Isaiah Freedman staff writer
It is very rare for a freshman to be on the varsity basketball team. In the past five years, only four freshmen have ever made the varsity team. Just this year alone, however, there are two freshman on the team.
Freshman Nick Andrews and Albert Fallas may be new to the varsity team, but they’ve been playing competitive basketball all their lives. The two close friends play club basketball together, work out together and hang out together.
Andrews is well-built and athletic. He prides himself on his suffocating defense as he seeks to improve his playmaking skills. Fallas, the lankier and longer of the two, is a knockdown shooter with a Klay Thompson-like release, although he is still working on his lateral speed.
“They work so hard,” Nick’s dad Anthony said. “They’re on one of the most challenging club teams in Los Angeles, Cal Supreme. They had to be really competitive to compete with Cal Supreme, so they were prepared coming into their freshman year to play for varsity. I think they deserve it, they deserve all the credit for what they’ve accomplished.”
Anthony has seen his son and Fallas’ growth and determination up close throughout the years, driving them to tournaments and watching all of their games, which have stretched from Las Vegas to San Diego to Portland.
Fallas concurred that playing high-stakes basketball against tough competition was a huge step in his and Nick’s development.
“Playing AAU basketball with Cal Supreme has helped us so much with growing acclimated to the environment of varsity basketball,” Fallas said.
“Club ball, going to the gym all summer, coming to every day of conditioning and getting after it in the sprints. All that helped us a lot with becoming adjusted,” Nick said.
Nick and Fallas are not only talented and hard-working. Anthony has noticed other intangibles that both boys possess, and it’s a huge part of the reason they are playing on the team.
“They both have such high basketball IQs and know how to share the ball. They have good fundamentals and have been in many, many tough battles,” Anthony said.
Though not all their positive traits have to do with on-court talent. The two boys are both very humble and display no signs of ego.
Varsity assistant coach Keith Davis would know. He coached Nick in middle school and is a private basketball trainer who has worked with the boys closely in varsity practices.
Ask Davis what has impressed him with the two freshman, and he’s got all the answers.
“Nick and Albert?” Davis smiles after a 40-point blowout of Lawndale. “Nothing. Nah, I’m just playing. Seriously, you would think they were juniors or seniors by the way they handle themselves. They are responsible young men, and they come in and do what we ask them to do. They are hard-working, and say, “‘Yes sir’ or ‘No sir’ to everything. Good, respectable kids, man.”
Their teammates go to war with the boys every game, sitting next to them in the locker room and on the bus, running sprints with them, observing a side of them that coaches and parents simply don’t have access to. They had some high praise for their younger teammates.
“They bring a lot of energy to the locker room. Both are great teammates and very committed to the program. They both absolutely deserve to be on the team and have a ton of potential going forward,” forward Xander Bienstock said.
“They work very hard and are going to be the future of this program. They have a lot of potential,” forward Grant Gaon said.
“I see both of them as future leadership for Jarvis [Turner, head coach]. Their teamwork is impeccable and despite still having a lot to learn, I feel that they will continue the success of Beverly once the older grades leave. They are both humble about their successes and their friendship is very close,” forward Barry Gibbons said.
While being on the team is a huge accomplishment, it doesn’t mean the experience is not tough as nails. Playing time is predictably scarce for the pair. It’s not surprising if a game goes by when neither steps on the floor. They are still adjusting to the average high-school homework workload. Head coach Jarvis Turner also has Nick learning a new position, point guard, perhaps the most difficult one to play on the court. And to top it all off…
“I have to clean the courts every day,” Nick laughs. “But the experience of watching all the veterans play and practicing with them is invaluable.”
Fallas echoes Andrews when assessing what is the best part of being on the team.
“The best part of being a freshman on varsity is just gaining the experience, being with the team,” Fallas said.
And the worst part?
“Probably the same thing,” Fallas joked.
After the Lawndale blowout, Nick had two excellent assists in a couple minutes of play, while Fallas sat out the game since he had the flu the day before. Again, no points scored or double-digit minutes racked up. Doesn’t matter to these two. Catch them after the game with smiles on their faces and all they care about is that the team won.
“For them to be starters one day, they have to practice 100 per-,” Anthony pauses. “Make that 110 percent. They have to keep developing, keep working hard and continue to be good students.”
That kind of selfless attitude, combined with their emerging on-court talents is why they are on varsity today.
“They’ve been raised right by their parents and it’s no coincidence why they are on varsity right now,” Davis said. “They are great young men.”