Prep Basketball: Danville's Christian Gateskill-Fuqua proves he's a two-sport athlete
Danville senior guard Christian Gateskill-Fuqua (3) plans to play soccer in college, but he's leading the Admirals in scoring this year and feels he's always shown he's a capable basketball player. He had 29 points Friday in a win over Boyle County. (Clay Jackson / February 4, 2013)
The Danville senior has made his mark in athletics primarily on the soccer field, but now his play on the basketball court is also commanding attention.
By becoming the Admirals’ starting point guard and their leading scorer this season, Gateskill-Fuqua has proved this season that he is a valuable player in both of his chosen sports, and he said he has made it clear that he isn’t just playing basketball to pass the time.
“I really do think so,” he said. “I remember last year I had a big game, I think we were at Garrard (County), and they started chanting, ‘Stick to soccer!’ so I haven’t got any of that this year. Hopefully I’m looked at more as a dual athlete rather than someone who plays basketball in the offseason.”
There’s some irony there, because basketball is the game Gateskill-Fuqua has played the longest. And while he plans to play soccer in college, it’s obvious that hoops holds a special place in his heart.
“There’s nothing better than basketball,” he said. “If we have any free time, we play pickup basketball, we get it in wherever we can. And we all watch basketball. It’s just fun to play basketball and represent Danville at the same time.”
Gateskill-Fuqua was the team’s top returning scorer at 6.0 points per game last season, but this year his average is up to 15.5 points, and he is also averaging 2.5 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game.
He has been given the responsibility of running the offense on a Danville team that is far different than it was a year ago, when they relied on star scorer Tryston Ford.
“Last year we had a major crutch. We always had one of the best players to ever come through Danville to lean on, and so if things weren’t going well we could just lean on him, and we came into that first practice and he wasn’t there,” Gateskill-Fuqua said. “It’s a collective effort to chip in and do what he did last year. I’m enjoying the responsibility and the freedom that comes with responsibility, so I’m just trying to take advantage of the situation that I have.”
He has also taken advantage of his ability to slice through defenses, relying less on perimeter jumpers and more on mid-range shots and drives to the basket.
“I think most teams play me as a slasher. They want to make me shoot the ball, so whenever I get to the rim, I think that’s my strength as a player,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, a layup’s easier than a jump shot. There’s no excuse to miss that, and once things get falling, then the jump shot comes.”
He said mid-range shooting is probably the most improved part of his game.
“I added that to my game this offseason playing pickup and open gym, just trying to get to the free-throw area and pulling up, and I’m really comfortable with that shot now,” Gateskill-Fuqua said.
Danville coach Andrew Zaheri said he’s comfortable with the amount of shots Gateskill-Fuqua is taking.
“Christian does a whole lot of things. I know it looks like he takes quite a few shots, but a lot of times those are the shots we need and those are the shots I’m telling him to take,” Zaheri said.
Zaheri said Gateskill-Fuqua has also helped the Admirals handle opponents who thought they could rattle them with defensive pressure.
“As far as handling the ball, we still haven’t had too many problems handling another team that’s pressed us, and a lot of that has to do with your point guard,” he said. “We don’t have the most complicated press offense, but every once in a while just giving the ball to your point guard and saying ‘go’ is the best bet.”
At the same time, Gateskill-Fuqua said he has gotten stronger mentally and has learned to trust his coach more than he might have last year in Zaheri’s first season.
“‘Coach Z’ is not afraid to tell you how he feels. We hadn’t really experienced that until last year, and I think we were having a hard time with it, but I’ve learned to listen to what he’s saying, not how he says it, because he’s just competitive and fiery and he just wants you to do something,” he said. “Everything he says, you might shrug your shoulders to it, but he’s right. He’s the one stepping back, watching the game, so you just try to execute what he tell you to do.”
Gateskill-Fuqua’s execution was excellent Friday, when he scored a career-high 29 points and sparked a fourth-quarter surge to lead Danville over Boyle County and help the Admirals avenge an earlier loss to the Rebels.
He said nights like that, with a rivalry game played before a large, loud crowd, are what he’ll miss when he leaves organized basketball behind after this season.
“Soccer’s great, but there’s nothing like an enclosed building, playing in front of all your friends and the crosstown rivals, all the noise, all the atmosphere. There’s just nothing like it, so I’m definitely going to miss it,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who play other sports in college, and that’s one thing they’ve all said, they miss high school basketball.”
Still, he knows his athletic future is in soccer.
“Basketball was always my go-to, (but) I got to high school, and I guess my physical tools helped me in soccer more than they did (in basketball). A 6-1 soccer player’s a lot more dominant than a 6-1 basketball player,” Gateskill-Fuqua said.
Gateskill-Fuqua, who scored 26 goals in 22 games for Danville this season, said he isn’t sure yet where he’ll play soccer. He plans to become an orthodontist and he said he and his family are trying to find the right school for him.
“I’ve talked to several schools, and I’ve got it narrowed down to a few, so we’re looking at what’s the best feel, what’s the best fit, and make a decision from there” he said. “And I’ll probably play some intramural basketball, too.”