Gold Beach senior Gianni Altman signals his point total after Tuesday night's win over Del Norte (Calif.).
Gold Beach senior Gianni Altman signals his point total after Tuesday night's win over Del Norte (Calif.).

At 5-foot-11 and 140 pounds, Gold Beach senior Gianni Altman doesn't strike an imposing figure on the basketball court.

But put the basketball in his hands, and opponents are at his mercy.

Coming off a junior year in which he averaged 28.4 points per game, the left-handed Altman is up to 35.0 so far this season. That includes a 52-point explosion Tuesday in an 88-79 win over Del Norte (Calif.), breaking his school record of 49 from last season.

“If he was 6-2, he would probably be in the top 25,” said Gold Beach coach Korby Altman, his father. “His bag is full. He shoots with his right and his left. There's not a shot he can't shoot and knock it down with regularity.”

Against Del Norte, Gianni was 10 of 19 from the field, including 5 of 10 from three-point range, and made 27 of 29 free throws. He also had five assists, four rebounds and six steals in the win for the 2A Panthers (4-1).

Gianni repeatedly beat his defender and earned trips to the line. The 27 made free throws is No. 2 in state history, behind only Grant's Brandon Brooks, who hit 32 of 37 against Lincoln in 1998.

Gianni showed off his athleticism against Del Norte, too, dunking four times. He began dunking as a 5-8 sophomore and is soaring to new heights this season.

“It's not like little rim-grazers, too, he's throwing them down,” Korby said of Gianni, who has cleared 5-10 in the high jump. “Reverses, windmills, it's pretty fun to watch.”

Often undersized against opponents, Gianni plays with his doubters in mind.

“I always feel that way.” he said. “Sometimes I get a little defensive. I have a drive because I don't want you to be right. I think it's a blessing more than a negative.”

Gianni moved to Gold Beach from Oakland, Calif., as an eighth-grader with his father, who teaches PE in the district. He played varsity as a freshman and sophomore on teams that finished 5-19 and 0-13, respectively, and was the driving force last season for a team that went 16-11 and shared the Sunset Conference title with Bandon.

A deadly deep shooter – he hit 11 three-pointers in a game as a junior – Gianni has become more of a threat off the dribble in the last two seasons.

“He's not fast, but he's quick,” Korby said. “He's really herky-jerky, a lot of hesitation. And he finishes everything. Somehow he gets the ball in the basket at weird angles. You're like, 'How did that go in?' But he keeps doing it, so maybe it's not lucky.”

Defenses have to pick their poison against him.

“If you sag on him, he's going to hit it,” Korby said. “And his range is 30 to 35 feet. It's not at the line. If you don't pick him up full-court, he's going to do something. But then if you pick him up full-court, he's going to go by you. So it's a catch-22.”

Gianni draws inspiration from watching highlights of Larry Bird and Luka Doncic.

“He likes the ball fakes, kind of old-school basketball,” Korby said. “But he has the Mamba mentality. Practice ends and everybody goes home, and he stays. He's up at five in the morning, working on his jumping and box drills. He just doesn't want to get outworked.”

Gianni has elite stamina. As a junior, he placed fifth in the 3,000 meters and seventh in the 1,500 at the 2A track meet. He was seventh in the 3A/2A/1A cross country meet this fall.

Korby recalled a road trip to California last season when Gianni woke up at five in the morning to go out for a training run.

“We had a game in five hours,” Korby said. “And he says, 'It's going to be a short run, only about five miles.' And he scored 49 that game.”

Gold Beach went winless in conference play for two seasons before going 10-2 in the Sunset last season. The entire starting lineup has returned this season as Gianni is joined by senior forward Dylan Middleton, junior guard Jake Westerman, junior center Nelson Wilstead and senior guard Landyn Miller.

Westerman and Middleton help take the scoring load off Gianni, each averaging 14 points per game. With more players capable of consistent offensive production this season, opponents can't afford to sell out against Gianni.

“This year, our kids are pretty ready to catch and shoot,” Korby said.

Gianni is focusing more on making winning plays this season.

“I had to figure out new ways where I just can't score my way out of a problem,” he said. “And I have to be a winner. There are good players, but the better ones win the game. Not just flashy stuff.”

Gianni is looking to help Gold Beach make some noise in the 2A playoff this season. After that, he is hopeful to continue playing basketball in college. He said he is interested in schools such as Hawaii Pacific, Cal Poly Humboldt and Western Oregon.

“I'm shooting for Division II schools, wherever I can,” he said.

He was hoping to gain exposure last summer, but after making the Oakland Soldiers AAU team, he broke his ankle in a early-summer game against Marshfield. He joined Elite 24 out of Portland later in the summer but mostly just sat and watched.

“That was a big letdown,” he said. “I don't look like I can do anything, and I never got the opportunity to prove myself. It was hard to overcome. It's always, 'I can't do this or that,' but I always try to prove them wrong.”

Korby said that colleges are “starting to knock on the door a little more lately.”

“His name's not out there yet,” Korby said. “It's unfortunate, because he could probably start on a Division II team right now. He wears the glasses, and he's skinny, and he doesn't look like he would play basketball. People go, 'That can't be him,' and then he gets on the court.”