April 11, 2016

Straight-shooting Niles Malone

Kevin McCarthy
 

photo of Niles Malone

Karl Malone and the late Moses Malone were bigs in both size and basketball impact. Niles Malone, no relation to either, stands 5-foot-10 but he's a large reason Berkeley High played for the state championship this season.

Malone scored 18 points when Berkeley won the Division 1 NorCal title with a 61-51 victory over Menlo-Atherton High at Sleep Train Arena. In the state championship pairing versus Crespi High, he again totaled 18 points and earlier amidst the Yellowjackets' five-game win streak at the end, he finished with 20 points versus Jesuit High.

He sees his shooting range and accuracy plus finishing through contact as his best basketball skills. “I had a straight jump shot from the beginning but I needed more arc so I got in the gym and did a lot of repetitions.” Malone also possesses a quick release on his shot and credits a certain Bay Area basketball figure; “I got that from watching Steph Curry and studying his release.”

He continued, “My Dad, who was the star of the team when he was at McClymonds before he got hurt, put a basketball in my hands when I was three. I truly love basketball” although Malone had a diversion with football before the joy on the court eliminated playing on the grass field.

His spring and summer travel team is the Berkeley Red Devils and that squad has also enjoyed success. “Last year in Anaheim in the Gold Bracket, we lost in semi-finals. In the Big Foot tournament in Las Vegas, we won a championship.”

Because he isn't the biggest, he actively changed his game. “I've gotten more crafty with my game. I was pretty short and I'd get swatted a lot doing the same moves when I played earlier. Now I have more tricks in my bag.”

Asked to talk about some of his best basketball moments, he detailed three, only one directly personal: “In a game against James Logan, I was struggling at the beginning and then unexpectedly, I went off for 35 points.” He then noted, “The regular championship game because you dream of playing on an NBA court and we won on an NBA court. We were so happy to be there.” His third highlight is “the state championship game even though we lost. I was at the Bishop O'Dowd - Mater Dei [state championship] game at Cal last year and it's crazy that we would be playing this year.”

However, the season wasn't simply a put-on-the-uniform and then a straight run to the NorCal championship followed by the state title game. As Malone recalled, “We started 9-0 but then we lost a game (the next one also). Everybody turned on each other and started playing selfish. We had to stop that.” The Yellowjackets did so and ended up downing Oak Grove, Jesuit, Monte Vista and then Menlo-Atherton. Jesuit and Monte Vista were road victories.

Malone currently has a 3.5 grade point average and, as he proudly noted, “last year it was 3.0.” He enjoys drawing and sketching and is leaning towards majoring in graphic design.

On the court, “I want to play the point.” Clever and with range plus a quick release, his talents makes for an intriguing prospect.