Dunham senior Ben Bernhard not flashy but valuable cog in team posting 21-5 record _lowres

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Dunham's Ben Bernhard, right, and Levi Bradley defend Episcopal's Chris Beckman Jr. in a game last season.

The climb to becoming a starter and assuming a leadership role his senior season for The Dunham School’s basketball team has been a testament to the patience and perseverance of guard Ben Bernhard.

“I’ve never really worried whether I was starting or not,” he said. “I just kept working hard to get where I am now.”

It was commonplace in the offseason for Bernhard to show up several times a week at 6 p.m. to put up 500 shots — before school — and followed a similar regimen during the summer intermingled with twice-weekly AAU practices and his own school’s offseason workouts.

“I’ve never had a harder working player in our program, and that’s saying a lot,” Pixley said. “He pours the same amount of effort into whatever he’s doing. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate. He’s waited his turn.”

You may not find Bernhard among the team’s statistical leaders, but there’s arguably no greater reason for the success Dunham (21-5) has experienced, including a 59-48 overtime victory Tuesday to take the District 8-2A lead away from Episcopal.

The Tigers, who have won four straight and 10 of their past 11 games, host Lee Magnet on Friday.

“You have to be patient and keep working,” Bernhard said. “You don’t always see instant gratification.”

From a tangible standpoint Bernhard supplies Dunham’s offense with 8.2 points per game, a player with the range to knock down the 3-pointer or attack the basket, where he can finish at the rim or find an open teammate.

Bernhard averages 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals.

“You can’t take him off the floor in certain situations because he’s going to go make a play just based on effort,” Pixley said.

When you consider the makeup of this year’s Dunham team — 10 of 17 players are underclassmen — the greatest example of Bernhard’s value to the Tigers maybe in the leadership he provides along with fellow senior Tre Scott.

With eight of those players being either freshmen or eighth-graders, someone has to be entrusted with proving an example in which to follow — a role Bernhard has thrived in.

“We have a lot of young guys, so you have to show them how to work hard and what this program’s about,” Bernhard said. “On the court it’s about doing whatever it takes to win.”

Pixley said three years ago Bernhard was on the outside of a six-man rotation, leaving him to play exclusively with the junior varsity.

A year after being in and out as starter Bernhard has become a constant in Dunham’s starting lineup, where he’s had more of an eye toward contributing to the good of the team instead of fulfilling his own personal needs.

“I didn’t have any specific goals,” said Bernhard, who holds a 4.3 grade-point average and takes four advance placement classes.

“I just wanted to have the best senior season I could and be the best I could possibly be for my team.”