Thursday, June 26, 2014

Presenting UC Davis' recruiting class

UC Davis athletics serves up a solid summary of Coach Jim Les' recruiting class:

Their Season Has Already Started
Off-season workouts continue for the four newest members of UC Davis men's basketball
June 25, 2014

Instead of visiting the beach, river, lake, or taking road trips with their friends, Isaiah Walton, Josh Fox, Neal Monson and Nolan Berry–four student-athletes who can now call themselves Aggies after signing their respective National Letter of Intent–have chosen to spend their break at a variety of less tropical locales throughout the months of June, July and August. 

The track, weight room and gym are the destinations of choice for a group of individuals who have, and will continue to conduct individual workouts on their own in preparation for upcoming team preseason practices.

Recent seasons have been successful ones for each player; by working hard, eating properly and taking care of their academic commitments, Walton, Fox, Monson and Berry are all ready to make the sacrifices needed to continue succeeding both in the classroom, and on the court once they arrive to UC Davis.

Crossing the 1,000 career-point mark as Elyria High School’s top player throughout his four-year career, Walton, the first student-athlete to commit to the Aggies when he inked a NLI during last fall’s signing period, was named All-Lorain County Division I Player of the Year after averaging 21.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. In addition to receiving the county's most prestigious award at the D-I level, Walton also earned a spot on the All-Lorain first team. 

Walton was also the only player from Lorain County to earn D-I all-Ohio honors.

Hailing from Oberlin, Ohio, the 6-foot-3 guard, lauded as one of the top players of that position in Ohio's Class of 2014 by numerous prep pundits, committed to the UC Davis shortly after his official visit. 

"I liked everything about the campus," said Walton. "The people were really friendly, the gym and athletic facilities are great and the campus is so nice it actually looks like a vacation resort.

"Coach Les played in the NBA at the same position that I play, so who better for me to learn from?"

The first of three student-athletes to commit last spring, Fox, a 6-foot-8 forward now has an opportunity to compete in front of his family and hometown friends for the final two years of his collegiate career.

A four-year letterwinner at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, Fox led the Irish to four Central Coast Section championships and two Northern California Division III titles. In addition to those championship runs, the Irish advanced to the second round of the playoffs in Fox’s sophomore and junior seasons.

Fox competed for junior college powerhouse City College of San Francisco this past season, helping the Rams advance to the regional championship. A key component for a CCSF team that was ranked No. 1 in the California Community College Athletic Association poll throughout the season and recorded 28 straight victories, Fox averaged 9.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, shot .466 from the floor and .372 from three.

The Daly City native competed for UC Riverside throughout the 2012-13 season, averaged 9.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game before returning to Northern California at the end of the year. Shortly thereafter, Fox enrolled at CCSF.

Once 6-foot-11 forward Neal Monson and 6-foot-10 power forward Nolan Berry joined the Aggies after competing for Salt Lake Community College and Butler respectively last year, UC Davis’ presence in the paint and depth increased immediately.

In his lone year at SLCC, Monson quickly earned a spot in the Bruins’ starting lineup and competed as head coach Todd Phillips’ primary center. The only player to earn a start in every game played, Monson averaged 14.4 points and led his team in rebounding at 8.4 per game.

Even though they fell short of their ultimate goal–Bruins dropped a heartbreaking decision at the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championships on a buzzer-beater–it’s fair to say that Monson was one of the main reasons why SLCC was able to make a legitimate run at the title for the first time in years.

The Bruins’ leading scorer in 16 of their games, and top rebounder in 15, Monson logged a double-double on a team-high 10 occasions, fell one rebound shy in another three games and led all players with 36 blocks–nearly 30 percent of his team’s total. 

For his on-court success, the NJCAA named Monson an All-American and recognized his accomplishments with a spot on its honorable mention list.

Before embarking on a two-year LDS mission in Oaxaca, Mexico, Monson was slated to compete for the men’s basketball team at Utah. Instead, he chose community service over athletics and traveled south to begin his brief respite from academics and basketball.

Once completed, Monson enrolled at Salt Lake Community College last summer to help ease the transition from life as a missionary, to one as a student-athlete.

After considering potential opportunities with various East Coast and Midwest programs, Berry felt that UC Davis provided the perfect opportunity to pursue a degree at a prestigious academic institution, and the best fit for his athletic skill set.

“The school, and the city of Davis are two reasons why I chose the Aggies,” said Berry. “The team’s playing style and the comfort level I had with the coaching staff strongly influenced my decision.”

A three-star recruit in high school, Berry competed in 18 games for the Bulldogs as a freshman. Known for his rare combination of size, skill and feel for the game, Butler’s skilled forward often influenced the game on the defensive end of the court. 

A four-year letterwinner and three-year starter at De Smet High School, Berry ended his high school career as the program’s No. 2 all-time scorer. Upon graduation, he was ranked No. 26 among all power forwards and No. 120 in the nation overall by; listed Berry as its No. 22 overall power forward. 

In addition to receiving All-State first team recognition on three occasions, the Metro Catholic Conference also honored Berry with first team honors in his final three years. A second team All-Metro selection as a sophomore, he earned a spot on the first team in his junior and senior seasons.

In his final year at De Smet, Berry averaged 20.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.38 blocks per game and shot an outstanding .579 percent from the field. Those head-turning numbers were posted after Berry averaged a near double-double with 19.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a junior and 18.4/6.6/2.5 as a sophomore.

Due to NCAA transfer rules and regulations, Berry will not compete for UC Davis until the start of the 2015-16 season and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

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