Jupiter's Grant Pelchen has developed into area's best big man
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Grant Pelchen was 6-foot-6, 240 pounds and awkward the first time he stepped on a basketball court for a competitive game.
He was in the seventh grade. He was uncomfortable with the game. And, he admits, "I was fat."
Fast forward five years and the game of basketball looks a lot different to the Jupiter senior center, who's now 6-10 and a much healthier 250 pounds. The baby fat is gone, replaced by muscle, and the awkwardness of his game has vanished.
After "working on basketball all the time" for five years, the game rewarded him with a full scholarship to Florida Atlantic.
"It's been a lot of hard work," Pelchen said, "a lot of hours of basketball, probably even more than homework. It was frustrating at first but it has really paid off."
Though he has the rest of the 2012-13 season ahead of him for the fourth-ranked Warriors, Pelchen's journey came nearly full circle last winter.
Pelchen lined up three times across from Dwyer's Joel James, a 6-foot-11 standout who's now logging serious minutes off the bench as a true freshman for nationally ranked North Carolina.
Pelchen held his own, blocking James five times in their first meeting and holding him to a 10-point average in the three games. That film was what college coaches saw, and it's what hooked FAU coach Mike Jarvis.
"My sophomore year, I was terrified the first time I played (James)," Pelchen said. "After I played him, I kind of got used to it. In the two years after that, it was second nature. You learn about someone."
Progress didn't come just against James, or in the Jupiter High gym with head coach John Andersen and his assistants. Pelchen also worked with former Sebastian River coach Mark Adams on his footwork and shot.
He started travel basketball that fateful seventh-grade season, and he plays his high school AAU ball with Florida Family, a program that has produced Division I talent.
"My sophomore year, we came in 10th in the nation," he said. "We played 21 games in two back-to-back tournaments that year. I was matching up against 7-footers. It freaked me out a little bit."
Yet, like all those other learning experiences, AAU helped him tremendously at the high school level. Each year Pelchen has improved, and he keeps playing and playing and playing.
Last season, he was mostly a defender and rebounder -- and a good one at that -- but he wasn't really required to handle much of his team's scoring with Bobby Hain, who's now at Youngstown State, doing most of that work.
Pelchen averaged eight points and eight rebounds per game last season. This season, he's averaging around 11 points and 13 rebounds per game. Those are Player of the Year-caliber numbers for a team that's 6-1 and the best Class 8A team in the area.
Before the season, Andersen said Pelchen was "coming into his own." That seems to be a trend for Pelchen, who also had college offers from Jacksonville and Stetson.
As is usually the case for big-but-young post players, it takes time to reach their comfort level. It takes time to learn post moves and a soft touch around the rim. And that last component of his game has started to break through.
With Pelchen scoring more, six other seniors on the roster and a weakened Palm Beach County field of 8A teams, the intimidating Pelchen could end up carrying his team deep into the playoffs. Not bad for someone who freely admits that five years ago he "didn't do anything."