Monday, April 24, 2017

Sokol to the Southland

Cal State Northridge Coach Reggie Theus ended the season theoretically stocked with experience and scoring power in the backcourt thanks to the presence of Kendall Smith and Darin Johnson. But the former became a graduate transfer and the latter opted to turn professional so Theus once again reached up north and grabbed 6-foot-6 Alex Sokol, the sweet-shooting guard out of Valley Christian High in San Jose.

"The main reason I chose CSN was Coach Theus, and also assistant Jason Levy," Sokol explained. "Coach Theus saw something in me, a vision, and he believes in me. He wants me to come in and immediately impact his team."

Sokol continued, "I was recruited for shooting the ball as they liked what they saw in high school from me. I'll also be bringing good energy and a good attitude. I'm going work my butt off and do anything the coaches ask me to do."

Originally, hoops was not his sole participatory sport. "Basketball was my third sport until I got to high school  as I played soccer plus ran cross country and track. I was cut from the freshman A team, made the B team and I told myself 'I don't want to be cut again.'"

Enter Raymond Townsend, who played at Archbishop Mity and Camden High before heading to UCLA to play under John Wooden. After college, he was drafted in the first round by the Golden State Warriors and became the first Filipino-American to make the NBA.

"Raymond has trained me for three years beginning as a high school sophomore," Sokol recalled. "He taught me the mental part of basketball and I became fully committed to the sport in high school."

Here's Townsend on his protege: "Alex asked me early on if he was a D1 player and I said 'not yet.'"

But rather than be offended, Sokol went to work. He improved to the extent he became a starter at Valley Christian as a junior.

"Townsend added, "He has a shooting machine in his backyard and he took 280,000 shots in three years -- that's the commitment he has to get better. There's no sense of entitlement with him. Alex is very mature with a big heart and a high basketball IQ. He plays very old school and understands things like counters, back screens, down screens and back cuts. There were 18 universities we were negotiating with and it came down to Cal and Northridge. Then Cuonzo Martin left."

Willis Gardner, the former Ohlone College and Colorado State guard, has also played a prominent role as Sokol was a member of his San Jose-based Team Elite spring and summer travel team. "Alex is a great kid and a great human being who is dedicated to basketball, his family and his friends. He's a competitor who will do anything for his team and he can take criticism. I see him developing and doing great at Cal State Northridge."

Abiut first-year Valley Christian Coach Mark DeLuca, Sokol offered, "He's a good guy" in praise.

Each of these adults played a crucial role in Sokol's life. "My father pased away when I was in the sixth grade and it's important to find people you can trust. Raymond is a father figure to me."

Sokol holds three memories as his hoops highlights. "I made CCS Player of the Week when I was leading northern California in scoring during the pre-season. Then we played at Santa Clara in the CCS championship game against Mountain View -- it was about 10 years ago when that last happened. Plus, I got to go up and play with the Cal players this season and that helped me out by seeing the way they worked."

Sokol is being looked at as a shooting guard who might also play some wing. He is still undecided but "most likely I will major in major in business and I want to get a Master's."

He added, "I want to thank my Mom and say that in the end, without her support and time, none of what I have done and will do would be possible."

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