By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Trace Yager has deadly aim from practically any angle or distance. He’s cool in the clutch and has a strong inside game. And that’s just on the golf course.
You should see him on the basketball court.
Yager, one of the Redwood Empire’s top prep golfers, is our All-Empire Small School Player of the Year for basketball, an honor that comes as no surprise to his coach at Point Arena, Warren Galletti.
“Trace can take over a game,” Galletti said. “In a close game, he’ll take over. He just does things you can’t teach.”
And he does a lot of them. At 6-foot-3, Yager had a height advantage over most small-school opponents. But he did much more than camp inside the paint.
Yager is a capable outside shooter, a brilliant passer, a good defender and a skilled ball handler.
Galletti said he would have liked to play Yager at point guard, but needed his height inside, so he more often played the kid at forward.
“I never thought about being a diverse player,” Yager said. “I have enough ball-handling and shooting skills to be a guard, but I was always the tallest kid.”
The senior’s season averages reflect his versatility: 21.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game. He shot 51 percent from the floor. A four-year starter, Yager leaves Point Arena with 1,825 career points.
This year, the Pirates went 24-4, tied Laytonville and Mendocino for the NCL III championship and secured the No. 1 seed in the North Coast Section Division 6 playoffs, though they were upset by Rincon Valley Christian in a semifinal game.
To be honest, there were games in which Yager and Point Arena were able to coast a little this winter, and Yager didn’t always stand out in those games — a theme magnified by his smooth, seemingly effortless style of play. When the contests were more tightly contested, that’s where Yager’s talents emerged.
“The shot clock winding down, you’re up one or down one. You need a big bucket and there’s a second on the clock — that’s what gets me excited,” Yager said.
He plans to play at Santa Barbara City College next year, with hopes of transferring to a UC school. Galletti doesn’t think he’ll have difficulty doing so. “His grades are awesome. His SATs are amazing. He can get in anywhere,” said Galletti, who also happens to be the Point Arena principal.
ALL-EMPIRE FIRST TEAM
Kasey Cazet, Rincon Valley Christian, senior
Alec Fetzer, St. Helena, senior
Max Huff, Kelseyville, senior
Luke Humphrey, Middletown, senior
Ilan Zur, Summerfield Waldorf, junior
Peter Delbondio, St. Helena, senior
Jacob Hicks, Rincon Valley Christian, sophomore
Colby Kelley, Laytonville, senior
Evan Knight, St. Vincent de Paul, junior
Dustin Thaxton, Kelseyville, senior
Jezreel Brown, Rio Lindo Adventist, junior
Nick Delia, Middletown, senior
Kyle Donald, Clear Lake, senior
Benji Rifati, Sonoma Academy, senior
Dom Cerutti, Mendocino, senior
COACH OF THE YEAR
Darren Nelson, Rincon Valley Christian