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Prep Newsmaker: Shiprock's Begay is team first

Senior guard was clutch in taking what the Window Rock defense gave him during overtime on Saturday, scoring 7 of his team-high 16 points with two field goals and two free throws

Jake Newby
jnewby@daily-times.com
Shiprock's Kevin Begay poses for a portrait on Dec. 5 at Shiprock High School.

SHIPROCK — He didn't force the issue — because he never does — but Kevin Begay scored 7 of his team-high 16 points during the overtime period of Shiprock's come-from-behind victory over Window Rock, Ariz., on Saturday.

Chieftains coach Chester Atcitty's system is centered around ball movement and possession, and perhaps no one on his roster grasps that concept better than Begay.

"I just went with what I felt, and I'm glad my teammates passed me the ball when I was open," Begay said of his overtime points. "I try not to force anything, I just try to go with the flow of the game."

The game certainly flowed his way on Saturday. Begay, a senior, hit two field goals — one from 3-point range — and sank both of his free-throw attempts in OT to guide the Chieftains to a 66-58 win, which the team needed in order to avoid falling to 1-4 in the young season.

Under Atcitty, an individual player rarely carries the scoring load, and that's especially true after Andre Joe and Elijiah Harry — the Chiefs' top two scorers from a season ago — graduated in the spring. Begay knows that, but he doesn't feel added pressure to score. Instead, he plays within himself and within the system.

"Being three years with us at the varsity level, he knows what we need," Atcitty said. "He's always a team player. He's out there encouraging his teammates, communicating very well. He's doing a very good job of leading so far this year at this point and time, and hopefully that'll feed off to everybody else."

A shooting guard, Begay isn't usually the biggest or fastest player, but he combats those shortcomings by using his knowledge of the game to get a leg up on opponents. Atcitty said the senior always seems to be one step ahead of the man he's guarding, or the man who's guarding him.

"We all have them little moments where we freeze, but his mind's always working, like 'What can I do? How can I attack and how can I get my shot off?'" Atcitty said. "We tell guys to do the little extra things, and those are the things he does so well."

Begay grew up in a basketball family. His mom, dad and brother, Justin, all played basketball, so from an early age he learned the value of a strong work ethic. He said he feels like he's found a pretty good formula to use against bigger, quicker athletes.

Shiprock's Kevin Begay shoots during a game against Wingate on Feb. 26 at the Chieftain Pit in Shiprock.

"I'm trying to outwork my opponent and be the best teammate on the floor every time I'm out there," Begay said. "Just try to do what I can, whether it's a rebound, a steal, good defense, a good shot or just talking and encouraging my players — whatever I need to do to contribute to my team, no matter how small or how big it is."

The Chieftains haven't made things easy on themselves in the first couple of weeks of the season. At 2-3, they've trailed in every game and needed overtime to secure both of their victories

To Begay, the slow starts are curable. He pointed out that the bright side to Shiprock’s tendency to fall behind is the players have exuded mental tenacity in fighting back and making games close. The Chieftains’ last three games have been decided by 2, 3 and 8 points.

Now, Begay said, they just need to start harnessing that mental strength for a full 32 minutes.

"We just have to be mentally strong," Begay said. "Be mentally tough to continue to stay in the game, but also be there mentally and physically the whole way.”

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577. 

A closer look: Kevin Begay

1. Favorite team?

"Los Angeles Lakers."

2. Favorite athlete?

"Kobe Bryant."

3. Favorite food?

"Steak or spaghetti."

4. Favorite movie?

"'Silence of the Lambs."

5. Favorite subject in school?

"Science."

6. Least favorite subject?

"English."

7. Biggest fear?

"Failure."

8. Do you play any other sports?

"Cross-country and track."

9. Do you have any pre-game rituals?

"Getting mentally focused and praying."

10. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?

"Buy a nice house for my parents."