli said of the move to the junior varsity. "But the coaches talked to me, and it was a lot of fun. I slipped a little bit, got sick, just watched, but I thought it would work out." Hatchet coach Gene Miiller likes the consistency the Ghirardelli has shown in the final stages of the present season and believes his junior provides several characteristics that any coach would desire.
"Austin is a really good team player and plays within himself," Miiller said. "He's very good defensively and does a lot of the little things that sometimes go unnoticed." And while the junior is on the upswing of a season that he admits has had its ups and downs, Ghirardelli's upswing includes more than just additional playing time. It includes a growth spurt that he finds, "kind of shocking".
Ghirardelli was listed graciously as 5-9 before the present season started.
He now is tipping 6-0, and much of that growth has come since recovering from mononucleosis in mid January. He's also added weight - 15 to 20 pounds.
A shopping trip for new clothes is on the way in the spring.
"They don¹t really fit," Ghirardelli smiled while speaking of his present ensemble. "I think I'm getting some new stuff when it gets warner in the spring. I've spoken with doctors who said I might get to 6-3, and I've kidded around with a lot of my friends about being 6-3. I think other people noticed it before I did. I'm eye level with more people. It's different, but I like it." Ghirardelli believes the new size has made him more confident on the floor.
"I think at the beginning of the year I would sit back and try to use my quickness," he said. "I think I'm a bit more aggressive now. My arms are longer. I can reach more. Things I used to do at the beginning of the season is easier now." He also believes maturity has been benefited by his recent growth.
"I think both hit at about the same time," Ghirardelli said of the pair. "I may have grown a bit more in size in some ways, but both have come at abpout the same time. It's nice when you've been shorter during your life, and people notice that you've grown. It has helped make a lot of the things I try to do in basketball easier." Defense has been Ghirardelli's strength. His additional arm span and height adds to a more aggressive approach on the defensive end.
"He does a lot of things that people may not notice," Miiller said. "He gets his hands on the basketball - he gets a lot of deflections. He pressures the basketball well and plays really good team defense, and takes care of the ball and shoots well. He has given us a lot of help since he's come back. I like his intensity level." "It's been really up and down," Ghirardelli said of his junior season. "I never knew what might happen next. It's been crazy." Ghirardelli's progress mirrors the Hatchet season in many respects. He believes he, and the team, is playing the best basketball at the best time.
"I think my shooting has gotten better this year, but I know defense is what I do best," Ghirardelli said. "I think especially in the last few games, I've improved. My defense has improved. I enjoy basketball, and I'm entering one of the most important parts of my career." "It does mirror the team in many ways," Miiller said. "I think he has played better and better as the season has progressed."