Chief Sealth senior also coaches school's freshman team
Chief Sealth point guard Tre'Von Lane has a unique senior project — coaching the West Seattle high school's freshman team. He has come a long way from the introverted ninth-grader who struggled to overcome a learning disability.
Seattle Times staff reporter
WEST SEATTLE — Chief Sealth's freshman team runs through layup drills before Monday's game when Tre'Von Lane walks into the gym.
The kid wears dress shoes, black slacks, a Chief Sealth polo shirt and a serious look. He stands in front of the bench with a clipboard as an official for the game against Bainbridge walks up.
"Where's your coach?" the official asks.
"I am the coach," Lane replies.
Incredulous, the official shakes hands with the 17-year-old senior point guard who leads one team and plays for another. Call him Chief Sealth's unique senior project.
After the game ends, Lane will trade slacks for shorts, loafers for sneakers, and go through a two-hour practice with the varsity team. But right now, his focus is this group of freshmen, a team coming off its first win of the season.
"I enjoy helping kids out with basketball, because I never had that in my life," Lane says. "I want to help out the community the best I can."
Forgive Colin Slingsby, Chief Sealth's varsity boys coach, if he sounds like a proud parent when he talks about Lane. He sees a lot of himself in the teenager. Slingsby started coaching at Chief Sealth when he was 19.
"He's exceeded my expectations," Slingsby says. "I think that, if he chooses, he's got a really bright future as a coach."
Lane has come a long way in four years. Slingsby often jokes with his protégé about how introverted and shy he was as a freshman.
"I don't know if he said a word to me his freshman year," Slingsby says.
Lane also struggled in the classroom, finishing ninth grade with a 1.8 grade-point average. He was diagnosed with a learning disability, and with the help and prodding of mentor and teacher Lisa Hara, his grades improved.
"She was on me every single day," Lane says. "She would call my mom and say, 'Tre' is missing work, tell him to do it.' "
Then, Hara suffered a debilitating stroke last summer. Lane promised her he would raise his GPA to a 3.0. He did that and more. He now says he has a 3.5.
"This whole year is, basically, all for her," he said, "so she can get better and see that I did good."
Lane decided last season he wanted to make the freshman team his senior project. He spent five weeks last summer working at the Sealth Basketball and Life Skills Camp. Slingsby often put Lane in charge.
Now Slingsby stands back and can't believe how far the kid has come.
"It's one of the biggest gains I've seen any kid make in the 10 years I've been here," Slingsby said.
Slingsby, or one of his assistants, is always with Lane while he's coaching, but it is Lane who is in charge.
There's more to being a coach than practices and games. He washes uniforms. He must put together a video package, research paper and a presentation. The school also requires a minimum of 25 hours of community service to complete a senior project. Lane will be closer to 200 by the time he's done this season, and has piled up 750 service hours throughout high school.
His age may be an advantage in relating to his players, but it's clear Lane has earned their respect.
"We are learning," freshman guard Jarryd Arnett said. "He's mostly conditioning us, getting us ready for when we play at a higher level in high school, but he's also taught us to come together as a team, because when we first started we weren't really on the same page."
In the first half against Bainbridge, the Seahawks give up too many three-pointers. They are executing on offense, but the defense allows too many open shots. Trailing by six at halftime, Lane talks strategy in the locker room. He tells them exactly what they need to do to get back into the game.
Before the team leaves the locker room, he has one last thing. Everyone in the room focuses on their coach as he speaks.
"I know you guys have the heart to win this game," he says.
They turn that halftime deficit into an 18-point, third-quarter lead.
When the game ends, Lane looks at the scoreboard, then looks back at Slingsby.
"We scored 74 points, coach," he whispers.
He can't hide a smile. It is his first winning streak as a coach.
That smile is still on his face in the locker room. It takes him a little longer to get the players' attention in the wake of a win. He doesn't say much, but he is as proud of his players as Slingsby is of his senior point guard.
"You get to see the kids smile," Lane says. "Coach Slingsby sees it all the time when we win, but to know that you weren't playing out there, you were coaching them, it's a lot different. I like it a lot better, because they're happy and it comes right back at me that I did my job and they performed."
Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277
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