Tides boys storming into playoffs behind dynamic duo of Landram, Browne
There’s been a storm brewing around the Harbor this winter, blowing in some strong wins for the Gig Harbor basketball team that is in first place in the South Sound Conference with a 17-1 record and ranked fifth in state Class 3A by The Seattle Times.
The storms have been dangerous to teams visiting the Tides’ gym. All that have entered have been defeated and had to endure the combination of powerful thunder and explosive lightning.
The thunder has been in the form of 6-foot, 6-inch sharpshooting guard Luke Browne, and the lightning embodied by 6-foot, 6-inch guard Will Landram. They have proven to be one of the most prolific scoring tandems that this area has seen in a long time.
The crowd rumbles when Browne sets his feet and catches a pass. As he flexes, the anticipation rises. When he launches his smooth shot, the student section raises its hands in unison to signal a 3-pointer. The rainbow shot can take a while to get to its target, but often hits all net when it arrives. The roar of thunder is heard from fans and an energetic home announcer. It rolled seven times last Saturday against Clover Park as Browne hit one after another in scoring 27 points.
In huge storms, often when least expected, lightning strikes. When it flashes before your eyes, you can’t help but want to see more. Strikes have happened often in the Tides’ gym when Landram receives the ball, quickly leaves his defender behind and leaps high for a hard slam dunk that shocks opponents and ignites the fans. The crowd-pleaser has had more than 10 highlight dunks, taking it up on anybody who wants to have their picture on a new poster.
Against Mercer Island, the Tides called for a backdoor lob for a jam. Christian Parrish, the talented junior point guard, baited defenders forward. Landram snuck behind them, leaped, caught the pass in midair and threw down a two-handed slam on an Islanders’ heads. Gig Harbor called the same lob on the first play of the game at Peninsula. Landram grabbed it and rammed it home, quickly subduing the home crowd.
Clover Park had some players who could rise who had undoubtedly seen Landram’s dunks on tape. They were waiting for him to try. He did, and another guy got dunked on. Landram is learning what all high fliers know. Once you get the first couple to go down and feel comfortable dunking in traffic, it becomes easier. Soon you want to dunk everything.
Same for Browne, who sometimes shoots from the Tides’ logo, deeper than most players dare. Repeatedly, frustrated coaches have implored their players to get out farther when Browne sets up. Defenders think 22 feet is far enough, but it’s not. The result is a splash three from downtown and a coach yelling for another player to check in and stay on Browne no matter where he goes.
Browne combines the leg and core strength that allow him to shoot from distance without lunging and being off balance. Like dunking, once a player sees that they can splash the net from that range, they become comfortable and confident, two things you don’t want a shooter to be.
River Ridge Coach Amari Steplight endured enough of the thunder and lightning show this year. Browne hit six threes for 34 points and eight rebounds at River Ridge in the first game and then Landram scored a season-high 28 points and nine rebounds a few weeks later. He had 22 by the break and didn’t play in the fourth quarter because of a large lead.
Who knows how many points this duo could rack up if they got to play more often past the third quarter. There have been a couple times for each that if they’d been left in all game that Mathias Ward’s 56-point team scoring record would have been in danger, as well as Paul Grobbins’ record nine threes. Browne was just two off the mark in a game in which he played a little over three quarters.
“Luke is the best shooter I’ve ever coached in 16 years as a coach in both high school and college,” said Tides Coach Billy Landram. “He stretches the defense a lot. Combine that with a high IQ and the willingness to pass, and he’s the toughest matchup for defenses in our league.”
Friday night against Yelm, it was much the same. Browne scored 18 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc and a couple of mid-range floaters. Landram finished with 17 points on a couple of mid-range jump shots, a twisting, turning backhanded flip and he blocked two shots, including one that rocketed into the fourth row. The surprised student section roared, but lightning does tend to surprise you. Browne then hit his third three in a row from deep and the thunder rolled on into the night.
“Well, both of them are legit, no doubt about it,” said Yelm Coach Richard Flores. “Landram is so long and can leap. He can shoot it plus he can handle it. He’s a very, very good player that is tough to guard. And Luke Browne, if he missed a shot I wanna know about it because I can’t remember any. If you give him an inch, he’s gonna shoot it and it’s going to go in. Luke’s shot is so soft … it’s butter. There is no way we could stop them. Both of those kids are first-team all-league players for sure.”
The duo can flat out score, Browne leads the team at 20 points a game with Landram right behind at 16. Each has had dominant performances. Landram has had games of 25 points against Central Kitsap, 20 against Timberline and 19 three times against Clover Park, Decatur and in the rematch with Central Kitsap, before busting loose for 28 against River Ridge on Tuesday.
