If not for an epiphany during middle school, Warriors' sophomore Chris Jean-Pierre may have never found himself on the basketball court.
Growing up playing baseball and soccer, Chris noticed, as he recalls, "drastically improved skills" which pushed him toward the hardwood coming into Valley. The revelation led to Chris earning a spot in the starting lineup in January while becoming a key piece to the Warriors' first-ever Class M state title and their first Shoreline crown since 1984 behind scoring nine points a game and earning Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention accolades.
"Once I got into the lineup, I just kept working hard to stay there," says Chris, whose first start was on Jan. 3 versus Morgan. "I kept pushing myself, along with the other starters. Coach [Kevin] Woods always talked to me about constantly working and that nothing is guaranteed. I wanted to just get it and get in the game-that was my main goal."
Being the one who made the initial call-up, Woods knew what Valley needed coming off a rare two-game losing streak and his 6-foot guard could deliver the necessities, thriving on a senior-heavy squad.
"Chris is a very talented athlete; he was able to crack the starting lineup after the Xavier Tournament and has been a force for us both scoring and rebounding," says Woods on Chris, who averaged four boards a game. "We were lacking a little size, and Chris gave us an extra rebounder, which really took the pressure off both Chris Polo and Chris Connor. It is pretty impressive that he is a starter on this team given the amount of talent, especially in the senior class."
Knowing his role in the starting five, Chris used his competitiveness to box out and grab every board flying his way, while providing aid in the process.
"When I started in my first game, I knew the seniors wanted me to play well, so I just kept with it and played good defense," says Chris, who also plays football and runs track for the Warriors. "I never like to lose, and I am always trying to get better for the next time. I do see myself as a presence underneath; I am trying to get that last loose ball on every bucket and supporting our main guys."
Another blossoming facet has been Chris's shooting game, nailing clutch buckets and performances with 21 points in the Shoreline Conference title game versus Old Lyme on March 1 (21 points), draining five three-pointers in a second round Class M bracket win against Cromwell on March 6, and sinking three shots from beyond the arc in the Class M final facing Weston on March 15.
"I have definitely seen big improvements in my perimeter game," says Chris, who thanks his entire family and Valley coaching staff for success. "Every time I hit that first three-pointer, I get a confidence vibe going. But overall, this season has been crazy; since the first day of practice, our main goal was to win a state title. This is arguably the best team in Valley's history."
Not only a three-sport athlete, but also an honor roll student, Chris knows it's about locking in, reaching for a victory or an A.
"It's always important to do well in school above all," says Chris. "I keep focused in class and on my schoolwork, and I keep the mindset that I have to balance it all, which I think I have done perfectly."
Adds Woods on the off-the-court Chris: "Chris is a great kid and brings a youthful spirit to our team, always fired up and ready to go. Chris is also a great person, as he excels in the classroom and is a model citizen. We are lucky to have Chris as part of our basketball family."