If you're going to be playing in the toughest district in boys Class 2A basketball, it's good to have a point guard who knows his way around a basketball court.
"Whenever you have a point guard that knows how to run the offense and how to get the guys going, then you've got a good leader on the floor," said Cook Inlet Academy boys coach Max Vavilov of senior Kyle Nettles.
"He's a very solid ballhandler with a good shot and he sees the floor really well, which gives us confidence. When the other team starts putting on pressure, a good ballhandler can take care of that."
Basketball runs in Nettles' family. His father, Clay, played the sport growing up and has passed the passion on to his sons. Nettles' older brother Chet graduated from Cook Inlet Academy in 2001 with a state 2A title, and Nettles has been a part of a state title winner, as well as a member of the state runner-up during his career.
Saturday, Nettles' prep hoops career ended with a loss to Bristol Bay in the second-place game of the District 3/2A tournament, but after the tournament Nettles was named to both the all-tournament team and the all-District 3/2A team for the season.
Nettles is listed at 5-foot-8 on the Eagles' roster the smallest player on the team and frequently the smallest on the floor but he still manages to dictate the pace of the game.
"He's a great teammate, one of the best guards I've ever played with," said CIA teammate Andy Hall. "He's got a great shot, and he's a great dribbler. He definitely pulls the team together. He's a great leader (because of) his basketball skills and his ability to talk to the team and motivate them."
Nettles said he was "real little" when he first started playing basketball. Except for his sophomore year spent at Soldotna High School, he's attended Cook Inlet Academy since kindergarten, and hasn't ever even thought about playing another sport.
"Once I started getting into it, it was always something for me to do especially when you get used to winning," Nettles said of the sport. "It's something you can always get better at. It's been fun to improve over the years."
In fact, hoops has been a year-round obsession for Nettles. He's been going to various summer camps since fifth grade, from camps at North Carolina and Duke, to team camps and clinics a bit closer to home.
Nettles said he also gets plenty of advice at home from both his father and from Chet, who is serving as an assistant coach with the Eagles this season.
"I think it helps to have one more person out there to see something the other coaches might miss," Nettles said of Chet's contribution. "My dad gives advice at home after games. He points out things that maybe I don't want to hear, things I'm doing that maybe I don't see.
"My dad taught me everything I know about playing basketball and being a point guard, and Chet has some good advice from his experience."
That experience has benefited the Eagles, whose District 3/2A might just be the toughest from top to bottom. Heading into last week's district tournament, Cook Inlet's only district loss was in overtime to Lumen Christi.
Most of the Eagles' wins, though, were just as close, with teams from Unalaska, Bristol Bay, Ninilchik, Seldovia, Homer Christian and Nikolaevsk providing plenty of competition. Several of the teams in the district have earned mention in the Alaska Sportswriters Prep Basketball Poll during the course of the season. Both Cook Inlet and Lumen Christi have spent time at No. 1.
Nettles said the key to the Eagles' success is two-fold. First, the team is well-rounded, with several go-to players, and second, the Eagles shoot for winning the district first before worrying about the state tournament.
"It's somebody different every night," Nettles said of his team. "I think Blake (Gabriel) and Adam (Copper) are capable of tearing teams apart, and Andy Hall and Jeremy (Franchino) are both good guards. Brian Beeson is also coming around."
Nettles still is contemplating his future off the court. While he hasn't made any plans yet, he is considering attending a small college where he can play basketball.
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