Defender. Rebounder. Screener. Passer.
Jacob Bearss has handled plenty of blue-collar responsibilities for Portage.
"Jacob's one of those kids who's really never noticed in the statistics, but does all the little things a coach notices every day," Portage coach Rick Snodgrass said. "He's been our best defensive player the last few years. We try to put him in a situation where he is guarding the leading scorer, provided he's not a point guard. He's one of our best rebounders, one of our top passers. He doesn't get much of a break, which goes to show how valuable he is."
That value took another spike at the Bob Wettig tournament, a four-game stretch during which Bearss also emerged as a scorer. A modest 4.4 per game point producer through seven games, he tossed in a career-high 21 with five 3-pointers to spark a win over Greenfield-Central.
"I'm usually the one setting screens for them, and the guys were setting screens for me," Bearss said. "They were getting me the ball, and I kept shooting."
Bearss scored 51 points in the trip to Richmond, far and away his biggest display of offense in his three years with the big club.
"It really started off when I first got to varsity," he said. "I was more of a defensive player. I just did my role to help the team out."
That evolved in the summer when Jordan Simpson, last year's leading scorer, transferred to South Bend Adams, leaving Snodgrass in search of another point producer. One of his targets was the 6-foot-3 Bearss.
"It's something we hoped would happen," Snodgrass said. "He's usually at the top in playing time. Being a smaller team, we had to put him inside more out of necessity, but he's got a nice shot. He's really improved his range."
At the urging of his coaches, Bearss spent the summer working on his offense, extending his comfort zone out to the 3-point line.
"They told me we've got confidence in you to shoot," Bearss said. "I felt better shooting the ball. I'm a lot more confident in my shot. I had a slow start, but I've been really picking it up."
While Bearss admits he's enjoying the rush of scoring, he will always take pride in doing the dirty work.
"It's all mental," he said. "It's got to be in your head. You have to know that you can stop guys, be smart, make sure they don't drive around you. I've always guarded taller guys. It's really about working harder. Sometimes, athletic ability helps in getting rebounds, but it's about boxing out and wanting the ball."
It's no coincidence that Bearss' uptick in production has coincided with Portage's stretch of four wins in five games.
"It's made us a better team," Snodgrass said. "It's another person (teams) have to concentrate on."
The Indians take a 7-4 record into the start of Duneland Athletic Conference play tonight. Its 10 wins last season were its most in a decade, the same year (2003-4) it last finished north of .500.
"The first goal I think everyone on the team had is we wanted a winning season," Bearss said. "That's really our main one. When we were younger, every team in the DAC was so good, it took a little bit to finally compete. We have the talent. We just have to show it every game. We have to think we can win. We feel like that every time now."