Whittell’s young guns are a blazing
Early Saturday morning the sounds of a lone player shooting basketballs in Warrior gym at George Whittell High school in Zephyr Cove is distinctively heard.
In a darkened gym, freshman Nick Summers is working hard on his picture-perfect jump shot.
Meanwhile, another Warrior guard is sitting in the stands as his coach Steve Maltase participates in a recreational league basketball game.
Sophomore Nestor Flores is studying his mentor’s moves on the court, meticulously trying to pick up the subtle nuances of the game.
Together, the two hoopsters make up the backcourt of the 2000-2001 Whittell Warriors, and have their team poised to make a run at the Nevada state tournament for the first time since 1994.
Summers and Flores have grown up together, playing for Kingsbury Middle School and on the playgrounds of Zephyr Cove.
The two have formed a bond through the years that allows them to work in unison on the court.
“We just know each other from middle school,” Flores said. “He’s the scorer and I’m the assist man.”
Summers, who is averaging 15 points per game, has been touted as the second coming of his dad, uncle and grandfather since he was in the fourth grade.
Now, in his first year as a Warrior, the freshman is delivering on all the hype surrounding his game.
“He’s handling the pressure very well,” Maltase said. “His strong mental approach really helps out on the court.”
Summers and Flores play off each other like seasoned veterans, despite this being the first season the two have shared the court as varsity players.
“I just know where he wants the ball,” Flores said. “I can get it to him in the right place where he can catch and pop.”
The two have honed their games together by playing on tournament teams and youth squads together at Kingsbury and during the summers.
The two first hooked up on the same team three years ago, when Nestor was in eighth grade and Nick was in seventh. An eighth grade all-star team (with Nick included) traveled in the valley.
“It shows how well they play together, that it took a while for them to play that well together,” Warrior assistant John Summers said. “It does help to have that camaraderie under their belt.
“Especially when they’re having to go up against bigger, stronger players on the varsity level.”
The name Summers is not uncommon at Whittell. Nick joins his brother, sophomore Jake, on this year’s squad.
But both of them need only to walk down the halls of the school to see what mark their family has left.
Their father, John, and his brother, Jim, starred for the Warriors in the mid-1970s. In fact, Jim and John still holds numerous records at the school. Jim’s name tops the all-time career scoring at 1,533 points, most points in a quarter (20) and most points in a single season. John, meanwhile is tied with Jim for most assists and holds the best free-throw percentage for a season.
Nick and his uncle have a special bond because when Jim was a junior, he badly cut his right (shooting) wrist and was forced to shoot left-handed as a senior; and with Nick also being a southpaw, the two have shone similarities in their games.
Nick already has his eyes set on eclipsing some of those marks by the time he graduates.
“I think I can break it,” the freshman said. “But that’s quite a ways away.
“It’ll be nice to think that someday he and I will be able to talk about it.”
The family dominance does not stop with Nick and Jake’s father. Their grandfather, Jim Summers, is in the Douglas High Hall of Fame and holds the all-time single highest scoring game in Nevada prep history at 70 points.
It’s not the heavy load of living up to his family’s name and accolades that pushes Nick.
“It does help that he has that, but it’s been all him for the most part,” John said. “It started a long time ago, when he’d come to the school when I’d grade papers, he’d grab a basketball and go and shoot.”
Along the way, Nick has also been the beneficiary of outside help as well. Phil Wash, who has been affiliated with Whittell for about 11 or 12 years, has taken Nick under his wing, taking him to Sacramento Kings games, buying him books on basketball and helping him with the mental approach.
“Phil and Nick spend hours on Sunday afternoons, just shooting,” John said.
Nick is such a basketball junkie that anytime he can catch a game on TV or play at Kahle Community Center or in Carson City, he jumps at the chance.
“It’s my drive for success,” Nick said. “It’s nice to get the blend of basketball at home and at school.”
Control under pressure
Unlike Nick, Flores is not a basketball player by trade. In the fall, the sophomore led the Warrior soccer team to a Nevada 2A state runner-up finish while scoring a team-high 37 goals and 13 assists as a starting midfielder.
Flores has taken that field general mentality and used it as the point guard of the Warriors. He’s averaging eight points a game, about seven assists and four or five steals on the hardwood.
“It’s been a huge bonus to have him perform as well as he has,” Maltase said. “He’s down a great job of filling Chris Markt’s shoes this year.”
Not much was known about Flores coming into the season, but his steady play has really made believers out of the coaches and players.
“We had some older kids who weren’t sure if he’d be as controlled as he has been,” John Summers said. “That’s big to have someone in control who doesn’t turn the ball over or make dumb mistakes.”
Flores’ quickness helps him anticipate opposing teams’ moves before they happen. In a recent game against Hawthorne, the sophomore had seven steals and almost single-handedly brought his team back into the game.
“I think that the two sports (soccer and basketball) are similar,” Maltase said. “He uses his quickness from the field to cut off the angles on the court.”
Flores and Maltase have a special relationship: Tthe point guard played for Maltase on the soccer field and can be seen hanging around his mentor after games and practices.
Maltase has picked him up for practices and allowed Flores to stay at his house when his parents are out of town on occasion.
“Steve doesn’t baby him at all,” John Summers said. “I’ve seen him give Nestor a butt chewing at certain times.”
Although the two teammates have different approaches to the game, one thing is sure, they should be a force to reckon with over the next few years. And who knows, future players may be gunning for their records.
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