It’s as if there are two Alex Weber-Braders.
There’s the 17-year-old kid who shows up at Olympia High wearing basketball shorts and a turtleneck, nodding hello to nearly everyone he passes in the hallways. His personality is laid back, loose and fun loving.
Then there’s the Weber-Brader coiled on the basketball court as the referee readies for the jump-ball toss to begin a basketball game. At this moment, he’s intense, focused.
The class jester becomes the king of the court.
Weber-Brader, the Bears’ 6-foot-4 pogo-stick of a center, led his team in scoring (20.2 per game), rebounds (8.7), steals (2.7) and blocked shots (1.8).
He was a shooter, passer and defender. Although merely a junior on a team that missed the state tournament, he was the Narrows League’s MVP. He’s also The Olympian’s boys player of the year.
“Alex is a little goofy,” Olympia coach Luke Salme said with a chuckle. “That’s how I’d describe his demeanor. Very laid back. He’s not lazy. He always works hard in practice.”
But there’s a light side to Weber-Brader. He’ll joke at practice, making teammates laugh. Then game time comes and he’s all business.
“He’s definitely a gamer,” Salme said.
And what a gamer. He’s always the target of a defense, facing gimmick box-and-one schemes and double teams. But in crunch time, when the game was on the line, Weber-Brader was Mr. Cool, coming through time after time after time.
“He hit big shot after big shot for us,” Salme said.
Success on the basketball court hasn’t changed Weber-Brader’s causal approach off the court. He’s goal driven, but somehow he’s not let his goal of playing college basketball squeeze the fun out of his life.
“He’s still the same kid. His success hasn’t gone to his head,” Salme said. “Alex is the most popular kid in school. Everyone likes him.”
The day after Olympia’s season ended with a loss to Gig Harbor in districts, Weber-Brader asked Salme for a key to the gym. He’s been in there shooting 3-pointers and jumpers by himself every day since.
Last year as a gangly sophomore, Weber-Brader scored 29 points in his first varsity game and averaged 12 points for the season. With an intense offseason of lifting weights, he added 15 pounds of muscle, going from 170 to 185 pounds.
“The extra weight helped me post up better,” he said. “I just feel more settled. I know what the coach expects of me.”
He dunked for the first time this season. The improvement in his vertical helped his rebounding and defense.
“He doesn’t just save it for offense,” Salme said. “I’m never worried he’s going to show up defensively. He’s a complete player.”
After playing guard on his summer AAU teams, Weber-Brader, Olympia’s tallest player, played inside. He scored in the paint and from the perimeter, shooting 49 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range.
Now, Weber-Brader, who is both cheerful and determined, is focused on improving his game. Salme, who had a one-on-one postseason interview with all his players, challenged his all-league forward.
“I spoke candidly to him,” Salme said. “I told him he already saw the league’s best defenses. But now as the league MVP, next year if he wanted to be as good as he wants to be, he’s going to have to work hard.”
And that’s what Weber-Brader, who only eats organic foods, is doing.
Every day, he’s alone in the gym, shooting jumpers, then lifting weights.
“He’s a role model for his teammates,” Salme said.
And he’s a go-to shooter in the clutch and a good laugh when he’s not so serious.
“He’s just a great kid,” Salme said.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443