Large shadow

He stands 6-foot-5, routinely records double-digit points and rebounds and is on the verge of leading his team to its first district-tournament berth since 1996.

Yet, when it comes to big men in the Narrows League Bridge Division, the names best known among fans are North Carolina-bound Bremerton star Marvin Williams, South Kitsap’s Jacob Beitinger, Gig Harbor’s Bill Forelli and Shelton’s Bill Richardson.

Olympic’s Brendan Campbell doesn’t register on the Bridge’s big-man club, but that doesn’t bother him. He enjoys facing the competition.

“This league is full of big men,” Campbell said. “It’s a challenge offensively and defensively. I have to step up and keep their numbers down and I need to be consistent offensively. I look to it as a challenge to be better.”

Descriptions such as “team-oriented” often are clichés in describing athletes, but it may have been a fault in Campbell’s case.

“In a lot of ways, he was our best player as a sophomore, but mentally he didn’t step out,” Olympic coach Robert Polk said. “He was worried about what the seniors thought. During a timeout late in the season, Joel Ackley said, ‘Would you get the ball to Brendan.’ ”

Since then, Polk said, an “air of confidence has continued to develop” inside Campbell. From the exterior, it’s pretty subtle, though.

Rather than dominating the ball, Campbell understands that this is one of the most talented groups of seniors the Trojans ever have possessed. Classmates Stephen Braun, Robert Messing, Jeff Shaw and Chester Thomas all are proficient on 3-pointers, while Reid Kessler and Brian Smith help Campbell inside.

After finishing 1-13 in league play during the 2001-02 season and 5-9 last year, Campbell is willing to sacrifice statistics for the opportunity to earn a state-playoff berth for the first time since 1993.

“Olympic has not done well in a long time,” Campbell said. “The class of 2004 here has played together since sixth grade. Maybe this group will turn it around and people will take pride in it rather than (having no interest) when we’re at the bottom of the league.”

Off the court, Campbell is described by teammates and coaches as laidback, respectful and friendly. Thomas said the script changes when Campbell hits the hardwood, though.

“When Brendan and I were in elementary school, we hated each other and fouled each other every time we played,” he said. “When he’s on the court, he’s determined to win.”

The rivalry eventually turned into a friendship, which manifested throughout Olympic’s roster.

“We always hung out at his house before games,” said Thomas, referring to a tradition that began when they played together at Fairview Junior High. “His mom is like a second mom to me.

“He doesn’t talk much, but he protects his friends like family. He’s got a big heart off the court.”

Like most teenagers, Campbell said he enjoys spending time with his friends when he’s not playing basketball.

“I’m more of a goofball off the court,” he said.

That mentality ends when two subjects are broached — basketball and school. Besides hoping to lead the Trojans into the playoffs, Campbell maintains a 3.6 grade-point average.

“I want to look into studying something in the medical field (in college),” said Campbell, mentioning kinesiology as a possible field.

For now, the focus is on closing out the most successful in Trojans basketball perhaps since Chris Welp led Olympic to a 2A state championship in 1983.

“It feels good,” Campbell said. “The season is starting to come to a close. It’s a great thing for all of us to have the opportunity to go to districts.”

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