Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee: Gabe York '12

He is known for “the dunk”.


When Orange Lutheran alumnus Gabe York ’12 launched himself over the defender for an alley-oop slam dunk inside the Ellwein Center in 2012, it was widely referred to as the most exciting basketball play of the year at any level. That single play put York and the Lancers on the national map.


In his time at OLu, York would lead the Lancers to back-to-back CIF championships in 2011 and 2012, establishing the basketball program as a force within the Trinity League and the county. In recognition of his achievements, he will be honored this summer as one of 11 inductees in the Orange Lutheran Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023.


York will say he was destined to play hoops. From a young age, he always had a basketball in his hand, and once he could figure out how to dribble, at about age four, he became obsessed with the sport.


The way York relates to the game can be hard for him to explain, but it is therapeutic and something he experiences deep in his soul.


“It feels like it's medicine,” says York. “It's when you're upset or you're depressed or when you don't feel right, you get in the gym. And the best feeling, at least for me, is when you're in an empty gym, and there's no one else. You're by yourself. You hear the squeaks of your shoes, and you hear the ball bouncing. When you swish the ball, you hear that, and when the ball hits that net, it's a certain sound. It’s second to none.”


York learned about the Trinity League as an elementary-aged student, and he knew that was where he wanted to compete. Not having attended a Lutheran feeder school, York came into OLu as a bit of an outsider. His daily routine began each day with a 5:30am wake up call to get from West Covina to Orange, a level of discipline and sacrifice that allowed the shooting guard to immerse himself into improving his craft with laser focus.


“I didn't want to waste time,” says York. “I knew what I wanted to do, and I wanted to help a team that didn't really have a lot of wins or have a lot of history in those categories and try to help that team become something special.”


The championships didn’t come right away. York’s freshman year, the Lancers exited in the first round in a last-second, heartbreaking loss. His sophomore year, they got closer, losing in the final game.


It was in his junior and senior seasons when the hard work and dedication paid off. The Lancers won back-to-back CIF titles in 2011 and 2012, and York was named CIF Player of the Year in 2012. Being able to get that monkey off his back and bring the championships to OLu, along with “the dunk”, put the school in the spotlight.

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“It was awesome to be a part of that and to know our team was able to bring all of that publicity to Orange Lutheran,” says York. “All the guys really put their heads down and worked with me and we did what we had to do to be successful. So you’ve got to give credit to all those guys, too. None of this happens without them.”


The news of York’s talent spread quickly, and by the end of his sophomore year, there were 30 coaches a day coming through the gym, all eager to watch him play. The circus that followed him for the next two years brought a unique level of pressure that at times was difficult to manage.


But the environment at OLu kept York grounded, and he recalls specific staff members who were instrumental in helping him navigate the challenges he was facing. English teacher Bea Wakeling, Assistant Principal Mike Grasz and former Principal and Head of School Dr. Leslie Smith are a few of the “bright lights” that kept York focused on his goals, both mentally and emotionally.


“A lot of good-hearted people looked out for me,” says York. “The family network that they provide off the court definitely is a winning recipe to doing well. I struggled in middle school here and there, so to go to high school…and still be successful as a student, I think it definitely stems from the environment that teachers and the staff gave us as student athletes.”


By the end of his junior year, York had 45 scholarship offers to play college basketball. He chose the University of Arizona with the hopes that a successful collegiate career would launch him into the NBA.


But that path has not gone as planned. York struggled at Arizona, and the momentum he had behind his name in high school evaporated almost immediately during his freshman year with the Wildcats. His lack of playing time led to a loss of confidence, but the “never give up” attitude that is in his DNA kept pushing him forward towards his goal of playing professional ball.


After his four years at Arizona, York got an invite to the NBA combine.  After a short stint in the NBA summer league with the Charlotte Hornets in 2016, he bounced around the European leagues and the NBA’s developmental league (G League) for a number of years.


In 2021, York was selected third overall in the NBA G League draft by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. And on April 9, 2022, his pro ball dreams came true when he made his NBA debut with a call up to the Indiana Pacers, scoring seven points and two assists. He is the first Lancer to ever play in the NBA.


York rejoined the Mad Ants last fall and made his mark on the franchise in an historic way as he is now the sole owner or a critical part of 18 different team records. He joined the Pacers for a second time on April 5 and hit three 3-pointers for nine points in 14 minutes.

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(Photo: Courtesy of Indiana Pacers)

Despite playing at the NBA level, York still feels he is chasing the dream of being full time roster member. He knows who he is as a player, and he has no plans of backing down on achieving that goal.


“There are a lot of NBA teams that can use what I have,” says York. “I'm ready for that opportunity, and whenever God's timing is telling me it's ready, it will be right.”


While he continues to relentlessly pursue turning his dream into reality, York knows the honor that accompanies being inducted into the Orange Lutheran Athletics Hall of Fame means his hard work and sacrifice will now be viewed through the lens of being a Lancer for life.


“People get to hear my story and hear that Orange Lutheran was one of the focal points of my career,” says York. “To understand where Gabe York comes from, you can't not include Orange Lutheran. It’s a blessing and it's an honor. It's something that I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life.”

Topics from this blog: Athletics Alumni Stories