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November 4, 2013For a variety of reasons, it's not very often that a high school basketball talent publicly announces prior to his senior season that he is committing to a certain community college. But 6-foot-4 Vasilije Saraba of Del Campo High and Youth Basketball Academy (YBA Black) is different.
Call it contrasting but in a good way.
For one, the 2014 Saraba didn't play basketball until he turned eight years old. This after his family moved from Serbia as it was all soccer prior to coming to the United States.
Also, watch him on the court and rather than grim faced or a offering an emotionless expression, he shows he is enjoying himself.
Plus, he rightly call himself a shooter but ask him for his best basketball moment and it's a team victory and not an individual achievement like his highest scoring game.
Rounding out what sets him apart is that he went abroad last summer in order to improve his overall skills.
So why the early commitment to Yuba College? It's a two-fold answer.
"I won't be a qualifier and Yuba is the best junior college to move me on," the about-to-turn-17 Saraba explained.
He has struggled with mathematics since his sophomore year -- "I've never been good at math" -- and thus Saraba won't meet NCAA scholarship requirements. It's not for lack of effort or any sort of overall disregard for academics, just a math difficulty.
Coach Doug Cornelius owns a deserved reputation for getting guys to the four-year level, most recently Akachi Okugo to Grand Canyon University, Yev Dyachenko to Hawaii Hilo, plus current 49er Chris Smith who has committed to Utah State. The latter already has two former Yuba College transfers in Spencer Butterfield and Sean Harris.
Asked for his best skill, Saraba answered, "Shooting the ball." He averaged 19.4 points per game in 2012-13.
But it wasn't always so.
"In the eighth grade, I would go to the gym and get my shots up." He watched the form of various NBA players and did his best to replicate them.
As for the aforementioned visit, it was a visit back home. Saraba attended a basketball camp in Serbia with 150 or so other young players. At the conclusion, he was named the most valuable player. Coming back to Fair Oaks, he then worked hard with Del Campo Coach Dave Nobis, concentrating on ballhandling and passing out of double teams.
His best basketball moment? Getting a 58-51 win over Del Oro High last February 20 in the playoffs. The sweetness was especially tangible after Del Campo endured a previous season 74-65 playoff upset by Yuba City-led Matt Hayes in a matchup in which the former was favored.
Saraba's YBA Coach Nate Stephens, who is also a Yuba College assistant, is an unabashed fan and noticed the uptick in Saraba's game and expressively offered: "V is an even better person than player. He's a great kid who plays the game with a smile on his face the entire game. His teammates love playing with him because he has a way of making the game look fun and be fun. While V is a great shooter with sometimes shocking range, he is a very sneaky player because he's a really good ball handler who gets in the lane at will and scores on spin shots and left and right hand floaters. That get-in-the-lane ability also helps V show off what a great passer he is."
Stephens continued, "One of the biggest areas of improvement is now his belief in himself. He has the courage to have the ball in his hands and take a big shot. I saw him play his sophomore year of AAU and then the start of his junior year of high school and I knew with the way I coach, he could be special...Over this last year, we have developed a strong relationship and I've seen him just grow on and off the court. V is very special!"
As for the upcoming Del Campo season, Saraba offered, "We have a very competitive and improved team this year. We have a lot of shooters."
The Cougars are coming off a 20-9, 6-4 record in the Capital Valley League.