York draws plenty of attention

Gabe York had to bide his time at Orange Lutheran, but now he's a mainstay and averaging 27 points. Nick Koza

LOS ANGELES -- As Gabe York dribbles across halfcourt, his head is up, eyes constantly scanning the floor on the lookout for an open teammate. The ball appears on to be on a tightly-wound yo-yo string attached to the right hand of the senior from Orange Lutheran.

A split second later, York effortlessly switches things up and heads directly toward the basket with his left. Forget about the two undersized guards tugging on his jersey in an effort to keep pace. The small forward charging straight at him offers little, or no, resistance.

A jump-stop at the free-throw line draws the attention of a pair of post players, essentially freezing the tandem in their tracks. With the focus on him, York passes up a tough jumper in the lane and tosses a well-placed bounce pass that leads to an uncontested layup.

The scenario has played out on more than a few occasions.

Nevertheless, his decision-making process has rarely wavered despite the fact opponents have regularly designed game plans around stopping York. Suppose that best explains why the Arizona-bound guard is considered one of the nation's premier players in his class.

“Teams are all over Gabe, and as a high school kid, that's tough to deal. Give him credit though, he has handled things well,'' Orange Lutheran coach Chris Nordstrom said. “I think we have seen every kind of defense. Double-teams and triple-teams. Box-and-one. Triangle-and-two. You name it, opponents have thrown it at us. I'm not sure what they will think of next.

“Gabe has a knack for making the difficult play look easy. He understands the game, he gets it. I can't tell you the number of big plays he's made for us in the biggest moments of games. He has a calmness about him. We want the ball in his hands as much as possible.''

York figures to have plenty of chances to make plays this season for the Lancers (8-2 overall), who figure to be a mainstay in the ESPNLosAngeles.com Top 20 rankings.

He did not, however, become a sensation overnight. Despite glimpses of immense potential, York had to bide his time behind several veteran players during his first two years on the varsity level at Orange Lutheran. Paying his dues was the first order of business.

When finally given the opportunity to assume some added responsibility during his junior season, York proved to be more than capable. He did a good job of making a name for himself and averaged 19.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game a year ago.

For an encore this season, he is averaging 27 points so far.

“It's crazy to think that two years ago, things were much different for me,'' York said. “No one knew my name. Things were much easier back then. All that has changed though. I have a big target on my back now. I know that teams are going to come after me every night.

“The attention doesn't bother me. I know I'm going to have guys draped all over me. I know guys are going to try and take me out of my game. I think I'm mature enough to take care of business. And when the focus is on me, that opens up things for my teammates.''

The focus is on York, indeed. Not only from opponents, but from college coaches and scouts, alike. He has been one of the more sought-after recruits for a while now.

USC was the first school to put a scholarship offer on the table, way back when York was a wide-eyed freshman. That did not go over well with UCLA. Accordingly, the Bruins stepped up their efforts to secure a commitment from him during his sophomore season.

Others followed suit. Seemingly every Pac-12 Conference team was interested. Also worth mentioning is his offers from powerhouse programs such as Connecticut and Kansas.

Ultimately, Arizona proved to be the best fit and York committed in mid-July. He has not thought twice about the decision since. Considered a combo-guard now, the opportunity to play point guard at the next level is presumably what attracted him most to the Wildcats.

"Gabe York is the guy that simply finds a way to score,'' said Dave Telep, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN. “His game will translate, and not only is he a shooter with range, he toughs out acrobatic finishes and has no fear going to the rim. I imagine his transition to college ball will be pretty seamless."

Accordingly, ESPN Recruiting lists York as the No. 2 player in the Southland, right behind La Verne Lutheran's Grant Jerrett. Peers such as North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake's Zena Edosomwan and Santa Ana Mater Dei's Xavier Johnson are a notch below York.

When it comes to things on the national level, York as the country's No. 8 shooting guard overall, up there with Indianapolis (IN) Hamilton Southeastern's Gary Harris and Raleigh (NC) Upper Room Christian Academy's Rodney Purvis.

Attention is something that simply comes with the territory for York.

“Sometimes I feel like there's a lot of pressure, I know all eyes are on me at times,'' York said. “It is important for me to remember to keep my composure. I know it's not all about me. Someone is always going to get the headlines, but basketball is a team game.

“Maturity has really helped my game out the past four years. I've learned a lot. There's a time for things to be about business when the opening tip is in the air. After that, being in the right frame of mind, both on and off the court, is something I take great pride in.''

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.