In the Tides’ most impressive wins, both players played well. They each scored 24 points against Timberline at home and both played well against the crosstown rival Peninsula Seahawks with Landram getting a double-double, 12 and 10, at Peninsula and Browne scoring a game-high 18 points and grabbing six rebounds in the rematch at Gig Harbor.
When asked what makes Landram so tough to guard, his reserved coach and father said, “He has a great basketball IQ combined with length and athleticism. Will makes other players better.”
He certainly does. Landram can do more than dunk. He has a smooth shot from distance as well, just not as far out as his teammate. Conversely, Browne is athletic enough to rise above the rim and throw one down, but doesn’t get as high up.
Browne, a two-time all-league player, has enjoyed some sizzling scoring nights as well — games of 34 points, 31 twice against Capital and Mount Vernon, 27 against Clover Park and a complete 25-point, 15-rebound, five-steal night against South Kitsap. He is closing in on the coveted 1,000-point scoring mark for his high school career, and could reach it as a junior with a deep run into the playoffs.
Asked if this is the best duo he’s coached at Gig Harbor, Landram said, “Yes, I’ve coached some good players here at Gig Harbor, but in terms of the effect these two have on the outcome of a game, I would put them at the top. I would also state that we are a good team because we have many other good players as well.”
Talented seniors Asher Raquiza, Parker Born and Ryan Pickles, and do-everything junior point guard Christian Parrish provide the duo with the surrounding cast needed to help them succeed.
It’s never just about scoring. Browne leads the team in rebounding with Landram only a few boards shy. Landram has had a high of 13 and has been attacking the offensive glass lately. He’s a crash rebounder who runs in, coils and springs like a cat from any and all angles above the crowd to collect errant shots. He has had several offensive rebounds where he is behind a player who might think he has him blocked out, but Landram’s vertical jump allows him to get a rebound while avoiding an over-the-back call. Browne rebounds differently, often banging the shoulders and hips of his 215-pound frame into players to box out, sealing off and jumping to grab mostly defensive rebounds because of his positioning. He has a season high of 15.
In the open court, these two excel as well. Landram often leads the break and can penetrate the lane and draw defenders. Browne is a good mover without the ball. Take your eye off him for a second and he will relocate, allowing Landram or others to find him with a pass to the shooting pocket. Landram leads the duo in assists and steals by a considerable margin, handling the ball more, and at 6-foot-6 can play the point forward position. At that height, he sees angles well and has made some spectacular passes. Browne is an able passer as well. Both players have had five games without a single turnover.
Both are smart ballplayers who were born into basketball families and had undersized basketballs in their oversized cribs. That intelligence was on display last week when Coach Landram yelled for a wheel play that calls for players to quickly circle defenders. Landram caught a pass on his way to the hoop, drew the defense and fired a laser, no-look, behind-the-back pass that surprised everyone but Browne, who caught it and went over a defender for an easy layup. They ran back down the court pointing to each other with a job-well-done expression.
Both are savvy on defense and there isn’t much they haven’t seen. They have played high-level AAU ball since they were in the fourth grade and competed against the most talented players and teams from the Seattle region as well as in tournaments across the country.
“Both kids have a tremendous understanding of the game,” said Coach Landram. “They can see how things will play out two to three steps in advance. Working together with our players, it allows them to make other players better. That is the mark of a good player, the ability to not just be good themselves but they also make their teammates better as well.”
Another common thread is they’re both deadly serious on the court. They enjoy themselves and their teammates, but when they’re on the floor they understand that when the ball is tossed in the air to start a game, it is serious and competitive until the final buzzer. It’s disheartening when a talented player doesn’t try hard or isn’t emotionally ready to play. These two are prepared every night and feed off each other’s energy like thunder and lightning often do.
Both are well-rounded athletes who play other sports. Landram is the quarterback on the football team. He threw six touchdowns by halftime in a game last year. At his height, he can see over defenses, has a live arm and throws tight spirals to receivers running post corner routes or quick slants on Friday nights. He was rewarded by being named all-South Sound Conference.
Browne is a talented tennis player who was unbeaten in South Sound Conference varsity play as a freshman, using his long levers to generate a powerful serve and quick reflexes to end points at the net. He will also be competing on the golf team this year. Landram coached the Tides to a state title in 2019. Browne will join his basketball coach again on the links, playing a sport he enjoys after winning tournaments at the Washington Junior Golf Association level as a preteen.
Landram could be looking at scholarship offers in both football and basketball, and might have a tough decision on which to choose, while Browne will decide on scholarship offers from the hard court where he has clearly set his sights.
The future looks like it’s filled with bright and sunny days for these two athletes, but the weather will change rapidly Monday at 7 p.m. at North Thurston for the final league game of the year and Saturday as they head into the playoffs at Auburn. Opponents had better be warned of a storm coming their way. The forecast says to expect heavy doses of exploding thunder and lightning all day long.