Ariya Briscoe takes charge of Union Titans boys basketball with his defense, all-around game, and leadership
All quality teams have players with a team-first attitude.
But even those teams have a player who is The Team Guy.
Ariya Briscoe shines in that role for the Union boys basketball team, shines without too many individual shining moments.
His lockdown defense does not show up next to his name in the boxscore. Gotta look deeper. Check out the opponent’s best player, and maybe that guy did not score his average that night.
Briscoe’s assist-to-turnover ratio is stellar, sitting at around 4:1, but again, gotta look deeper. Sometimes it is his pass that leads to the pass for the assist. That does not make the stat sheet, either.
But it is there on video.
Coaches know. Teammates know.
Ariya Briscoe has gone from reserve on varsity as a sophomore to starter as a junior to leader as a senior.
Even when suffering a rare defeat, Briscoe knows how to respond.
“Last year … if we could have lost a game in the regular season rather than when we did … it would have made us so much stronger,” Briscoe said. “Losing now is going to make us so much better.”
That’s right, the Union Titans lost a regular-season game last week. That’s news. Hasn’t happened in years. In fact, it is the first regular-season varsity loss for Briscoe. In three years.
He has already promised the Titans will learn from that loss as they prepare for the Class 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League culminating event this week. All nine teams are in a tournament. Union, the No. 1 seed, will play in the quarterfinals Wednesday with hopes of winning out and taking home the championship on Friday night.
That’s the most they can accomplish during this COVID season. A year ago, Union’s only loss came in the state semifinals. The Titans responded from that loss, too, to win the third-place game.
Every year, it seems, the Titans just reload with role players stepping up into starring roles.
Briscoe said that is just the culture of the program.
“End of eighth grade, I go into the weight room, and I was kind of star struck,” Briscoe said. “A year later, I’m working out with them. I’m getting bigger. And I’m growing as a person, too. It’s not just basketball. They’re really close brothers to me.”
Older players took younger players under their wings. And the cycle continued.
Heck, that even started earlier for Briscoe.
“When I was young, I came to all the Titan camps. I always looked up to all those players,” Briscoe said. “I’m here, and now all these little kids are looking up to me.”
A year ago, Brad Lackey was the starting point guard until a knee injury ended his season. Briscoe was ready for a bigger opportunity. And he thrived because Lackey was there for him all the way.
“After he got hurt, he pulled me aside after every game, at practices,” Briscoe said. “He would be there, talking to me, coaching me up. I really had to step into that role.”
As a point guard, Briscoe has always known that the position required leadership qualities. Now, as a senior, let’s just say Briscoe knew this was going to be his team to lead, his way.
“At tryouts, I realized I was talking more this year than I did last year. The first day of tryouts, I lost my voice,” Briscoe said. “That’s how much I was talking, making sure we were doing all the right things.”
It was all about getting on the same page. Briscoe, too, had to make some adjustments. After last year’s third-place finish, after the graduation of some bigger names, Briscoe did acknowledge that he figured he would be asked to score a lot more points as a senior. That was the plan, too. Until he realized the team would be better if he was the facilitator.
“As the season went on, with all these great shooters around, I’m going to drive in and all these shooters are going to be wide open,” Briscoe said. “I just think, ‘This is the best play. This guy is getting a wide open shot. And I know he’s going to make it.’ I trust all of them to shoot because they’re all great shooters.
“I’m fine with having a low-point scoring game, but if you look at my other stats or look at the full game, you see how everything else is affected by me being in the game.”
Union coach Blake Conley said Briscoe is one of the best defensive players he has ever coached. And, he added, that for the casual fan, Briscoe doesn’t have the flashy numbers. Students of the game understand, though.
Briscoe’s plans for the future include a year of prep school at Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif. The long-term goal is to find a four-year college program.
The immediate goal is to go 3-0 in the culminating week, to claim a title for the Union Titans.
“It’s been everything since I first came here,” Briscoe said of being part of this program.
“Being on this basketball team, it’s been like no other,” Briscoe said. “The brotherhood we build is not just about basketball. It’s about life.”
In basketball, and in life, there is a need for people to sacrifice their own individual glory to make others better.
That’s part of the Union boys basketball culture.
Ariya Briscoe is the epitome of that culture.