PREP BASKETBALL: Local players to keep an eye on this season
The prep basketball season is in full swing as local teams are battling it out in tournaments spanning the region.
As with every season, there are returning stars and handfuls of new faces all coming together in basketball congress with the hope of leading their teams to basketball glory.
The boys teams from Nevada Union, Bear River and Forest Lake Christian all boast talented players looking to make the 2016-17 season a successful one for their respective squads.
Here are some local ballers to keep an eye on this season:
Gary Menary, Nevada Union, SG/SF, 6-2
Menary, a three-year varsity player and two year starter, is a stat sheet stuffer.
As the lone remaining starter from last season’s playoff team, Menary has stepped into a leadership role this season and has led Nevada Union to a 4-2 start.
“Last year (Menary) was often the second or third option, and this year we need him to step up and be more of a primary option,” Nevada Union co-head coach Jeff Dellis said. “He’s adapting to that role. More and more he has been able to hit big shots for us.”
Menary has topped the 20-point mark multiple times this season and has several double-doubles (points-rebounds).
Solomon Branch, Bear River, PG, 6-0
Branch, in his second year on the varsity squad, steps into the point guard position at Bear River — a role he is very familiar with.
“I’ve played point guard my whole life, I’m comfortable there,” he said.
Branch played in all 24 of Bear River’s games last season, averaging 5.2 points per game and 1.9 steals.
Bear River head coach Gregg Pistochini said he expects Branch to have a strong season and do big things for the Bruins.
“Solomon Branch at the point guard is probably one of the most athletic kids in the (Pioneer Valley League),” Pistochini said.
Brett Soria, Forest Lake Christian, G, 5-10
Through the Falcons’ first eight games, Soria is yet to be held to single digits in scoring. The crafty guard has scored 11-plus points in every game this season and is averaging 17.4 per game. Soria is also a standout on defense with a team-best 4.5 steals per game.
Landen Clark, Bear River, F, 6-6
For years the Bruins have lacked size in the post — now they have it in the form of Clark.
Clark gives Bear River a strong presence in the post, but can also step out beyond the 3-point arc and hit shots.
“Landen Clark is a physical beast for his size, agility and athleticism,” said Pistochini.
Through six games this season, Clark leads the Bruins is scoring.
Alex Schneider, Forest Lake Christian, G, 6-2
Schneider is in his third year on the Falcons’ varsity squad, and is off to a good start to his senior season. The talented guard is second on his team in scoring with 12.5 points per game, and first on the squad in rebounding with 6.9 per game. Schneider also leads the team in assists with four per game.
Jimmy Kelly, Bear River, G/SF, 6-2
Kelly was one of the first reserves off Bear River’s bench last season, but this season he is in the starting lineup and will be counted on to make a big impact.
Kelly’s shooting ability has already drawn the praise of his coaches and teammates.
“Kelly is as a good a shooter as there is in the league,” Pistochini said.
Branch echoed his coaches’ sentiment.
“Jimmy Kelly is one of the best shooters I’ve seen play,” Branch said. “He’s really comfortable pulling up from anywhere. He’s got really good range. He should be exciting to watch this season.”
Jack Fraser, Nevada Union, G, 6-2
Fraser is starting in his first season on the varsity squad and has already shown he can compete with anybody on the court. Fraser has a smooth jump shot and can also drive to the hoop. He will be counted on to play big minutes and make big plays for the Miners this season.
“He’s fundamentally sound and we expect big things from him,” said NU co-head coach Mark Casey.
Clay Corippo, Bear River, G, 6-0
Corippo is in his first year on the varsity squad and is already carving out significant playing time. The junior guard continues to impress coaches and teammates with his shooting ability.
Owen Dal Bon, Nevada Union, G, 5-11
Dal Bon, in his first season on varsity, is regarded as one of the Miners most versatile players and best defenders.
“He’s a heady player,” said Casey. “He’s going to get a lot of minutes.”
UP & COMERS
Dawson Fay, Nevada Union, F, 6-1
Fay, a sophomore, is an undersized post player, but what he lacks in height he makes up in strength,
“He’s an undersized kid but he’s strong. He makes us a lot stronger down low,” Casey said. “He will give us important minutes in the paint. He’s very physical and very skilled. He’s an athlete. He will do some good things for us right now.”
Calder Kunde, Bear River, G, 6-1
Kunde, a sophomore, has already earned a spot in Bear River’s starting lineup and will be a key contributor this season.
Garrett Pratt, Bear River, F, 6-2
Pratt is the second sophomore starter on the Bruins squad and has already drawn praise from teammates for his improvement in the post.
Cole Loper, Nevada Union, PG, 5-10
Loper, a sophomore, starts for the Miners and has coaches buzzing about his potential.
“We think he can be something really special here,” Casey said. “We think he can be one of the best point guards we’ve had.”
Justin Gardner, Nevada Union, G, 6-3
Gardner is the lone freshmen on the NU varsity squad and a key contributor off the bench.
“He’s a player who I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts a number of games for us,” said Casey. “I really think he’s that good. We expect big things from him.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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