With the possible exception of a few close family members, friends, teammates and local coaches, it isn’t likely many people knew too much about Mike Gentry — prior to last weekend.
An athletic 6-foot-1 senior point guard, known more as a facilitator, Gentry made key contributions to North High’s Southeast Yosemite League championship and a run to the Central Section Division III semifinals last year.
But a household name? Not likely. That was reserved for the likes of former teammate Shannon Ferguson, who graduated in June. The SEYL’s co-player of the year last season was the area's leading scorer and scored 48 points with 11 3-pointers in a January game.
Gentry's anonymity is about to change, if it hasn't already.
He capped an amazing scoring run with a 58-point explosion — in 26 minutes — in the Stars’ 81-68 victory over Visalia-Golden West at a summer tournament game Saturday at Porterville High.
“I got going early, and I got to the foul line, and once I got some easy (baskets) it all came naturally, and I felt like I couldn’t miss,” said Gentry, who averaged 11.4 points, 4.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game last season. ”I wasn’t even thinking about ‘should I shoot this or should I shoot this.’ As soon as I got past half court I felt like I was in range. It felt great. I felt like the rim was huge.”
Gentry finished 12 of 17 from 3-point range, sank 8 of 9 free throws and added seven field goals on a variety of drives and short jumpers. He had 31 points at the half and then scored 19 points during a 3-minute stretch late in the game to cap an unbelievable performance.
“I’ve been coaching around 15 years and seen a lot of really good high school players and I’ve never seen anything quite like that,” said North coach A.J. Shearon, whose team will play in the 10-team Summer Breeze tournament at RiverLakes Ranch Community Center which starts at 1 p.m. and runs all day Saturday. The Stars open play against McFarland at 1:50 p.m.
“I would have never thought he could do that, or anybody else could do that at the high school level, or the college level. It was a really cool thing; really a mind-blowing experience for everyone, especially for Mike. He was as shocked as anyone.”
That included those in attendance, made up primarily of parents and other high school teams and coaches waiting to play next as part of the four-game round-robin event, which features games with two 14-minute halves.
“It was funny, I think it was Tulare Western, kept sending a guy over to the scorer’s table like every 5 minutes to ask where he’s at, how (many points) does he have?” said Shearon, who removed Gentry from the game with 1:30 to play with the game in hand. “Our bench was going crazy, and credit to his teammates for getting him the ball and getting him good looks. They just kept getting more excited. They exploded when he got to 40, then exploded when he got to 50. I had people call me after the game, people from other schools posting to social media … It was really a special performance.”
And the strange thing is, Gentry almost didn’t take the floor for the game.
After injuring his right hip landing awkwardly going up for a rebound in a game earlier that morning against Porterville High, Gentry was questionable for North’s next game later that afternoon.
“It was crazy. There were so many factors that made it an incredible deal, not the least of which was him trying to decide if he was good to go,” Shearon said. “He was kind of sore, and decided to stretch it out to see if i could go, and that performance pops out of it.”
Although the point total might have been a surprise, Gentry’s improvement should not be. He believes it's the result of working out twice a day, focusing on ball handling, fundamentals and off-the-dribble shooting, in addition to a daily team practice.
“Last year coach believed in me, and told me I’d be a lot better this year and my opportunity will come,” said Gentry, who has scored over 30 points in a handful of games this summer. “I just stuck with it and stuck with the game plan.This year it’s become more of a reality. I’ve been working a lot; I've been a gym rat, and my confidence is just over the roof right now. I feel like I can do anything.”