Milani honored as best of the best
The selection of a boys basketball most valuable player in the Sierra Foothill League is a matter of measuring greatness against another brand of greatness.
When the league’s coaches sat down to make the official selection for the 2009-10 season, one player rose above the crowd because of the level to which he elevated his team.
Woodcreek forward Nik Milani is that player, as the senior lifted his team to the Northern California championship game before its season ended on a last-second shot. This, just two years after he, as a sophomore, was part of a varsity team that did not win a single league contest.
“What separates Nik from the rest of the players in the league is he seemed to be the glue that held Woodcreek together,” said Granite Bay coach Jason Sitterud. “He hit a lot of big shots against us, and always seemed to make the big play when his team needed it most.”
“Nik Milani does everything well,” said Oakmont coach Rick Campbell. “He can score inside and out (he took over in the second half of our game at Arco), he isn't afraid to take big shots, and he is a very strong defender and rebounder. As far as we were concerned, he was the key that made them go.”
And go they did, with an overall record of 28-6, an SFL crown and a Sac-Joaquin Section title.
For Milani, it was not so much a statistical domination, though he did post great numbers (18 points, 6 rebounds per game), but about what he meant to the team. The Sierra Foothill League placed three teams among the top eight in Northern California (Woodcreek, Oakmont and Rocklin), and the Timberwolves were the best of the three.
“Nik was the best all-around player on the best team in the SFL,” said Woodcreek coach Burnel Pinkerton. “He did it all for us as a three-year varsity starter. He is the smartest basketball player that either coach Tangney or I have ever coached.”
Two of Milani’s teammates join him on the all-SFL first team, as 6-foot-11 center Mike Kurtz and guard Ryan Milat got the nod from the coaches.
Kurtz, who is headed for UC Davis on a basketball scholarship, was a major presence in the paint for the Timberwolves.
“Mount Kurtz is greatest shot blocker I have ever coached,” Pinkerton said. He can change the game with his defense, and he got better as the season went on. He could have said I got mine (his scholarship) but was the total team guy all the way.”
Milat was Mr. Outside for Woodcreek, as the player who delivered the perimeter game to compliment what the Timberwolves did inside. He scored 14 consecutive fourth-quarter points in one game at Oakmont to put his big-game skills on full display.
“These three were the cornerstone of the team because if they don't buy in, then nobody else will,” Pinkerton said. “Ryan, Nik, Coach Tangney and I suffered through that 7-21 season two years ago and I think that Nik and Ryan were determined not to let anything get in the way of us having a great year their senior year. As they say, ‘it is amazing what a group of young men can do when nobody cares who gets the credit.’”
Two Oakmont stars are also part of the SFL’s first unit, as 6-8 senior center Tony Gill and 6-3 senior point guard Fred Mobley earned that honor.
“Tony can do it all,” Campbell said. “He may be the most skilled player in our league. He too can score from inside or out. He has great hands and court vision to go with great basketball instincts. Tony can take over when he needs to, or can find the open man when he becomes the center of the defensive attention.”
“Freddy really made the difference for us this year, Campbell said. “He became the point guard we so desperately needed. He was our primary ball handler all season and got the ball into the hands of his teammates to create quality scoring opportunities. When needed, Fred could create a scoring opportunity for himself, or others, which made him a difficult match-up for others.”
Granite Bay’s Robert Duncan was one of two juniors to make the first-team honor roll in the SFL. Having moved in from Tennessee, Duncan quickly found his place with the Grizzlies.
“He is a great athlete who could make plays that would cause you to turn your head and say to yourself, ‘Did he just do what I think I saw him do?’” Sitterud said. “He has a tremendous drive to succeed and make those around him better. He was one of our hardest workers, usually the first one to practice and the last one to leave.”
Sierra Foothill League 2009-10 boys all-league basketball team
MVP – Nik Milani, senior forward, Woodcreek
Mike Kurtz, senior center, Woodcreek
Ryan Milat, senior guard, Woodcreek
Tony Gill, senior center, Oakmont
Fred Mobley, senior guard, Oakmont
Robert Duncan, junior guard, Granite Bay
Cody Kale, senior guard, Rocklin
Tony Williams, senior guard, Rocklin
Spencer Butterfield, senior guard, Del Oro
Aaron Hendricks, junior guard, Del Oro
Colin Lee, junior guard, Nevada Union
Roseville/Granite Bay area second team players
John Adenrele, junior forward, Oakmont
Alex Ford, senior guard, Oakmont
Jon Davis, junior forward, Granite Bay
Ryan Motsenbocker, senior guard, Granite Bay
Jordan Magnusson, senior guard, Roseville