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Imbery leaves mark on Roncalli basketball program

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Gray Imbery, center, moves to the basket past Aberdeen Christian’s Brent Ekanger, right, as the Knight’s Jett Becker, far left, looks on during a game at the Roncalli High School gym. Imbery has been a key member of the Cavaliers for the past three seasons. Photo by John Davis taken 2/18/2021

He has been the cornerstone for his team, and the focal point for opposing teams for the past three seasons. When it comes to the Aberdeen Roncalli boys’ basketball team the conversation usually revolves around Gray Imbery.

The senior has etched his name into the school record book for scoring, but as teams look for ways to slow him down, Imbery is looking for open teammates to help his team succeed.

“Going into games, especially this year, I’ve just been trying to trust my teammates more and look for them especially when the double teams and triple teams come,” Imbery said. “There’s always an open man on the floor if there’s two guys on me, so I’m always looking for that open guy.”

Imbery has led the team in scoring the past three years. While he set a school record for points in a season with 573 last year, he would trade that accomplishment for more team success.

“Although it did mean a lot, I would’ve much rather won games last year and tried to turn the program around,” he said. “Building back that culture that we had, was and still is my main priority.”

That culture, which produced a State A championship for the Cavaliers in 2015, left its mark on Imbery. He recalled players like Brayden McNeary and Sam Reynen from that title team, among others who helped shape his game.

His biggest role model, however, has been his dad, Todd, a former Roncalli player himself.

“My dad has been my biggest supporter ever since I was young. He was the person who really got me into basketball,” Imbery said. “He pushed me to become the player that I am today. I’m very grateful for him, because I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I’m at if he wasn’t part of this.”

Rick Kline, who took over as interim coach late in the season, quickly discovered Imbery’s knowledge and passion about Roncalli’s rich basketball history.

“When I started working with Gray a few weeks ago, his attitude exceeded my expectations. He is very coachable and likes to learn about basketball,” Kline said. “We talk a lot about the history and tradition of Roncalli basketball and he seems to really care about the past successes of the program.”

At 6-foot-5, Imbery is a defender’s worst nightmare. He is tall enough to get off any shot, he handles the ball well enough to get past defenders, and he is strong enough to bang in the lane and finish at the rim.

“When I was younger, I played point guard, so I got a pretty good feel of handling the ball and getting past defenders and getting to the rim,” Imbery said. “When you get older your need to get stronger. One of the main things that I’ve been doing is I’ve been getting in the weight room these past two years.”

That has allowed Imbery to score around the basket, often against multiple defenders. It’s also paid dividends on the other end of the floor.

“He is a better defender than people think,” Kline said. “Gray plays a significant amount of minutes and is very strong.”

He also is a team leader who is not afraid to lead by example.

“The only way we are going to win games is to outwork people,” Kline said. “His leadership in practice has not gone unnoticed.”

Imbery will take his skill set to to Dakota Wesleyan next season to play for the Tigers.

“I just like the community down there. I had multiple offers to go to different places, but DWU just seemed like the best for me,” said Imbery, whose sister Grace is a member of the Tigers women’s basketball team. “I’m pretty close to some of the guys on the team and the people who are going there. The coaches were very supportive. A lot of them drove hours to a lot of my games. That just made a really big impact and showed me how much they care.”

Imbery should feel right at home in front of the Tigers’ loyal and vocal fan base, because he has experienced the same environment while playing at Roncalli Gym.

“One thing I’m definitely going to miss is suiting up and going out and playing on that court in front of the home crowd,” Imbery said. “It’s an awesome atmosphere. It’s definitely my favorite part about playing for Roncalli.”

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