Even with all of his talent and versatility on the basketball court, Brian Warinner is an unselfish player, always looking for his teammates first.
His Bend High coaches might argue that sometimes the soft-spoken, smooth-shooting, 6-foot-6-inch senior is a little too unselfish.
“We continually want him to be more aggressive and take charge more,” says Bend head coach Scott Baker. “He’s such a nice kid with a wonderful personality, and he wants to make sure that everybody’s getting the ball. But we’re reminding him it’s OK for him to take his opportunities when they’re there.”
Warinner, a left-handed wing, is averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game for a Lava Bears team that includes nine seniors and is 7-4 overall. Bend defeated Sprague 53-51 in its Class 6A Mountain Valley Conference opener on Tuesday and hosts McKay on Friday night.
As basketball increasingly becomes a positionless game, Warinner fits the mold of a big man with a post game who can get to the rim but also bring the ball up the floor, make 3-pointers, pass well and defend the opposing team’s best player.
That kind of potential has drawn interest from a host of small colleges, and Warinner says he has scholarship offers from NAIA Lewis-Clark State in Idaho and NCAA Division II Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
“I’d say I’m very versatile, so I can kind of do whatever the team needs from me to win,” Warinner says. “That’s my goal. Being able to score from wherever and being able to lock people up on defense, I think that’s pretty valuable.”
Warinner is a young athlete of few words and is visibly uncomfortable when it comes to talking about himself. While Baker says he wants him to become a more vocal leader on the floor, the veteran coach knows the team co-captain leads by example.
“Just because he’s soft-spoken doesn’t mean he’s not a competitor,” Baker says. “He wants to go out there and win and do his best every day, and he’s going to try to help his teammates out.”
Baker says that Warinner’s versatility is what sets him apart from other players.
“Offensively, he does a really nice job of just being a complete player, inside and outside,” Baker says. “He can play different people on defense, from wings and guards, to posts. His ability to defend different players has really been nice, and he’s willing to defend the other team’s best scorer.”
The youngest of four children, Warinner grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, playing hoops in the driveway with older brother Peter, now 23, and Peter’s friends. Despite being younger, he says, he held his own in what he calls “some good battles.”
“I have older siblings who were always beating up on me,” Warinner recalls. “Getting to play with my brother and his friends, I think that was pretty helpful. It got heated sometimes, but it was fun.”
Warinner moved with his family to Bend when his father got a new job and Brian was in seventh grade. He joined a Lava Bears youth team that had been playing together since fifth grade. The core of that team is now part of the nine seniors on this year’s Bend varsity squad.
“It’s a really tight team; it’s awesome,” Warinner says.
Baker says his players “act like brothers.”
“They battle each other and get on each other,” the coach says. “You’ve got to have some thick skin with this group. On the other side, they love and care for each and they’re going to be there for each other through thick and thin. They all fit into their roles. They’re just a good group of kids that are bonding and enjoy each other’s company.”
Other leaders for Bend include starting senior point guard Jimmy Robertson, the other co-captain, and 6-5 senior post Bryan Brown. Warinner and Brown make a pretty imposing frontcourt, using their height to their advantage and finding each other with interior passes.
After his team fell to Bend 64-32 last week, Redmond coach Reagan Gilbertson extolled the size and talent of Warinner, who scored 20 points in the Bears’ win.
“I’ve got a couple calls from college coaches asking about him,” Gilbertson said. “I’m not sure how their league (the MVC) stacks up, but he’s going to be a tough guy for anybody to guard in any league.”
Baker says Warinner has always been a solid perimeter shooter and ballhandler, but since he was a freshman he has worked on developing his post game.
“More and more you have big guys who want to shoot 3s and stay outside on the perimeter,” Baker says. “We’ve gotten him to work on those post moves to make him a more complete player … and give something for colleges to look at that’s more multidimensional.”
A solid student who is interested in exercise science or possibly business, Warinner says academics will come first for him when choosing a college. While most of the interest in him has come from smaller schools, playing at Division I is a possibility. Baker says he has received calls from many college coaches, including some smaller Division I programs.
“I think it’s all about finding the right place where I fit in, and the academic part is most important to me,” Warinner says. “It’s not necessarily, oh, I need to go DI, it’s just finding somewhere where I think I’ll be happy and fit well into the program and the school.”
For now, though, Warinner is focused on leading the Lava Bears through Mountain Valley Conference play, not with a loud mouth but with a quiet confidence in his versatile skill set.
“Just staying consistent and trying to help lead guys,” he says, “and just trying to win — that’s the biggest thing.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,