QUINCY -- The fact that senior forward Clay Venvertloh is leading the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team in scoring and rebounding this season shouldn't be a big surprise.
"People who know Clay know he's used to being the primary guy in his age group," Raiders coach Kevin Meyer said.
Not being one of the primary guys on last year's team was difficult for Venvertloh to swallow.
A senior-dominated team won 28 games and reached the Class 2A super-sectional last year, and Venvertloh was relegated to a third-string role. He scored just 36 points, with only two points coming in the final 12 games.
"It was hard," he said. "I've always played a lot, and last year was the first time I didn't. I didn't have the best attitude about it."
It showed. Much of Venvertloh's playing time came late in games, and on a couple of occasions, a frustrated Meyer yanked him out of the game. Venvertloh's body language and demeanor made it clear he wasn't happy being on the court when the outcome already was decided.
"Last year was an anomaly," Meyer said. "Clay didn't know his spot, and it frustrated him, and it produced some of the performances we had last year. We expected more from him.
"I know guys like Clay, because I was that guy my junior year. I just wanted him to compete, and we kept waiting for him to go grab the 10th spot. But Tommy (Ray, a sophomore) took it, and Clay didn't fight for it. That was the difference."
Meyer and Venvertloh met before the summer schedule started to clear the air.
"It was a pretty honest moment," Meyer said. "It's hard for a 17-year-old kid to say, ‘You know what? I know I can be better, and I will be better.' This summer, he was one of our better players."
That has continued through the start of the regular season.
Venvertloh has scored a team-best 49 points in the first four games, including a career-high 18 points in the season opener against St. Francis de Sales. Most of his points have come on drives through the lane or on offensive rebound putbacks.
He also leads the team with 24 rebounds, and all of his numbers have been contributed in a sixth-man role.
Venvertloh just smiles when asked if he'd rather be starting, but he's admits he's growing used to his new role.
"It's my job to bring energy off the bench," he said. "I'm still getting good minutes. I'm OK with it."
"(The sixth man) is an important role on our team," Meyer said. "When he comes in, he's fresh. He's just energy. That's a hard thing to do off the bench, and you have to do it every single night. When the coach says, ‘Clay, go,' you have to be the Energizer Bunny.'"
Meyer also is pleased with Venvertloh's maturation, both on and off the court. The coach is quick to point out how Venvertloh is becoming a leader off the court by helping his father, Chuck, coach the Quincy Catholic eighth-grade boys basketball team.
"And I've been hearing good things from him in the classroom," Meyer said. "He's leading by example.
"There's times, and I'll tease him, when I ask, ‘Am I getting Bad Clay or Good Clay today?' There's been maybe one practice when he was more like Bad Clay, but most of the time, he's been Good Clay."