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Jimmy Wells: Chieftain’s athlete of the winter season

Wells’ dedication to basketball earns Chieftain award

By Steve Tool

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on March 8, 2017 12:29PM

Jimmy Wells in action against the Hermiston JV team earlier this year.

Courtesy Photo/Ilene Wells

Jimmy Wells in action against the Hermiston JV team earlier this year.

Jimmy Wells, third from left, after receiving his first-team Wapiti League honors at District this year.

Courtesy Photo/Ilene Wells

Jimmy Wells, third from left, after receiving his first-team Wapiti League honors at District this year.

Jimmy Wells

Jimmy Wells

Editor’s note: This is the Chieftain’s inaugural award of athlete of the season. This isn’t necessarily awarded to the most gifted athlete, but to the player who best exemplifies dedication to sportsmanship and the game’s essence. In the Chieftain’s opinion, Enterprise High School junior Jimmy Wells – point guard for the Outlaws boys basketball team – best exemplifies these traits.

Jimmy Wells didn’t always like basketball. As a child, he watched his father play on a 30x50 home basketball court and wait for a chance to steal the ball, so he could take it to the swing set and trade the ball for his favorite pastime – getting pushed on the swing.

With time, things change.

At the age of five, Jimmy Wells watched the movie “Air Bud” – about a dog whose talent at basketball elevates a boy’s self-esteem, while propelling the boy’s basketball team to a state championship. Wells couldn’t get enough of it – or of his newfound passion for the game.

“You couldn’t keep him off the court after that,” said Wells’ father, Larry Wells, who serves as the EHS athletic director.

Wells was eight when he moved to this area with his family. He started attending school in Joseph in the second grade. Wells’ EHS coach Don Lathrop, who was coaching the Eagles’ high school basketball team at the time, said he remembered the boy’s passion for the game showed early. He was the team’s water boy.

“He was always in the gym; he loved basketball,” Lathrop said.

Wells developed a knack for the game and a love of competition.

“I started playing competitively in fourth grade. I played every day after school, and my talent came naturally because of that,” Wells said. He also credited his father for taking an interest.

“My dad played with me a lot and really helped me improve. He is my role model, an icon,” he said.

Although the family still lives in Joseph, Wells transferred to EHS starting in his freshman year. Lathrop had also taken over the head coach position at EHS, and he remembered Wells. By his sophomore year, Wells was starting at point guard for the Outlaws because of his dedication to the game.

Other schools fear Wells

“He was starting as a sophomore because he’s real knowledgeable about the game and he understands the game well. A lot of players don’t realize that talent only figures into 25 percent of the equation; 75 percent of the game is played from the neck up. You have to think the game before you play it, and Jimmy’s knowledge of the game is his biggest asset,” Lathrop said. He added that other schools fear Wells so much as a player that on man-to-man defense they send their best defensive player to guard him.

Wells applied that knowledge as a junior, helping lead the Outlaws to a near state playoff berth over the season.

“It was disappointing. I don’t know what it was; we had a lot of talent, and we just weren’t able to do it,” he said. Wells received first-team Wapiti League honors at District at the end of the season.

Beyond basketball, Wells participates in FFA and is also a 4.0 presence on the school’s honor roll. His sights are set on attending the University of Montana and concentrate on wildlife sciences.

In the meantime Wells still attends open gym at Joseph and plays competitive basketball as much as possible to prepare for his senior year and a trip to state.

“We’re not going to lose too many guys. We have big guys and guys who can shoot the ball well. I have a feeling we’re going to make it,” he said.


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