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High School sports

‘Why can’t I do it?’ Inspired by family and driven to succeed, Christian Winborne grows into basketball star at Gilman

The nudge would come as early as 5:30 a.m. for Tavon Winborne, whose son, Christian, can never get enough basketball.

The two would leave their East Baltimore home in that early hour and head to the gym to work on improving another area of Christian’s game.

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The 6-foot-3 senior combo guard for Gilman, a four-year starter and Saint Joseph’s (Pa.) commit, has always set out to be the best basketball player he can be. Whatever it might be — a game, a team practice, gym time on his own or with his father — Winborne leaves better than he was the day before.

“I try to go every day because that’s the only way to see true progress — if you keep going and going and going,” he said. “So that’s where my progression has come from.”

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The time has been well spent.

Winborne has developed versatile skills with a creative ability to score and share the ball with his teammates. He uses his athleticism and determination to defend and his game sense to make the smart play. As the unquestioned leader and go-to player for the Greyhounds, he’s well-respected by his teammates.

In a 63-47 win over Boys’ Latin on Tuesday, Winborne surpassed the 1,000 career point plateau when he scored 24 points — including five 3 pointers. Rated as Maryland’s sixth-best prospect of the 2022 class by 247 Sports, Winborne, who now has 1,040 points, is averaging 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game this season for the Greyhounds (4-3).

Gilman coach Will Bartz has marveled at the consistent growth his star player has shown the past four years. All the big numbers and highlight-reel plays aside, Bartz easily identifies what he’s been impressed by the most.

“We do character education here once a week for our guys and watching him grow from a quiet, work-hard kind of guy to the first one to raise his hand to answer questions and be the leader who encourages others — it’s great to see,” he said. “I’m just so proud of a kid like him because everything is self-motivated, he doesn’t want any attention and it’s just about getting better and staying focused on what he loves, which is the game.”

Winborne’s passion for the game started at a young age with an assist from his family. When he was 5 years old, he would go to his father’s pick-up games at Lake Clifton, where he would put up shots during breaks and dribble on the side. But mostly he would watch his father play and ask him questions after the game. He then watched his older sister, Brittany, emerge as a star at Catholic High, earn a scholarship and enjoy a solid career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“After I saw my father and sister play, that’s what really made my love for basketball grow more and more,” he said. “As a younger sibling, you always want to be like your older sibling and that’s what really made me want to start playing basketball even more because I saw what my sister was able to do. So for me, I’m thinking, ‘Why can’t I do it?’”

A highly-sought prospect entering high school, Winborne’s decision to attend Gilman was strongly influenced by his mother, Rhonda, another basketball-playing family member who emphasized the opportunity to get a quality education.

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Winborne has taken full advantage in the classroom, maintaining an “A” average with plans to study finance and real estate at Saint Joseph’s.

While Gilman is not regarded as a basketball power and Winborne had offers to transfer to more prominent programs inside and outside of the state, his time representing the Greyhounds has been everything he expected and more. With basketball not the top sport for the majority of the players on the team, a smart, athletic and hard-working group has bonded and grown together. Competing in the demanding Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, the Greyhounds have enjoyed winning seasons in each of the three previous seasons with Winborne emerging as the catalyst.

“My love of basketball was able to grow here and I was able to learn so many things about the game that I don’t think I would have got anywhere else,” Winborne said. “I try to provide a little bit of everything for the team. I’m not one of those point guards just out for me — I want to get everybody involved when I play. It’s really not much to it. I try to simplify the game when I’m playing as much as I can.”

A prime example came in a come-from-behind 63-61 win against power John Carroll last season. Trailing by two points out of a timeout with 11 seconds left, Bartz designed a play for Winborne. But when the Patriots’ defense quickly converged, Winborne found then-sophomore Matthew Parker alone in the corner. Parker missed a short baseline jumper earlier in the quarter, but Winborne’s confidence in his teammate never wavered. Parker, a standout quarterback on the football team, didn’t hesitate in nailing the three for the win.

Fellow senior guard Jalen Marshall, a standout track and field performer who has started the past three years on the hardwood, says his backcourt mate’s play is infectious.

“Everything he does, he wants to be the best at it, and in group situations, he’s going to try to be that leader, try to lead us to the best record possible,” Marshall said. “I feel like we click together because we both just want to win and be the best at everything we do. I feel like that’s what he would say about himself. He just wants to be the best, wants to win and he always gives 100 percent effort all the time.”

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For Winborne, the aim at being the best he can be has come with frustration at Gilman as he constantly battles opposing defenses that are always geared toward shutting him down with double teams, face guarding and box-and-one zones.

His father has found a positive with all the special attention he son is receiving.

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“It can be tough for him and he comes home frustrated and tired of it, saying others don’t go through what he has to go through,” Tavon Winborne said.

“But I tell him it’s a chance for him to get comfortable now so he’s used to it in college. I tell him he’s going to be comfortable taking those shots, he’s going to be comfortable with the defenses that are being set. Other guys have not dealt with that and it’s going to come as a surprise.”

In selecting to play at Saint Joseph’s, Winborne has found many of the same qualities that has enabled him to thrive at Gilman. The program has yet to find much success since coach Billy Lange took over in 2019 and Winborne believes he can contribute and emerge as a leader immediately.

Tom Strickler, a Maryland-based scout for the National Recruiting Report, a coaches-only service that evaluates high school talent throughout the country, has followed Winborne’s development since his freshman year. He believes the three-star prospect has the foundation to enjoy a strong career at Saint Joseph’s.

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“I instantly saw a player who already knew how to play, very cerebral, and I saw some real potential, maybe greatness,” Strickler said. “He just got steadily better and better and learned the game and coach [Bartz] did a good job bringing him along. He was always a leader, always knew how to make the right play and developed his skill set, elevating it every year. And the good thing about it is he stayed with the program and gave it respectability and credibility.”

When Winborne visited the Philadelphia campus, he felt like it was his home away from home. Plus, being less than two hours from Baltimore will be enable his parents to see all of his home games.

“I’m coming in with a leadership mindset,” he said. “The past couple years, their record hasn’t been great, so what I want to do is bring a wining mentality and help the culture at St. Joe’s. I want to bring everything, not just scoring but playmaking and rebounding. I’m just going to do everything I can to help the team win and, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters to me.”


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