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Article Published March 26, 2020

Grabowski Grew as a Player and a Leader

By Chris Negrini/

Gavin Grabowski proved an efficient scorer as a member of the Valley Regional boys’ basketball team during the past two seasons. A senior captain, Gavin recently finished his high school career by having a great campaign for the Warriors. Gavin averaged 13.1 points per game for his career and was part of a formidable backcourt that included fellow senior captain Cade Ensinger.

Gavin played a crucial role for Valley in his junior and senior seasons, and the team achieved significant success throughout that run. Last year, the Warriors posted a record of 18-7 while advancing to the semifinals of the Shoreline Conference Tournament and the Division V State Tournament. This winter, Valley finished at 17-5 and made it back to the Shoreline semis. All of this success gives Gavin some wonderful memories of his time on the court.

“I’ll always be proud of our biggest win as a team against Nonnewaug in the state quarters last year. We were down 20 at halftime, then we came back in the second half to go to the semis. My teammates were all celebrating that win, and that was awesome,” Gavin says. “As for myself, I was All-State First Team last year. That was a big deal and my biggest personal accomplishment.”

Gavin, a two-time All-Shoreline Conference Second Team selection, garnered plenty of attention thanks to his ability to pour in the points. One of Gavin’s best single-game performances came during a blowout win against Haddam-Killingworth in his junior year. Gavin scored 38 points to go with 10 rebounds, five assists, and five steals in a contest where he simply could do no wrong.

“Everything was working for me that game. I was not missing,” says Gavin “We completely dismantled them, but I guess I was just the head of the spear that game. That was the great thing about our team—anyone could go for 20 points on a given night.”

Gavin’s scoring prowess stems from his multifaceted approach on offense. Gavin is a knockdown shooter, although he brings more to the table than a sweet stroke from the outside.

“I definitely look for my 3-point shot. That’s the first thing. I look for a kickout from Cade, and then I’ll shoot a three,” Gavin says. “I’ve gained some weight from my sophomore to junior year. So, when my shots aren’t falling, I can drive in and get the ‘and-1.’ I’ve worked on being able to get some points in the paint, just driving in and jumping over people.”

Gavin credits much of his offensive capabilities to playing AAU basketball for the CT Defenders and CT Playmakers, as well as training with coach Kendrick Moore, who was a standout high school and college player from the Hartford area. Gavin believes that he owes his style on the court to his AAU roots and his work ethic to Moore’s teachings. While Valley Head Coach Kevin Woods emphasizes a defense-first mentality to his team, he doesn’t mind the occasional heat check here and there.

“You could tell that AAU is how I got my style of play—dribbling through the legs, a deep 3-pointer. AAU gets that rep for a reason. If I shot a deep three and it goes in, Coach Woods wouldn’t complain. I’m a shooter, and he would say, ‘Shoot the ball,’” says Gavin, who lives in Deep River. “I’ve been working out with Kendrick Moore as long as I can remember, and he’s one of the most influential people in my life. He’s pushed me to become a better player than I am now. He’s been there for me for a very long time.”

Of course, offense is only half the battle, and Gavin stepped up his work on the defensive end throughout his career. As a result, he became an important part of Valley’s stout team defense.

“On defense, there are definitely better on-ball defenders than me on the team, but I’ve focused more on that. Playing off the ball on help defense, that’s helped out the team a lot,” Gavin says. “Toward the end of the season this year, I was getting more steals and being a bigger pest on defense. Coach Woods doesn’t like when the other team gets a chance to walk the ball up. I had to work on that. My on-ball defense got better from doing that.”

Not only did Gavin put in the work to set a good example for his teammates, he also made sure to reassure his fellow Warriors during any tough times on the court.

“I had to be a good role model to them. I wanted to stay poised during the games and try to calm people down if we’re facing adversity. I’ve been there before. So, I have to just take control emotionally and take over the game in any way I can,” says Gavin. “I just wanted to be positive and make everyone else better. I wanted to motivate them to be the best and give their heart every game.”

Coach Woods appreciates the contributions that Gavin made for his team throughout the past few seasons. Woods was impressed with how Gavin turned himself into a well-rounded basketball player and an exemplary leader.

“Gavin’s always been able to shoot the basketball, but he also improved quite a bit in terms of passing the ball this year. He was considerably better defensively this year, too. Sometimes, gifted offensive players set defense aside, but Gavin didn’t,” says Woods. “Gavin was able to speak to his teammates with meaningful words. His message after we lost to Morgan in the Shoreline semis really motivated us. He had the right message at the right time. We had fantastic practices after that. We’ll never know if that message would have led us to the end, but at our worst moment, he managed to stay positive.”

Gavin knows that basketball will remain a part of his life forever. He also knows that his time with the Warriors will always hold a special place in his heart.

“I’ll never forget the team and the relationships we’ve built. We went through a lot. I’ve learned so many lessons through our coaching staff,” Gavin says. “There are priceless moments that I’ll always remember. Even though it didn’t end the way we wanted, I couldn’t be prouder over everything that we accomplished.”