‘He’s a big-time player’

Published 8:34 am Friday, January 22, 2010

FRANKLIN—Last year’s Franklin High School boys’ basketball team reached the state quarterfinals. That team had several seasoned seniors. This year’s version of the Broncos was not expected to be as competitive, but so far, the team has been able to hold its own in the tough Tri-Rivers District.

Junior point guard Justin Grant has had a lot to say about that.

With Franklin sitting at 4-2 in the district, the Broncos could easily be 2-4 if not for two big performances by Grant. Back on Dec. 17 against Chesterfield, Grant hit a 30-foot 3-point shot at the buzzer to tie the game and then scored 12 points in overtime as Franklin prevailed. Grant poured in 45 points that night.

Grant also had a buzzer beater against Sussex last Friday.

“Two of our biggest district games we won because of him,” said Danny Dillon, Franklin head coach, after Wednesday afternoon’s practice. “He’s a big-time player and, being a junior, has a bright future ahead of him.”

Grant, a member of the 2008 Franklin football state championship team, said he loves to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

“I watch a lot of big-time players and big-time games, and I just like the spotlight,” Grant said. “I feel like I’ve got it. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in myself. If I miss it, I move on to the next game.”

Grant, who plays the small forward and shooting guard positions, is multidimensional on offense. He can shoot the 3-ball or drive to the hoop — whatever is needed.

“(I’m going for) whatever is open,” he said. “If coach is telling me to penetrate more, I’m going to penetrate more. If he’s telling me to shoot, that’s what’s up.”

There’s also a little dunk that Grant had against Isle of Wight Academy, which brought the rim and glass down in a heap. IWA gave him the rim as a souvenir, which he said is “somewhere in his house.”

“I missed a few layups. Coach said you’ve got to go strong. I said I’m going to go strong this time, and that’s what happened,” Grant recalled about the dunk.

As a member of last year’s state playoff team and football state championship team, Grant has learned a lot about what it takes to excel in the big games and the role of leadership.

“He’s definitely one we are looking to as a leader,” Dillon said. “He works the hardest in practice. He’s one of the most gifted athletes who’s been through in quite some time.”

“Last year in practice, they played 100 percent all the time and I picked up on that from them,” Grant said. “I have to show leadership. I want it all and I don’t want anybody to take it from me.”

Despite the predictions that Franklin might have an off year, Grant is confident the Broncos can go deep in the playoffs. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The coaches tell us all the time in practice you have to hate losing more than you like winning,” he said. “I hate losing.”