Christian Maloney steps up for Gatlinburg-Pittman
It seemed a simple formula for success.
Gatlinburg-Pittman’s boys basketball team had a plethora of seniors coming back this winter, led by scorers Steffen Schroeder and Clay Leatherwood. But the duo traded injuries in the first month of the season, leaving a hole in the box score.
Enter the hard-nosed Christian Maloney, another senior whose efforts are finally showing up on the scoreboard.
“He’s really been the energy guy for us,” said Highlanders coach A.J. Bennett. “It seems like all the 50-50 balls, especially on offense, he seems to come up with them. He does so much for us.”
The senior is averaging better than 17 points per game over the last three contests, all wins for G-P (9-1). That included a monster 21-point, 10-rebound double-double against Loudon during the Heritage Thanksgiving Classic. The Highlanders are hoping for those kind of contributions tonight when they travel to Pigeon Forge for a rivalry matchup with the Tigers.
“He’s always been a good rebounder,” Schroeder said. “He’s always been able to read the shots we take and read them off the rim. He’s been a good jumper, too. He can jump really high. But every time the guards drive, we just automatically look for him to dump off to him. His guard steps up, I just dump it down to him and he scores.”
Bennett said Maloney can sometimes be overlooked at his power forward position. He likes to go to his left, too, which gives him an edge on most defenders who expect a post to favor the right side.
What always set Maloney apart was the way he hustled after loose balls. It was the reason he started last year despite some inexperience. Bennett said Maloney’s teammates feed off that hard work. Now, the senior is finally getting credit in the scorebook.
“It feels really good,” Maloney said. “I’ve never been the scoring part of the team, (more) rebounder, defensive player. It’s good to step up a different way this year and help the team.”
Helping out is the most important thing for Maloney. The Highlanders’ depth may be G-P’s biggest asset this year. When a scorer goes down, someone like Maloney can fill the gap.
“He’s old-school,” Bennett said. “Kids like that, it’s what wins you games. People want to see the guy who can throw the behind-the-back pass or dunk or do something incredible. But he’s the guy that wins championships for you. ... We’re happy to have him on our team because it’s guys like that that’s going to take us where we want to go.”