PREP BASKETBALL: Players to keep an eye on this season | TheUnion.com

PREP BASKETBALL: Players to keep an eye on this season

There is a youth movement going on when it come to boys basketball in Nevada County this season as Nevada Union, Bear River and Forest Lake Christian all boast young rosters teeming with talent.

As always there are several seniors that will be instrumental to their respective team's success, but this year there will also be several juniors and sophomores that will contribute major minutes and play vital roles for their squads.

Here is a list of the players to keep an eye on this season.

BREKYN VASQUEZ

Bear River, Sophomore, Guard

Vasquez, a second year varsity player, is Bear River's floor general this season.

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The incredibly athletic point guard has led the Bruins to six wins in their last seven games and a 6-5 overall record so far this season.

Vasquez is a well-rounded guard who can score in several different ways. He has a strong ability to drive to the hoop but can also step back and hit the 3-pointer. He showed off his all-around ability at the Ganskie Invitational where he averaged 13 points per game and was named the tourney MVP after leading the Bruins to the championship.

JACK FRASER

Nevada Union, Senior, Guard

Fraser really found his groove at the end of his junior season, leading all Miners in scoring in Sierra Foothill League play. He was named to the All-SFL Second Team last season for his efforts.

As a senior, the 6-foot, 1-inch tall Fraser has taken over the point guard role as well as that of senior leader.

"He's unflappable," Nevada Union head coach Mark Casey said of Fraser after a game earlier this season. "He plays really hard and we trust him. He's really committed to what we're doing and he's a real good 4-year program guy. He's been in a lot of big games and he's truly our leader."

Through 11 games this season, Fraser is averaging 11.5 points per game, 2.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

LUKE GILLILAND

Forest Lake Christian, Sophomore, Guard

Gilliland is entering his second season on the Falcons varsity team after a strong freshmen campaign.

The slender guard boasts a smooth and accurate stroke from 3-point range. As a freshmen he sank 35 percent of his 3-point attempts and was second on the team in made 3-pointers despite joining the varsity squad midway through the year.

The 6-foot tall sophomore captain averaged 13.7 points per game as a freshman a season ago and will be a major contributor for the Falcons this season.

JUSTIN GARDNER

Nevada Union, Sophomore, Guard

Gardner, a 6-foot, 4-inch multi-position player, is loaded with raw talent and ability.

He played major minutes on NU's varsity team as a freshmen and is taking on a more featured role in his sophomore season.

"This is somebody who can be really special," said Casey. "In a whisper he can put up 25 points. He's a rebounder, he's a playmaker, he's an assist guy and he's one of our best defenders."

Gardner is averaging 11.4 points per game and 4.7 rebounds so far this season.

BRAD SMITH

Bear River, sophomore, Forward

Smith is an athletic and promising young talent. He saw lots of floor time as a freshmen and looks to be a major contributor in his sophomore season.

Much taller and stronger than a season ago, Smith can play multiple positions and contribute in several different ways. The small forward is one of Bear River's best rebounders, has a nose for the ball on defense and showed he can score when needed, recently notching 20 points in a win over Foresthill.

DAWSON FAY

Nevada Union, Junior, Forward

Fay, an undersized forward, plays a lot bigger than his 6-foot, 1-inch frame would suggest.

Despite usually guarding taller players, Fay is a force on the glass and gives the Miners a scoring presence in the post.

"Super athletic, physical, quick," is how Casey described Fay. "He's a little bit undersized for where we play him, but I think he is an All-SFL caliber player as a junior."

Fay has multiple games in which he has scored more than 20 points this season and often leads the team in rebounds.

Through 11 games he is averaging 11.7 points per game and 4.9 rebounds.

SIMON BLACKBURN

Forest Lake Christian, Sophomore, Guard

The Falcons sharp shooting point guard is in his first year on the varsity team, but already has put forth several strong games and should be a big time contributor for years to come.

The 6-foot tall guard led the Falcons with 18 points in a loss to Bear River earlier this season, showing his ability to score from inside and from beyond the 3-point arc.

GARRETT PRATT

Bear River, Junior, Forward

Pratt is Bear River's biggest and most athletic front court player.

The 6-foot, 4-inch junior is in his second season on the varsity squad and is already making a major impact despite just joining the team after an extended football season.

Pratt's abilities were on full display during the Ganskie Invitational where he was the team's leading rebounder and was named to the All-Tourney team.

Other players that will also be difference makers for their respective teams will be Nevada Union guards Hayden Fay (senior small forward/guard) and Owen Dal Bon (senior guard); Bear River's Clay Corippo (senior guard) and Justin Powell (sophomore guard); and Forest Lake Christian's J.R. Molloy (sophomore center) and Ben McDonald (sophomore guard).

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.