Joey Bodoia flew under the radar for the Bellarmine Prep boys basketball team last season, when he was playing alongside point guard Malachi Flynn.
And that’s understandable. Flynn averaged almost 30 points per game last year.
But now it’s Bodoia establishing himself as the Lions’ leader.
He’s raised his scoring average by seven points to 19.4 per game, and has his team in a position to make a deep playoff run.
“Last year, he kind of just played in his role,” teammate Christian Moore said. “This year, whenever he gets the ball he takes over. We all can see how physically strong he is. I don’t think there is anyone in the state that can really guard him.
“When he gets (the ball), you can see that look in his eye. He’s confident and he knows he’s going to beat whoever is guarding him.”
We all can see how physically strong he is. I don’t think there is anyone in the state that can really guard him.
Bellarmine Prep’s Christian Moore on guard Joey Bodoia
Bodoia knew that more would be asked of him now that Flynn is starting at Washington State University.
“My mindset was to become a much better leader, and just do whatever I can to help my team win,” he said. “I knew losing Malachi that we were going to lose a lot of scoring on the team, so I wanted to step up and help my team in that way, help out defensively, and just try to help out in any way I could to try to get my team to win.”
Bodoia’s improvement was on display in a recent victory over Olympia that clinched a playoff spot for the Lions. He scored 41 points while taking 16 shots.
The Lions are 12-4 in the 4A SPSL and 13-7 overall, but as Bodoia has improved so has their season. They opened with losses to 3A powerhouse Lincoln and 4A SPSL champion Curtis before starting the uphill climb — winning seven of their past eight games.
The early season struggles weren’t a shock to coach Bernie Salazar, who is in his 22nd season at the Bellarmine Prep helm.
“Early on, we had some growing pains, certainly, because we were young and inexperienced,” Salazar said. “What’s been really good with Joey and Christian is that they’ve been really good mentors for the younger guys and for the inexperienced guys. I think they’ve been really good with them and they’ve been patient with them — and I know the younger guys look up to these guys.”
The example Bodoia now sets for the younger players isn’t unlike the example that was set for him by his former teammates. His older brother, Rex, who graduated following Joey’s sophomore season, and, of course, Flynn, have shown him how to lead.
“The biggest thing I learned from (Flynn) is confidence,” Joey Bodoia said. “He’s probably one of the most confident players I’ve ever played with. He always believes in himself, his team and his teammates. He’s always ready to fight and do anything he can to get the win.”
Teammates now notice that same quality in Bodoia.
“Overall, his demeanor and his confidence, I know he took that from Malachi,” Moore said. “Last year, he was timid a little bit, and this year he’s just confident all over the court.
“Personally, I think (Bodoia) is a pretty quiet guy, and this year he’s been pretty vocal,” Moore added. “At the start of the season, he was kind of quieter. But as soon as we had two hard losses to Lincoln and Curtis, he just kind of really opened up and took this team. I think he’s the heart of this team, and he’s really the leader of this team.”
Overall, his demeanor and his confidence, I know he took that from Malachi. Last year, he was timid a little bit, and this year he’s just confident all over the court.
Bellarmine Prep’s Christian Moore
Just as important as Bodoia’s growth in leadership is the growth of his overall game. He worked on his jump shot in the offseason, and defensively he’s often asked to guard the opponent’s best player.
He’s excelled in both areas.
“He really does have all three parts of the game,” Salazar said. “He can score inside, he’s got a great mid-range jumper and he can shoot the 3-ball. (He’s) complete.”
And when Bodoia is called upon to make a play in crunch time, he’s ready.
“I just have to stay confident and know that I can do it and just believe in myself,” Bodoia said. “I can’t be hesitant. When the time comes, I just have to make sure that I leave it all on the floor and just go for it.”
The Lions won seven of their final eight games going into the playoffs, including avenging earlier losses with victories over Emerald Ridge and Curtis. Bellarmine and Emerald Ridge will play at 4 p.m. Saturday at Sumner for the No. 2 seed from the 4A SPSL to the district tournament.
The Lions’ confidence level is higher than it has been all season, and at the right time.
“I think we can beat anybody in the state,” Moore said. “We’ve gotten so much better since our first game against Lincoln. We’re fearless. Whoever is up to the plate, we’re up for the challenge. We’re ready for playoffs, and we’re looking to make a deep run this year.”
I just have to stay confident and know that I can do it and just believe in myself. I can’t be hesitant. When the time comes, I just have to make sure that I leave it all on the floor and just go for it.
Bellarmine Prep’s Joey Bodoia
And the Lions have extra motivation because of how last season ended, with their goal of playing in the Tacoma Dome crushed in the final seconds of a 60-57 loss to Union in the regional round of the 4A state playoffs.
“It was a tough one to swallow, so there is motivation there to get back, for sure,” Salazar said. “It will be very difficult, but very possible. When you do it, it’s very satisfying. So we’ll just work very hard, fight real hard and believe in each other and see what happens.”