The boys’ basketball team in Stevensville is having a special year. With a record of 12 wins and only one loss, the team is generating a lot of excitement. But their stellar basketball playing isn’t the only thing that is special about this Yellowjacket team. This team has three sets of brothers playing and two of those sets are starters. Zach and Tyler Gavlak, and Jared and Josh Schultz are four of the five starters for the ‘Jackets. Backing them up are Josh and Austin Lords, along with their younger brother Chris. Assistant coach Terry Rosin said that in all his years of coaching both at the Class C ranks in Grass Range and then here in Stevensville, he’s never come across a situation like this.
“Especially in the smaller schools, you may see a couple of brothers on the same team,” he said. “But to have two sets, and starters at that, is unusual and to have three sets of brothers is very rare.”
Tyler Gavlak and Josh Schultz are both seniors and have been starters on the team since they were freshmen. Their younger brothers, Zach Gavlak and Jared Schultz, are sophomores and are following the same path as their older brothers. The four usually start every game.
The brothers all have one thing in common, families who love and follow basketball. Josh and Jared’s older brothers were home schooled and played on a team that went all over the west and so Josh and Jared trailed along too. Zach and Tyler have followed the Yellowjackets since they were youngsters dribbling the ball out on the court during halftime. Josh, a senior, Austin, a junior, and Chris, a sophomore, come from a family who, when they were younger, took them to the state tournaments, just to watch basketball. All the families agree, basketball time is also family time.
So what’s it like to watch two sons on the court at the same time? Kevin Schultz, Josh and Jared’s dad, says he feels very fortunate to have two sons playing in this unique situation. When there is a game, the Schultz’s older brothers and their wives are in the crowd along with the grandparents and family friends, usually about 12 to 14 people. Basketball is a major topic around the dinner table as all of the family is very competitive.
For Rebecca Gavlak, the first feeling she has is relief. Two summers ago, Tyler was in a horrible accident that left him with a severely broken leg, with a chance he’d never play again. But with perseverance and hard work, Tyler has come back to be an inspiration for his family and the team. She thinks that watching Tyler work so hard to come back has allowed younger brother Zach to see the bigger picture, of how to work hard and overcome problems. Tyler is number 3 of six brothers and one sister and Zach is number four. Their next youngest brother, Dylan, is a freshman so he and Zach will have playing time. Then there is Alex, a sixth grader, and Jake, who is four. The Gavlak fan club includes both sets of grandparents, a sister, aunt and uncle, friends and cousin.
“I’ll have more opportunities to watch brothers play for a while,” she concluded.
For Becky Lords, seeing her kids out on the court is normal. The three boys have always played sports and Ron, their dad, has always been coaching them whether it was basketball or baseball. She feels the experiences her children have here on the basketball court will be with them all of their lives. Her family follows the boys, no matter where the game is. Her parents – Jim and Carol Zeiler – live in Moise. They make the trip down to the Bitterroot or to Butte or Dillon. Distance doesn’t matter to them.
“They make every game,” said Becky.
As far as the brothers themselves, they do understand theirs is a unique experience this year. The younger siblings all say they look up to their older brothers but also want to do as well or better than them. Practices can be intense but tempers don’t get in the way.
“We know each other’s weaknesses,” said Tyler but adds that by working on the weaknesses, they all get stronger.
Rosin said probably the biggest advantage of having all of the brothers happened at the beginning of the season because there wasn’t the usual lag time of trying to gel into a team. But then, these fellows have been playing ball together for years both in school and in AAU ball. They all say they can read each other pretty well and know what the subtle signs they give each other mean.
“We know when to flash to the basket or when to move around,” said Jared. They also know when to step in to settle someone down or encourage him. Although they are competitive, they all are also good friends.
Rebecca Gavlak said that when Tyler was injured, the team and their families all rallied around him. That support is still there. With grandmas and grandpas, aunts, uncles, old family friends and new fans, these brothers – the Gavlaks, the Schultz and the Lords – are more than a team.
“We are family,” said coach Keith Chambers.