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Optimist basketball Saturday

As Nevada Union basketball coach Jeff Dellis walked off the ARCO Arena floor with his senior captains Tyler Smith and Kevin Nelson after losing in the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals on March 2, he thought it was the last time he would share a bench with the two players.

However, Dellis and his players will be reunited Saturday night when they participate in the 29th Annual Optimist All-Star Basketball game at Natomas High School. Smith and Nelson are members of the 16-man North roster, while Dellis and his Nevada Union coaching staff, consisting of Rich Simpton and Kevin Nelson, Sr., will coach the North team.

This is the first time a Nevada Union player has been selected to play in the game since current University of Maine point guard Jon Sheets did so in 2003. Only seniors are eligible to play.



The North squad does, however, have its work cut out against a South team filled to the brim with standout players. In fact the South’s entire starting lineup consists of players who have nailed down full-ride scholarships to Division I colleges.

Leading the way are Sacramento’s Kevin Galloway (USC), Kennedy’s Zach Graves (Montana), Oak Ridge’s Ryan Anderson (California) and Franklin’s C.J. Morgan (University of the Pacific).




“Most of the kids in this game have played against each other for years in high school or AAU ball, so its fun to have them all on the same roster,” Dellis said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never coached an all-star team before.”

Smith and Nelson are not the only western Nevada County players on the North squad, as they are joined by Forest Lake Christian center Nate Holt. A shot-blocking phenom standing at 6-foot-8, Holt finished his high school career as a first-team all Central Valley Christian League selection.

Despite not having played together in high school, Holt and Smith’s paths did cross quite often as they were growing up. Nate’s dad, Ken, coached at Nevada Union with Tyler’s dad, Gene, while the kids were in elementary school, thus allowing them to spend some quality time on the court together.

Another reunion will take place in the girls game as Forest Lake Christian’s Taylor Kilgore and Nevada Union’s Olympia Jacobs were selected to play for the North squad in the girls game.

Jacobs played at Forest Lake Christian during her first three years of high school, playing for the Miners in just her senior year. Both players were starters on the Forest Lake Christian Division V state championship team in 2004 and each earned first-team all league honors in their respective leagues this season after leading their teams in scoring.

The girls game tips off at 6 p.m. as the boys follow at 8 p.m. with admission $8 for adults, $5 for students and free for those 12 and under.

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To contact sportswriter Stacy Hicklin, e-mail stacyh@theunion.com or call 477-4244.


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