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January 12, 2012Nate Guy doesn't like to sit still.
Some days, he'll push himself through three separate workouts. He's added muscle, he's improved his quickness. He is confident in his abilities as a basketball player.
"Right now, I think I'm the best player in the state," he said.
The trouble is, Nate Guy is the best player you'll never see. Not this season.
A shooting guard at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Guy's game isn't just "sick," it's obscene. He has a deadly long-range jumper, can handle the ball in traffic, rebound with the giants and is a behind-the-back dribbling, crowd-pleasing dunker in transition.
But followers of Lakes High School basketball don't get to watch the Nate Guy Show this season. Guy gave up his fight to play as a fifth-year senior after his hardship appeal was denied.
It would have only been Guy's third season of high school basketball. But his athletic eligibility was considered used up after the 2010-11 school year.
Guy felt he had a strong hardship case but was unsuccessful in his appeal to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association's executive board last month.
He chose not to take the matter to court, deciding to accept the decision and focus on college.
"It's painful," Guy said. "It's real painful."
Guy was listed as a junior last season when he helped lead Lakes to its first Class 3A state championship. He scored a team-high 22 points in the title game.
It was his first school year at Lakes after one-year stops at Renton and Hazen high schools, near Seattle.
He came to Washington in 2008 because his mother wanted her impressionable youngest son to get away from the rough crowd he was around in their hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.
"It was bad down there," said Guy, who was home-schooled in ninth grade to stay out of public schools. "There was a lot of gang violence. I'm not saying I was in a gang. There was a lot of gang violence. Family was dying, like friends. They were close, which is kind of like family. My mom and my brother, they just wanted me to move out here to start over. That's when I first started playing basketball when I moved out here."
Guy moved in with his brother Dan Guy and enrolled at Renton High School before transferring to Hazen, where he played his first season of high school basketball during the 2009-10 season. When Dan Guy got the varsity girls basketball coaching job at Lakes, his younger brother followed him to the Pierce County school south of Tacoma.
At Lakes, Nate Guy soared on the basketball court but fell flat off of it. He was an outsider on an accomplished, veteran team. While team concepts brought smiles to others, Guy remained stone-faced.
"He's my bro so I can say this now, but Nate had an attitude, a crazy attitude," said Karsten Olson, now a freshman guard at Pacific Lutheran University near Tacoma. "It was frustrating to everybody on the team because we all knew how good he could be. But he just copped this attitude a lot of the time. And it made us want to pull our hair out. We were like, 'Geez, man, why can't this guy just get it together?' There would be times when we'd have meetings about it and he'd never seem to completely just buy into it."
But then slowly Guy started to let his guard down. Guy began to trust and recognize that this new basketball family was looking out for his best interests. The team developed a motto of F.O.E., or Family Over Everything. Guy started to buy in.
"I feel like he turned it around," Olson said. "Because not only on the court, but off the court, we were taking care of each other. Because we were a family, we were keeping each other accountable on our grades and working hard off the court to be better. We were working hard in other gyms so we could be the best we could be and I think Nate realized, 'These are my guys. They're working hard with me. And so why would I let them down?'"
In his new environment, Guy began to thrive. He was continuing to play catch-up with academic credits after learning that his home-school experience counted for essentially nothing. So he was reclassified as a junior at Lakes and began a two-year project to rebuild his academic profile.
Guy has succeeded, earning a 3.0 grade-point average, has qualified on his SAT and will graduate with the rest of his Lakes classmates in the spring.
He got the attention of some college recruiters while playing for the Northwest Panthers on the AAU summer circuit but will not be able to showcase his improved game this winter.
"Nate was our guy," Lakes coach JoJo Rodriguez said. "Nate was like losing Andre Winston or (his brother) Isaac. Nate, he was the glue. He was the guy."
Guy, who turns 19 this weekend, was supposed to be the biggest star of a talented senior trio that also included 6-foot-9, 300-pound center Zach Banner and guard Andrew Holloway.
"If Zach was Batman, Nate was Robin," Rodriguez continued. "He was that other guy. Scottie Pippen. I mean, he's the glue. He does a lot. Nate rebounded. He passed. He hit big shots. He made the big steal. He was an exciting guy. He made the big dunk. So you lose all that. And it's going to take a bit for us to adjust, but we'll be all right."
Lakes struggled to a 3-5 start this season, dropping three games in a Nevada tournament, before opening South Puget Sound League play with three straight victories.
It was during that road trip to Nevada that Guy learned his final appeal to the WIAA had been denied, essentially squashing his hopes that he might get back on the court.
With colleges such as Washington State, Seattle University, Washington, Nevada, Purdue and Louisiana State showing interest, Guy decided he wouldn't push the issue any further with possible legal action. He accepted his fate, and turned his attention to supporting his teammates and working out in hopes of landing a college scholarship.
"He's more mature," Rodriguez said. "I think Nate bought into more of what we were trying to do."
"It's hard without Nate," junior guard Jordan Johnson said. "To me, I think he's the best player in the state, to be honest. He can shoot. He can drive. He can handle the ball. He's 6-6 and about 200 pounds. He's an all-around player."
And, Lakes players past and present will attest, he's turned into a pretty good guy, too.
"Nate did a complete 180, 360, whatever you want to call it, transformation," Olson said. "The Nate Guy that I know today, from him coming over to my house initially and not really knowing how to talk to my mom to now being extremely respectful. He gives my grandma a hug. I mean, the Nate Guy that I know today is a completely different person than the Nate Guy I knew a year ago. And I think that's just a special thing. I'm really proud to call him my friend now."