For a clan whose entire axis revolves around the game of basketball, the George Gripp family of Tyrone doesn't have time to talk much basketball around the dinner table during the season.
That's because there aren't too many evenings from December through early March in which the Gripps' whirlwind basketball schedule allows them to eat together at the same time.
Brandon Gripp, Tyrone Area High School's standout junior point guard and the leading scorer on the Golden Eagles' varsity boys basketball team with a 24 points-per-game average, spends the winter months plying his talents on the court under the direction of his father, George, who is Tyrone's head coach.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Nicole, George and Brandon Gripp have helped point the Tyrone Area High School basketball programs in the right direction.
Nicole Gripp, Brandon's older sister, is the leading scorer for the Tyrone girls basketball team. The sharp-shooting senior shooting guard averages over 18 points per game.
And George and Sharon Gripp's third and youngest child, Damon, 10, a Tyrone Elementary School fourth-grader, is currently playing basketball in six different winter leagues.
"We rarely have that basketball talk over dinner, because we're all always on the move once basketball season comes,'' Nicole Gripp said.
The Gripp file
George Gripp: Has been the head Tyrone boys varsity basketball coach for the past seven seasons.
Nicole Gripp: A senior and four-year starter for the Tyrone girls varsity basketball program. She is averaging a team-leading 18 points per game this year.
Brandon Gripp: A junior and two-year starter for the Tyrone boys varsity basketball program. He is averaging a team-leading 24 points per game.
The Gripps are moving on the court as well as off of it.
"It's great that both [Nicole and Brandon] are having good seasons this year,'' George Gripp said. "They're both team-first players who want their teams to succeed. [Their success] is the culmination of all the hard work they've put in in basketball.''
Growing up with a father who's a basketball coach has given Nicole and Brandon a good taste for what is necessary to succeed in the game.
"Since they've been in kindergarten, they've been tagging along at [the varsity] practices, shooting and dribbling on the side,'' George said. "They've been pretty much raised around the game of basketball. They were exposed to the game at an early age, and they've been around the game their whole lives.''
Both Nicole and Brandon Gripp characterize their father's influence in their development, basketball and personal, as pivotal and positive.
"He's always been there for me,'' Nicole said of George. "I first picked up a basketball when I was in kindergarten and played in the YMCA league here in Tyrone. My dad would always help me out if I didn't know what to do. Anything about the game that I couldn't talk to my coaches about, I could always talk to my dad about. He picks up things that I do in the games, good and bad, and I try building from that.''
Brandon Gripp often rises each morning before the crack of dawn to practice his shooting at the Tyrone High School gymnasium or the Northern Blair Recreation Center gym. That type of dedication was instilled in him by his father.
"I shoot baskets seven days a week,'' Brandon said. "The only time I'm not shooting is when we have a game. [His father's influence] is everything to me. Every time when I didn't feel like shooting, or when I was tired, he encouraged me. He told me that nobody who I'll be playing against is sitting around watching television. That always gave me the motivation to get better.''
And that motivation has helped Brandon, a two-year varsity starter, develop into a team leader.
"He's obviously a very good shooter, but he's also a good passer, an excellent ballhandler, and a great student of the game,'' George said of Brandon, who also averages about eight assists and seven rebounds per game. "He's our point guard - he's our quarterback out there. He gets us into our sets, and makes us go. But for all his success, he'd be the first to say that without the help of his teammates, he wouldn't have so much success.''
Nicole Gripp - who has been a varsity starter since her freshman year - is also a team player who is always looking to create scoring opportunities by passing the ball as well as shooting it.
"I try to get other players the ball, and I've been trying to pick up my defense this year,'' she said. "My offense is stronger than my defense. But I've been working on my defense, and I think it has improved since last year.''
Nicole is a leader by example who put together a string of 27, 28 and 29-point games in mid-January.
"She realizes it's her senior year, and she is putting the team on her shoulders,'' Tyrone girls basketball coach Luke Rhodes said of Nicole. "She's a silent leader who comes to all our offseason workouts. She's an excellent shooter who works real hard on her game and real hard on her shot. She comes from a family that eats, sleeps and lives basketball, and it definitely shows in her performance.''
When they're not playing in organized games, Brandon, Nicole and Damon Gripp are spending time playing pick-up games of horse, around-the-world, and one-on-one on the basketball court at their Tyrone area home.
"We're all trying to win,'' Nicole said. "Being a boy, Brandon is more physical than me. I've been able to beat him a few times, but not many. I guess I was able to sneak up on him a couple times during his bad days.''
There haven't been too many bad days on a basketball court for either Nicole or Brandon Gripp.
"They're both a little quiet and laid-back, but they're both hard workers who lead by example,'' George Gripp said of Brandon and Nicole. "Nicole always has the ability to see things ahead of time on the court, and she does a good job shooting and distributing the ball.
"I know that some of the younger guys coming up through our program look to Brandon and see how hard he works,'' George added. "They're both hard workers who want to do what is best for their teams.''