By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Rze Culbreath and Millbrook coach Scott Mankins have heard the comments from fans in the stands. The ones who claim Culbreath takes too many shots, or that he's selfish.
After the numbers Culbreath put up this past season, those claims should definitely be put to rest.
"It bothers him when people say he's a selfish player," Mankins said. "The people who say that are the people who don't understand the game. With his shooting percentage and what he does, he could shoot a lot more. Most of the shots he gets either come out of transition, or come out of what we're trying to do. He just makes his shots.
"I don't see how you can be selfish if you led your team in assists."
The statistics back up Mankins' statement.
Culbreath not only led the Pioneers in assists with 4.9 per game, he was also second in the area in scoring with 19.7 points per game. The Northern Virginia Daily's 2011-12 Boys Basketball Player of the Year was also second on the team in rebounds and led the area with 4.3 steals per game.
While he did take 304 shots this season, Culbreath made 50 percent of those shots. He was also in the top 10 in the area in 3-point percentage (37.9 percent). Offensively, Culbreath can do it all. He can drive to the basket, hit the pull-up jumper or knock it down from beyond the arc.
One of the biggest things Culbreath is proud of with his game is his ability to get his teammates involved. As good as Culbreath is at scoring, he loves making an assist even more. He's become a great passer, and has the ability to put the ball where his teammates need it to be.
"I like passing better, because it gets my teammates involved," Culbreath said. "It gets my confidence up and their confidence up."
Confidence is something Mankins has really seen grow in Culbreath's game over the last few years.
Culbreath is very quiet, and being a point guard, it has been difficult for him to be a big vocal leader for the team. Mankins said Culbreath has improved in that area, but will need to improve even more going into his senior year.
"He's one of the shyest kids I've ever coached," Mankins said. "He's extremely shy. He's most comfortable when he's out on the floor. And that's a good thing. He does need to get more vocal on the floor. We've talked about that all three seasons he's been with us. And it's hard for him.
"It's probably harder for him than it is your average person because of his shyness."
This season Culbreath helped lead the Pioneers to a 16-7 record and a Region II, Division 4 semifinal appearance. The Pioneers finished third in the Northwestern District and beat first-place Handley once this year.
Culbreath said the highlight of the season was the team's win over Briar Woods in the regional quarterfinals.
The lowlight to his season came in the regional semifinals, as Culbreath suffered a concussion during school the day of the game and wasn't able to play in the team's season-ending loss to Loudoun Valley.
"It was tough for him because he felt like he let everybody down," Mankins said. "The tough part wasn't that he wasn't with us, the tough part was that we found out a few hours before. The kids found out about three hours before tip that he wasn't going to be there, and I think that was the thing it affected more, was the timing of it."
Despite the loss, the Pioneers had a great season. The team lost five players from last year's squad, which won the district title.
"There's no way I thought we would come out of the Spotswood tournament 2-0," Mankins said. "There's no way I thought we would come out of the holiday tournament with Liberty and Fauquier, 2-0. There's no way I thought we'd sweep Washington and Jefferson this year. The kids bought into what we were doing, took ownership of the team and did a very good job."
The Pioneers lose three more players from this year's squad, and Culbreath knows he will have to step up his leadership role next season in order for the team to be successful.
"I'm pretty excited [for next year]," Culbreath said. "I just want to do a lot more and hopefully get to states next year."