Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
KINNIKINNICK — It doesn’t matter how many points Colby Swain scores, how many shots he takes, how many minutes he plays, or how many times his name is mentioned in the press.
What matters to Colby Swain is winning and winning only.
Throughout the year, Zane Trace’s junior point guard has been consistent … both offensively and defensively. He may not score 23 points each night and he may not average 10 rebounds each time out. But what he does give his Pioneers on a night-to-night basis is flat-out effort.
“That’s how I’ve played all the way up. My dad has preached that,” Swain said of hard-nosed play. “Every coach I’ve ever had has told me, ‘You go play defense and that’s going to start our offense.’ So that’s how I’ve always played. I like to get up in you. I like to make it challenging. Regardless if you score on me or not, I’m going to make you work for it. For 32 minutes.”
Having Swain hound you for four straight quarters doesn’t sound fun in the least bit. But it’s what Zane Trace’s opponents have had to plan around all year long.
While Swain has hung his hat on defense, his teammates have shouldered much of the offensive load — namely Cam Evans and Nick Nesser.
That pair has dominated this year’s headlines, and rightfully so. Swain has noticed, but he’s perfectly fine with the limelight directed away from him … as are the rest of his teammates.
“When Cam goes out and scores 20, we don’t really care. We got the dub,” Swain said. “It helps us fall into our roles as well. It’s not about scoring for us. We’re extremely unselfish. It’s just pretty easy to go out and do our thing. Whoever scores, scores. As long as we get the dub.”
Swain’s relationship with his teammates, especially Evans, has a long history attached.
The two became friends through AAU basketball and have stuck together ever since. In fact, when Swain moved from Waverly to ZT, Evans was the first teammate he hung out with.
“It really wasn’t a new thing when I came here. I knew Cam, I knew Tri [ton Davidson], I knew LJ [Luke Johnson] and I knew Nick,” Swain said. “That’s especially Cam and Nick with AAU and everything. My mom moved up here when she got married and I hung out a lot with Cam. We became really close. I grew up in Waverly and it was always hard work, hard work, hard work. Here, it was, ‘Are you having fun? You good? Drive safe.’ It was just a different atmosphere. We’re a basketball team, but we’re brothers off the court. That’s the big thing.”
That brotherhood bond has translated into success for the Pioneers, to the tune of a 21-4 overall record with a 14-0 mark inside the SVC.
“No doubt it helps our chemistry on the court, in games and in practice,” Swain said. “We’re all pushing each other and meshing together. It just works for us.”
Playing for coach Gary Kellough has also worked for Swain. This season, he did a little bit of everything, ending the regular season with averages of 7.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals per night.
But it’s not the statistical part of the game where Swain feels like his game has blossomed the most under Kellough. That would come on the mental side of things.
“A lot of people don’t see that with coaches. A lot of coaches will make you a better ball-handler or fix your shot. [Kellough] does that but he’s also helped me mature up here,” Swain said, pointing at his head. “He’ll get after me in practice. He tells me my role and he’s shaped me into a true point guard.”
After winning their first district title since 1970, Swain and the Pioneers are now set to take on New Philadelphia in a Division III regional semifinal at 8 p.m., Wednesday in Athens.
“[New Philadelphia] is going to run you. They get after you on defense and they’re up in you all the time,” Swain said. “They’re shooters, they run five-out and they’re patient with their offense. Pass, cut, pass, cut … and you have to be there to stop it. We have to be disciplined.”
As they have all season long, the Pioneers have a goal set in place. They plan to reach it.
“At first, it was to win the Gold Ball,” Swain said. “Then it was win a sectional title. Then it was not to play one game at the Convo, but to play two, then three. We also want to be the last Ross County team playing. So we have to win at least one more. Then it’s onto the next goal.”