Despite graduating four starters, Christopher boys basketball develops and reloads for another potentially special season – Gilroy Dispatch
Christopher High’s boys’ basketball program now appears to be at the point where, even if it makes four starters like last year’s team, it has the coaching and talent needed to not make a leap the following season.
So did the Cougars, who improved to 6-2 on December 15 after beating Hollister High 77-30. Christopher has looked impressive in his wins and even solid in his losses. Both of the Cougars’ losses come in quality contests: to Burlingame 45-44 in the Westmont Tournament championship game on December 2; and a three-point loss in double overtime to Los Gatos in the Lions Club Wildcat Shootout title game on December 9.
Pretty impressive considering several players who didn’t get much or no playing time last year are accumulating more minutes this season. They include Tyler Green, Gurshan Nahal, Nico Ragasa, Rafael Urrabazo and Sam Guenther.
The best player on the team is of course Braddock Kjellesvig, the big man who is 6ft 5 second runner-up who leads the team by a wide margin in terms of goals. At around 20 points per game, Kjellesvig came onto the scene as a freshman last year and has only improved in his sophomore year.
All of his moves were featured in the Los Gatos competition, when he posted a game-high 26 points against an ultra-physical competition. Utilizing solid footwork, Kjellesvig used a series of up and unders, reverse pivots, jab and cross, baseline spins, step throughs and slide steps to break away from his defenders and finish 10 of 14 from the floor, which was highly efficient shooting percentage.
“Right now Braddock has a low goal and we’re just looking for other guys to fill the parts,” said Cougars coach Adam Sax.
Top returnee Chigozie Okeke is a senior point guard and is good at many things including hitting shots from the outside, playing a tough outside defense and making it to the basket when it comes to dribbling. Senior post Chris Naulls is also a standout returnee, rebounding, playing tough defense and offering physical presence. Braddock’s older brother Christian is the other top returnee. However, the 6-4 senior wing is eliminated with a stress fracture.
Sax hopes Christian can return at the end of January and if Christian resembles the form he was a year ago, watch out. A veteran player who can make it at both ends of the parquet, Christian would offer the team another top-scoring option and potentially be the X-factor for the team to earn another Central Coast Section playoff title run.
Last season, the Cougars earned a share of the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Gabilan Division championship before advancing to their first CCS title game in program history and defeating a hot-shooting 70-year-old Lynbrook team in the Division II Finals: 64 documents.
CHS switched leagues this season and is now in the Mount Hamilton East Division of the Blossom Valley Athletic League with Sobrato, Leland, Oak Grove, Santa Teresa and Silver Creek. Sax knows what he’s getting with Braddock Kjellesvig and Okeke.
However, the development of the supporting cast will be a big contributor to what CHS achieves this season. Green is a backup point guard and has made strong progress in his sophomore year. At 5-9 and 128 pounds, Green is usually the smallest player on the floor when he’s on.
However, he plays much larger than his size and gives the team a solid ball leader. Ragasa had seven points in a win over Amador Valley on December 14, returnees Tim McCain had four points in just five minutes and Nahal has the potential to heat up from the outside.
Though the Cougars narrowly lost to Los Gatos — a game in which they started with three sophomores — Sax knows the younger players will learn from these kinds of white-knuckle contests.
“We have a lot of young people going through their first college experiences and I think as they go through that they’ll learn,” Sax said. “When the pressure is on you have to step up and I think they’re learning the speed of the game. It’s great for these guys to get through a game like this, have a little bit of adversity, how to handle clock situations, it’s good.
Sax was also pleased with player development in other facets of the game.
“I like the intensity they show,” he said. “We’re starting to learn how to defend as a group and a team, not just as an individual. Our passing game is starting to develop and we’re getting a little bit better every day and that’s sort of our goal.”