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Originally published February 8, 2013 at 8:03 PM | Page modified February 9, 2013 at 2:54 PM

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Vashon Island's John Gage on the rise at Stanford

Stanford junior John Gage from Vashon Island is in the midst of his best stretch of basketball at the Pac-12 school.

Seattle Times staff

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As much as I would have liked Gage to be a Husky, it's pretty hard to second guess a... MORE
Congrats John. Keep up the good work! Helps to have a good coach like Sears early on in... MORE
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John Gage doesn't know why it's happening, the greatest stretch of basketball in his career at Stanford, but you can bet it hasn't gone unnoticed on Vashon Island.

Gage, a 6-foot-10 junior, is a local hero there, having led Vashon Island to a 2009 state championship.

After being heavily recruited, Gage chose Stanford over the school he grew up rooting for, Washington. At Stanford, Gage has made a name for himself with his three-point shooting and easily leads the Pac-12 by making 47.6 percent of his long-range attempts.

Gage has been a key part of the Cardinal's recent turnaround in which the team has won four of its past six games to improve to 5-5 in the Pac-12. During that six-game stretch, Gage has averaged 9.7 points off the bench while making 14 of 21 three-pointers.

In an 87-56 win over Utah in late January, Gage scored a career-high 19 points and was 4 for 4 from behind the arc. Two games before that, in a 69-59 win over rival California, he had 14 points and was also 4 of 4 from three-point range.

"I really can't tell you what's different, but my teammates are finding me. They have belief in me, and the shots have been going in," he said. "I am in the midst of accomplishing what I want here. Our team has been picking it up, and I am happy with how it's going. I made the right choice (to go to Stanford)."

Gage's scoring average has improved to 5.8 points per game after he averaged 3.8 and 3.9 points in his first two seasons.

None of Gage's success surprises Andy Sears, his coach at Vashon. Even though Gage did most of his scoring inside against shorter opponents in high school, Sears said Gage had a "simple, repeatable stroke" that was suited to outside shooting.

Sears raves about his former player and said he watches most of Gage's games.

"The whole community is following him," Sears said.

"He's just such a great, hard-working kid. He shows great leadership by example and is an excellent role model. As a junior and senior, he led our team in taking charges. That's just how he is."

Gage has won over his coach at Stanford as well.

"He's really grown as a player," coach Johnny Dawkins recently told the San Francisco Chronicle. "His percentages have improved across the board. That says a lot about his work ethic and who he wants to be."

And of Gage's recent hot shooting, Dawkins said: "They're passing the ball and (telling him) 'Shoot it!' every time he's open. Everyone thinks it's going to go in. The most important thing is, John thinks it's going to go in. I don't think anyone on our team has more confidence at taking a shot than John."

For Gage, the next step in his game will be to take advantage of smaller players in the post when teams start trying to defend him from long range. Sears and Gage both believe he can be successful at that.

Gage has had success in the classroom, too. He has a 3.7 grade-point average and was on the Pac-12 All-Academic team last year. He will essentially be finished with an economics degree by the end of this year, and said he expects to have a mini-master's degree completed in management science and engineering by the time he completes his fourth year at the school next spring.

"I take the student part of student-athlete very seriously," Gage said.

That's another reason he is so revered on Vashon Island. And the feeling is mutual.

"I miss home," he said of the island, a community of 10,500 people that's a 20-minute ferry ride from Seattle but feels worlds away.

"It's a great place," he said, "where everyone knows everyone else. Things don't change much, but I like that about it."

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