Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Hayden senior guard Graig Medvesk helped lead his team to a Western Slope League championship, though the squad has struggled recently, losing two of its last three games. The Tigers will look to get back in shape in a hurry as they launch this week into the district tournament.
Steamboat Springs As Gary Medvesk slumped down on the bottom bleacher after a recent game, there was a sense that he, as much as anyone, would miss this.
Gary has worked in the Hayden School District for the past 17 years as a custodian. He’s been accustomed to watching his son, Graig, grow up in the Hayden gym. With a set of keys and a son who seemingly couldn’t get enough of a basketball, the two formed a bond on the hardwood.
With Graig grown up and finishing his senior year, those countless hours in the gym — that started when Graig was 3 — are paying major dividends for Hayden’s boys basketball team.
The Tigers are 16-3 and trying to make the state tournament for the second consecutive year, thanks in large part to the work of Graig, who has turned into not just the best player in district, but possibly all of Class 2A.
“He’s an amazing kid,” Gary Medvesk said. “But 20 minutes after the game it’s forgotten. I think it’s just his calm. He’s a hell of a competitor but he loves his teammates and that part of it. He doesn’t want to be the star, he just wants to be part of the team.”
But in a season where expectations could have been tempered for a Hayden team that lost several players off last year’s team, it’s been Graig’s ability and basketball sense that have helped the Tigers get to where they are.
“I just want to win from here on,” Graig said.
Early signs of an athlete
It didn’t take long for Gary and Joan Medvesk to realize Graig had the opportunity to be special.
His first word was “ball.” For his second birthday, Graig got a bike with training wheels. Ten minutes into his first ride, Graig had a problem.
“He said, ‘Dad, I could ride this bike without training wheels,’” Gary said. “We took them off and he started riding it. I told my wife he’s got some balance, he’s going to be special.”
From there, Gary couldn’t keep Graig away from the gym. Whenever Gary would clean up after games, Graig would shoot. Whenever the two were home, Graig would implore him to open up the gym.
It started slow, but eventually the two were shooting five nights a week and sometimes on the weekends.
“Most of the time, my friends were out playing and I was in the gym,” Graig said. “I have no idea how much time I’ve spent here.”
It certainly helped. Earlier this season, Graig hit the 1,000-point mark in a game against rival Soroco.
Not done yet
Gary’s memorabilia in the house often spurred Graig on.
One thing in particular stood out: Part of the net from Hayden’s 1971 team that made state, and that Gary played on. Graig got his own net last year, when the team beat then No. 1 Meeker in the district championship.
He credited that as the best moment of his basketball career, but he said he’s open to having that moment one-upped. The senior leads Hayden in scoring at 20 points per game. He also averages five rebounds and three assists per game. But it’s the ease with which those statistics come that’s impressive.
He doesn’t have to dominate the ball to be the best player on the court. He takes over when he needs to, but he’s just as happy deferring to teammates.
“If it’s a night others are open, like where Jorge (Valdez) has had his or Mark Doolin has had his or Ben (Williams) has had his, Graig’s fine with that as long as that W comes,” Tigers coach Mike Luppes said. “He has team goals that are above the individual goals.”
Now, as Hayden prepares to host the district tournament Friday and Saturday — game times have yet to be determined — the Tigers begin their second quest at a state tournament run.
Although Hayden has talent all across the court, it might be Graig’s super-cool demeanor on the court that takes the Tigers to places they’ve never been.
“We’re not surprised about it because he worked hard to get to that level,” Luppes said. “He’s just such a well-rounded player. His passing is as good as his shooting. When you have that combination with ball handling, passing and shooting, that’s a real offensive threat.”