2016 Pemberton Township High School graduate Taro Gaither was named the boys basketball team's head coach at his alma mater. Photo provided for D2 Sports Network
Taro Gaither walked out of a Pemberton Township High School basketball practice as a senior during the last week of 2015.
Gaither was frustrated after sitting a majority of the second half in a recent loss to St. John Vianney as a result of foul trouble. At the team's next practice, a misunderstanding prompted the disgruntled senior to feel he was being singled out so he exited the gymnasium.
He didn't return to the team for the remainder of winter break.
When students returned to school in January, Gaither decided to talk with former Pemberton coach Roy Heck after assistant coach Mike Thomas had a heart-to-heart conversation with him over the phone.
He rejoined his teammates.
"I was never quitting the team," Gaither said. "That was never the idea to quit the team."
Gaither emerged as the Hornets' sixth man when they captured their first sectional crown in program history. Pemberton rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit for a 70-67 win over top-seeded Ewing in the Central Jersey Group 3 final in 2016. Gaither began the season as a starter, but Heck decided to move him to a reserve role to prevent Gaither from picking up two early fouls in contests and having to sit for the remainder of the opening half. The senior still led the team in minutes played and ended up being a catalyst off the bench.
"Taro was in the game when it was crunch time," Heck said. "As the season progressed, I thought Taro coming off the bench was a huge spark for us. We're not losing anything with him coming off the bench and in most aspects we're getting better just because he's physical, he can rebound, he can get to the rim. He could defend anyone we were playing against. Those were great qualities he brought to the team."