Norwin sophomore named Daily News player of year
Though she's only a high school sophomore, 6-foot Norwin guard Alayna Gribble already is developing a reputation for scoring.
Gribble has led the Knights in points per game in each of her first two girls basketball seasons and was a key figure in their run to a share of the WPIAL Section 1-AAAA title this year.
Even now, with the 2013-14 season just having been concluded, Gribble religiously was continuing to work on her shooting form. She's been in the Norwin gym with teammates in early mornings and elsewhere with her summer Amateur Athletic Union team in the evenings.
“She's shooting 200-to-300 3s a day, and she's making a high percentage,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said.
While Norwin's 17-6 record, including a 13-1 mark in the section, wasn't good enough to vault the team into the PIAA playoffs, Gribble's consistent high-level performances helped ignite the team and eventually earn her the latest Daily News player-of-the-year award.
“She stays grounded, even with all the attention. She's a joy to coach,” Brozeski said.
Norwin advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals and dropped a 55-51 decision to Fox Chapel on Feb. 21 but gained a measure of satisfaction because the Knights hadn't gotten that far in a season since 2008.
“We made it farther than a lot of people thought we would,” Gribble said, “but I thought we could've gone even farther and maybe won at least one more game against Fox Chapel.”
It's only heightened Gribble's burning desire to improve. She averaged 17.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this season after scoring an average of 13.5 as a freshman in 2012-13.
Gribble's rapid pace in developing her skills already has attracted the attention of Division I coaches, among others. St. Bonaventure and St. Francis (Pa.) have placed early scholarship offers on the table.
“Whether it's physically on the court, or with her knowledge of the game, or breaking down film, Alayna is always trying to become stronger,” Brozeski said. “It's important for athletes to understand that they need to continue to improve.”
Even with the season having elapsed, Brozeski has continued to praise his team for the year-long effort that pushed Norwin deeper into the playoffs than in recent years.
And he has made certain not to emphasize any one player more than another — not even the budding Gribble. But it's difficult not to recognize her immense contributions. Brozeski credited Gribble's home life for providing a solid foundation.
“I just grew up playing basketball,” Gribble said. “I just kind of fell in love with it. I slowly got better, and I started playing against better competition. I could tell, as time went on, that I wanted to get better. It's to the point now where I have the drive to get a scholarship to play in college.”
Brozeski called Gribble “the complete basketball player,” pointing out that she not only was Norwin's leading scorer but also its leading rebounder and top defender.
“We had her guarding the other teams' best forwards, for the most part,” he said. “She's really bought into being a team player, on and off the court. The girls have looked to her for leadership.”
Gribble, who also plays AAU ball for the Western Pa. Bruins, has welcomed most chances to take a lead role. “If I had an off-night shooting, I would quickly change my approach during a game,” she said. “You have to learn to know when it's best to pass and help other people get open for shots. If I was scoring, then I'd let my teammates know to get me the ball.”
The perceived “little things” more often than not go unnoticed, she said. But presumably not by her team or coaches.
“A lot of what Alayna experiences in success starts with her upbringing,” Brozeski said. “Her parents did a nice job of keeping her grounded. It is a great family. She's just taking everything in stride.”
Gribble's family members, indeed, have balanced praise and criticism well, she said. “My parents especially have been very supportive of whatever I've wanted to do. I wanted to play basketball, and they have been there for me. They are critical of me when I need it, and it's made me a better player.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.