One is facilitating, one showing his moves and the other trying desperately to get a stop.
That’s also how it can sometimes work between Auburn Mountainview High School’s Robbie Wilson, Tristan Miguel and Ryan Lacey on the basketball court where they’ve led the seventh-ranked Lions to a 17-1 start. Only not in this case.
This is them walking in the mall when the 6-foot-10 Miguel inexplicably begins dancing to a tune only heard in his head. Wilson’s the one egging him on, while Lacey attempts to curb the three from enduring further embarrassment.
“And then it gets out of hand and me and Robbie end up joining him and it’s bad,” Lacey said.
“We might not be blood, but we are basically brothers. We love each other the same way.”
Lacey, Miguel and Wilson have been playing basketball together since the second grade. Their chemistry makes so much happen for the defending league champion Lions (17-1, 11-1), who can take a one-game lead in the Class 3A South Puget Sound League title race with one game to go if it can win at fifth-ranked Peninsula (17-1, 11-1) on Tuesday.
Lacey surpassed 1,000 points for his career, passing his brother JJ Lacey for most in school history, with 25 in a win against Lakes on Friday; Miguel is second in scoring and leads the team in rebounding and blocks; and Wilson is third in scoring and tops in assists and steals.
They first began playing together in the second grade. Fellow seniors Christian Rotter and Jake Sheehan joined them two years later, while Ki’jan Weisinger and Elijah Johnson about two years after that — but this all started with Lacey, Miguel and Wilson on that Auburn Bulldogs team coached by Lacey’s father.
That was when Wilson was still one of the smallest players, and when Miguel couldn’t tell the difference between his own elbow and the one on the court.
“My dad always tells the story of him in the fourth grade and a team scored and we were supposed to be running back on defense. Tristan was ginormous, but he was just standing at halfcourt like looking around,” Lacey said. “My dad’s yelling at him, ‘Get back on defense! Stand in the key!’ ... Maybe he thought we were running a one-man press.”
“I remember the lines would pop up out of the court and trip me,” Miguel joked.
You’d think they would be sick of each other by now.
But Lacey and Miguel both made plans to continue playing basketball together at Western Oregon University next year, and they’ve hinted to Wilson that he should do the same.
Outside of basketball, they said you’ll often find them dancing in the mall, or playing Wiffle ball, football, or ping pong, or the video games Call of Duty and Madden. But you’ll usually just find them playing basketball. They’ve been known to last until midnight playing on the half-court at Lacey’s house.
“These are the guys I always hang out with outside of school and basketball,” Wilson said. “And we all get along really well, so that helps.”
But there are times on the court you’d think they were enemies. They’ll grab each other’s jerseys and yell and scream at each other, but then they’re right back to being best friends.
“There are times I want to throw the basketball at Robbie I’m so mad at him,” Lacey said. “But we have a relationship where if he or Tristan isn’t playing well, I can yell and scream at them and they’ll respond the right way. They won’t be mad at me. But there are other people on the team I wouldn’t want to yell at because I don’t know how they would respond.”
Lacey and Miguel made the varsity team their freshman year and Wilson made it the year after. AMV’s only had three seniors graduate the past three years, so they’ve had ample playing time.
“When (athletic director) Chris Carr recruited me to come here I remember he sent me a text that said something like, ‘Don’t you want to have a 6-3 shooting guard (Lacey), a true post (Miguel) and a true point guard (Wilson)?’ ” second-year coach Thomas Ostrander said. “And for me, yeah, that was nice to have.
“There is no way you step in and win 19 games in your first year without a group like them. As much as I would like to say it’s me, it’s all them. The ability to coach them once and they fix it and do it right the next time — that’s a sign of kids who have been around the game and understand the game really well. They have a chemistry you can’t coach.”
Ostrander knows an experienced, great chemistry team like this doesn’t come around often. So he’s trying to gear them to play their best basketball come postseason. Last year Auburn Mountainview lost to Wilson in the Class 3A West Central District tournament before being eliminated by eventual state qualifier Kennedy Catholic.
“I think the key indicator of these types of kids is when my wife told me, ‘I love hanging out with your basketball team. They are such great kids and they are so polite,’ ” Ostrander said. “Sometimes I will bring my kids on the bus back with me from games and my 7-year-old daughter is with them singing and they’re including my kids in their songs. She’s like, ‘I love your team, Dad. They are so fun.’
“Not only are they great basketball players, but they are outstanding kids.”