It was love from the first time he stepped on the parquet.

Community Christian's Ethan Bray was introduced to the sport of basketball by his grandfather.

The Junior, who is among the state's leaders in steals, has evolved from those nascent stages, one that were nurtured at the YMCA as a third-grader, playing in local games, fueling his passion for the sport.

"I've always loved it," said Bray, whose depth of feeling about basketball is palpable. The affable and articulate athlete has grown up attending Community Christian.

Bray, the Mustangs point guard, began playing basketball at the school in the sixth grade, progressing through the program, improving his skills, with a discernible commitment and desire.

"We've grown to being a good, competitive team in the area," said Bray.

However, the school itself, his commitment to Christ and his athletic involvement have all played a role in shaping him as an individual, said Bray.

"It's a great atmosphere, the teachers really care about you," said Bray. "It's not like public school. If they know you have a long day at a game or a practice, they'll cut you some slack in terms of academics. It's great, everybody wants you to succeed in all areas. It helps you grow."

Community Christian's boys basketball coach Kurt Taylor is in his fourth year at the helm of the program, and has been working with Ethan since he's been in the eighth grade. Taylor has played a large role in Bray's development.

"This year, he's starting to play close to the potential he has," said Taylor. "He has a lot of talent and is a really good defender. He needs to get a little bit better at his decision making as a point guard. His outside shot has improved. We need a little more scoring from him, consistent scoring, but I'm real happy with Ethan overall."

The Mustangs have been a competitive force, particularly in their district, and are poised to make a deep run this winter. Taylor's influence and impact have been appreciable and embraced by the players on the roster.

"Before he (Kurt Taylor) came, we didn't have a legitimate program," said Bray. "It wasn't taken seriously, we didn't play year round. We started when basketball season started and ended after the last game. But once he came, we just picked up our intensity through practice. All of the players bought into the program. He turned it totally around."

Bray like all athletes, has had to make a number of sacrifices; a series of adjustments to balance basketball and school.

"Family time, sometimes academic work, you find yourself staying up later than other students to do work," said Bray."We're here in the gym almost every day, and when we're not here, we're doing stuff outside in other gyms and doing workouts at home too. When we're in here, we're working the entire time."

The opportunity to work with Community Christian assistant coach Larry Taylor, a North Port standout and former Division I player, allows Bray access to someone who has played at the elite level.

"It's awesome being around a fellow point guard," said Bray. "I pick his mind any time I can. I ask him about the process and what he sees on the court and about how I can improve my game. I just love talking to him. He helps us so much in terms of his basketball mind."

What sets Bray apart is his strong work ethic and determination. His competitive nature brings a dynamic to the Mustangs that's welcomed and embraced by the program.

"I just realized from day one that nothing's going to be handed to you," said Bray. "You have to go out and get it. That's where I get my aggression from. I love playing an aggressive game into the other person, getting into their mind and getting them mad."

Bray has assumed a leadership role with the Mustangs as the team's starting point guard, one he has had to acclimate to, but has embraced with a zealous enthusiasm as he grows as an an athlete and individual.

"It was tough at first because I'm younger than most of the other players," said Bray. "I have a lot more court experience, and that helps me in being able to teach other players, and placing an emphasis on holding each other accountable. The coaches promoting me to a captain on the team has helped me grow as a player, not only with my overall maturity but I can also learn to teach as he teaches us. It's just great to feed off of each other."

A focus on the future has Bray directing his energies toward playing at the next level, intercollegiately.

"I hope to play wherever I can get a chance," said Bray. "Of course, DI would be amazing. I just have to keep on working and don't stop. Nothing's going to get handed to you."


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