Finally, a sunny outlook for La Porte’s Gunn
It was a day or so before boys basketball tryouts at La Porte last season and Drake Gunn was hyped.
After having his sophomore year sidetracked by a sprained anterior cruciate ligament, the promising 6-foot-4 Slicers junior thought his time had come.
Gunn was hoopin’ at a friend’s house when those high hopes were dashed again. He rose for a dunk, only to have his knee lock up and he fell. The diagnosis was a fractured tibia.
“I was in a low place,” Gunn said. “It took a while for me just to get up and try to eat.”
Over 15 months later, Gunn has come out on the other side and found happiness. His rollercoaster ride has found its next destination in Eastern Arizona College, a point Gunn oft wondered would ever come about amid his injuries.
“It really means a lot,” Gunn said. “My whole high school career has had a lot of ups and downs. I was blessed with great surgeons to help me get back where I am. I’m glad I’m not in that dark place anymore. I’m back playing the game I love. My teammates and coaching staff got me out of that low point in my life.”
Second-year coach Kyle Benge hasn’t been at La Porte long enough to be a part of Gunn’s entire journey, but he’s seen plenty to develop a deep appreciation for his perseverance.
“He’s overcome a lot of adversity,” Benge said. “It shows a lot about his character. He couldn’t play, but you could hear him during games, practices, offering encouragement. For a couple weeks there, he was a really sad guy. He was at 70, 75 percent, and he’s the type of kid who needs to be at 100 percent to utilize all the skills he has. He put in the time in the spring and summer, getting back to where he was before he was injured. He’s had a great senior year.”
After playing well in a short stint at the end of last season, Gunn shed the knee brace over the summer and began to blossom.
“I think that took his mind off it,” Benge said. “You’re always wondering in the back of your mind. He’s finally passed that point now.”
Deeming himself 100 percent, Gunn has been a force in La Porte’s marked improvement as a team this season.
“I’m 100 percent confident in my body. I’m mentally stronger,” he said. “I didn’t need (the brace) anymore. I thought it was a handicap.”
Gunn didn’t have the opportunity to get great exposure in AAU over the summer, so he flew under the radar for four-year schools.
“A lot of colleges, universities were scared about his knees, his injuries,” Benge said.
Benge used his connections at the college level to get Gunn’s name and game out there, which led to the opportunity with Eastern Arizona.
“He’ll get two more years to develop in the classroom, on the floor, to get stronger,” Benge said. “Still now, we know if we have to play a Friday and a Saturday, we’ll give him a couple days off during the week. That’s how it will be like in college. He understands how it works. I truly believe he can wind up a low major, mid-major Division I. I’m really excited for him and his family, his mom Elizabeth and his grandma, who have been a big part of his life.”
The clouds have cleared in Gunn’s basketball forecast and sunny days are predicted. He certainly deserves it.
“I really hope this will launch me to the Division I level,” he said. “I’ve worked hard to get to that. This program is really good for getting guys to the next level. I trust the staff. I really don’t think I’ve reached my peak yet. The next couple years, I’ll be at my best.”