February 10, 2011

Rising Prospect in Watsonville

Kevin McCarthy

Size 18 soccer shoes are a rare item. Not being able to locate a pair, in part, led Ivo Basor to put his Andrés Cantor “goalllllllllllll” dreams aside and focus on the hardwood. Soccer’s loss is now basketball’s gain as the 6-foot-8 Watsonville High junior is now averaging a double-double on game nights.

photo of Ivor Basor

Watsonville is in the southern part of Santa Cruz County, with a Hispanic majority but a longtime Croatian population. Basor was born and raised there, enmeshed in playing soccer. "I played since I was five years old," Basor explained.

But come high school, the difficulty in finding footwear brought that participation to a halt. That, and as Basor noted, "my friends were playing basketball." So his sports effort began taking place in a gymnasium, not a field.

Regarding his attraction to basketball, he expresses it quite different from most -- "it’s fast-paced and physical plus there’s a beauty to it when you and your team are playing good basketball."

But the transition wasn’t without difficulty.

"My first year, I played on the freshman team," Basor said. "I was brought up to varsity as a sophomore but my skills weren’t as grown as they should have been."

That’s where Watsonville Coach Mike Blum and John Swift, coach of the Team Santa Cruz basketball club, entered into the equation.

According to Basor, "Coach Blum and Coach Swift are the people who have helped me the most, my biggest influences. I didn’t play AAU before last summer and it has really helped with developing my skills and my [basketball] IQ." About the differences in his play from his initial year to now, Basor said "I didn’t see openings back then but playing and practicing more often, you learn and know what to do."

Blum whose basketball résumé includes coaching in the high school, junior college and professional ranks, plus time at the United States Sports Academy, is enamored with his junior. "Ivo has a great work ethic and a good attitude -- he’s a coach’s dream. He’s a high quality young man from a great family and his father also attended Watsonville High and taught here. Ivo responded well when I asked him to take a leadership role and we also have a great senior class displaying leadership. He handles post-game meetings, never misses a workout day and he’ll just keep getting better and better."

"The most exciting thing is his best numbers are coming against good teams," Blum added. "He’s getting on the radar of a lot of people."

Here’s Swift on his player: "Ivo is a relatively young inexperienced player -- he has played basketball for only three years -- but is still putting up great numbers. He is a big, large-framed 6-foot-8 who is just beginning to learn how to use his size. This is a player with tremendous upside and one of the most coachable players I have worked with in my 25 years of coaching. He is an extremely quick learner who effectively executes in games what he was taught in practice. He is also an excellent free throw shooter. This summer, I am confident that he will make huge strides in his high-post game and outside shot to add to the soft hands, good court vision, rebounding skills and ability to finish around the basket that he has demonstrated in his junior year high school season. I am really excited about what the future holds for Ivo. He has a work effort and attitude that will serve him well in whatever choices he makes."

By the way, the Wildcatz are currently 18-4, 10-1 in Monterey Bay Athletic League play.

Asked about his best basketball moment, Basor said, "Definitely this year. We played Monterey [High], beat them by 15 and I had 29 points and 22 rebounds. We lost to them last year by 40."

Another aspect of Basor’s uniqueness is his idea of possibly majoring in foreign languages come college. When’s the last time you read that? Academics are of no concern as he possesses a 3.4 grade point average and is currently enrolled in four AP classes.

As for recruiting, he’s fairly wide open -- "I’ll go where I get the best offer" -- but would like the opportunity to stay in California.

That’s a cue for Golden State coaches to start forming a queue.