NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s boys basketball team has big goals this season, and senior guard Jabari Dear is ready to lead them.
Dear scored a career-high 28 points Tuesday night to pace the Bears (3-0) to an 84-75 win over Staples. He made the biggest plays down the stretch, blocking a shot on the defensive end and hitting a three-pointer to put the Bears ahead to stay on the offensive end midway through overtime.
“Jabari did a great job working his butt off over the summer to improve his craft,’’ Norwalk coach Tom Keyes said. “It’s showing during the early season.”
Dear, a guard, is averaging 22 points through the first three games. More important, he has emerged as the vocal leader of a talented but young Norwalk squad.
“It’s a lot of hard work being the leader and a senior,’’ Dear said. “You have to lead the team every day in practice, in games. You have to talk them, yell at them if they’re messing up, compliment them if they do good. I like being a captain.”
He saw a lot of playing time last year for the Bears, helping them go 10-11 and reach the Class LL playoffs. Dear averaged 9.0 points per game and had several big ones. He had a team-high 18 in the state tournament loss to Fairfield Prep.
With the graduation of guards Ra’von Shular and Rasheen Thomson, more will be expected of Dear this season. He worked hard in the off-season to prepare for his final high school season.
“He was at the Carver Center or the YMCA or the weight room every single day,’’ Keyes said. “Hopefully the sophomores on the team see that and see how the hard work can pay off.”
The win over Staples also revealed Norwalk’s character. The Bears led late in regulation, let it slip away and then won in overtime. They were down nine minutes midway through the third quarter and had one six-minute stretch in which they scored just one field goal. "I don't think we would've won that game last year,'' Dear said. "The chemistry wasn't as good."
The victory sent an early statement to the rest of the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference that these Bears are different from past years. One week into the season, Norwalk is one of only five unbeaten teams. The Bears will face another tough test Friday at Trinity Catholic, but they are off to an encouraging start. And so is Dear.
“It was important to us that we win this one,’’ he said. “After this win, I think it shows people we mean business.”