There is a lot in a name.
And for basketball purposes, Clover Park High School’s Xavier Means has a pretty good one.
It’s not as if he is a mean guy. In fact, off the court, the senior is very cordial.
He will tell you how proud he is that he earned a $2,000 college scholarship a week ago from the Boys & Girls Club of America’s “Youth of the Year” program where he had to deliver a televised speech in front of 600 audience members — and was selected one of the three winners.
On the court, well, he is a bit of a handful. Just ask Mel Ninnis, the longtime coach of the No. 5 Warriors, who will try and regain the Class 2A state title they won in Yakima in 2011.
“There are two types of basketball players in this game — seekers and avoiders,” Ninnis said. “He seeks contact. He seeks the basketball. He seeks the rebounds. He seeks action.”
But take another look at possible parallels to his surname and the way he plays the game, and it become obvious. Means, a slender, long-armed, very active 6-foot-4 post player, does whatever it takes for Clover Park to win, even if scoring isn’t part of it.
One of his pre-game rituals, which he started before his junior year, is to write down goals for his upcoming 32 minutes of action — and try and get as close to it as possible.
“It’s helped,” Means said. “I always set myself higher for rebounds than points. I don’t care about points.”
What the Warriors do care about is his energy — something that was crucial in last year’s postseason.
Despite the Warriors being upset in the state 2A quarterfinals against Lindbergh in 2012 and eventually claiming fifth place, Means was selected to the all-tournament second team by averaging more than 10 points and 10 rebounds in the three games.
That is when his reputation grew as not only an edgy contributor, but as one of the team’s emotional leaders.
Means said he had to learn to be more physical for his size playing basketball as a 12-year old against his stepfather Tino Rivere (6-3, 250 pounds) and uncle Ryan Lahr (6-5, 230), who was once a standout prep player in Utah.
“That was the only way I could survive,” Means said.
Before the season, junior Anthony White, Jr., was one of two transfers from Lakes to join the team. Like Means, White gives the Warriors inside toughness to complement high-flying guards David Crisp, Philip Winston and Travis Parker.
“The first day I met (Means) was in fall league. We were just playing against each other,” White said. “I figured, ‘Wow, he is an upperclassman, so I have to work as hard as him.’ But the intensity he brings to the game, he feels no one should outwork him. That really brought my game out.”
A week before varsity tryouts in November, Means got a little carried away during practice and punched a wall in the gymnasium. He broke his hand, forcing him to miss more than a month.
Without Means in the lineup, the Warriors started 3-3. Since his return Dec. 18, Clover Park has gone 17-3. A coincidence?
“We missed his toughness,” Ninnis said, “and his physicality.”
His overall season numbers — 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game — don’t seem so glossy. But ask any coach or player on the Warriors roster if the team had a chance to win the 2A title without Means, he would tell you, no way.
“He challenges every shot at the rim. He knocks people down. He is an enforcer on offense and defense,” Ninnis said. “Basketball is a game of energy, and the team with the most energy usually wins.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com blogs.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles