Stephen Kristy is in an unenviable role.
Sure, he’s the Hettinger-Scranton boys basketball team’s first option to score and grab rebounds. The Night Hawks’ defense revolves around him too. But Kristy is also charged with shepherding a talented, yet very young team on which he is one of two seniors. And it doesn’t bother him in the slightest.
“I kind of like the role of leadership,” he said.
The Night Hawks (6-8, 2-0 District 13) appreciate having him around too, head coach Adam Hill said.
Kristy, a 6-foot-4 center, averages 18.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Of the top scorers in Region 7, he’s the only one to also be averaging double figures in rebounds.
“He allows us, on both ends of the floor, to compete,” Hill said. “Not only does he anchor our defense, he opens up a lot of open opportunities on offense.”
Kristy entered the season having sat out much of the final half of his junior season with an injury. He tore the vastus medialis, a muscle in his right quadriceps, when the team’s bus went off the road and flipped onto its side en route to a game against Dickinson Trinity on Jan. 13, 2012.
Kristy tried coming back shortly after the accident but wasn’t himself. In a loss to Bowman County, he had a career-high 16 rebounds but scored just one point.
“It was where he actually came back and played one game and it was on one leg. It looked terrible,” said Hill, who added Kristy didn’t know he had a muscle tear until after that game.
Kristy missed the next six games and ended the season averaging 13.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Nonetheless, he was a unanimous all-district selection.
“There was a lot of physical therapy this summer and getting stronger for track mostly, but it carried over,” said Kristy, whose spring rehab went well enough that he won the Class B high jump state championship in May.
After a being named an all-region tight end on the football field, Kristy has had an impactful basketball season. He leads a steadily improving young team that has shown flashes of brilliance at times while putting itself in the thick of what is shaping up to be a tight race for the District 13 regular-season title.
They’ve won three of their last four, losing to No. 3-ranked Dickinson Trinity 51-37 at home on Jan. 18 but gaining District 13 wins over Beach (46-41) and New England (72-59).
Today, Hettinger-Scranton visits Heart River (7-4, 1-1 District 13) in a game that could prove crucial to its seed in the district tournament.
“He’s done a nice job of being patient,” Hill said. “He’s gotten frustrated, as have I at times. But for the most part he’s dealt with that well and he’s been encouraging to the other kids.”