By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Sophomore Stallon Saldivar played on a sixth-grade AAU team coached by NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton and former Phoenix Sun and Utah Jazz standout Jeff Hornecek. They would be proud of the way their former pupil is playing during his sophomore season.
"You can see Stallon's confidence level rising and he's doing so well for us," said Head Coach Mike Adras. "He really has played well, scoring, dishing the ball, and rebounding. Hopefully, that will continue."
Saldivar and his teammates will put their five-game winning streak on the line Saturday at 7 p.m. against Bethany (Calif.) University. The game can be seen on www.bigskytv.org and heard on 105.1 FM The Big Talker and at www.bigtalkerradio.com.
Saldivar led Judge Memorial in Salt Lake City to the Utah state title as a junior and a pair of top-five state finishes in his prep career. He was named to the 2008 3A State Tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP), while earning all-state and all-region first team honor. He was also chosen to the 2009 3A All-State team for the second consecutive season and was the Region 10 MVP.
He played in all 28 games with four starts as a freshman, averaging 1.8 points and 2.0 assists per game.
"Playing behind Julian was very good for me because he is a very good point guard," said Saldivar. "He takes care of the ball. Coming off the bench was humbling for me actually because I had never really done that. It really helped me a lot."
Saldivar has reversed the roles this season, starting at the point guard spot and has started the season off with numerous personal bests, resetting his single-game bests in every category.
"I put in a lot of work in the offseason," said Saldivar. "The seniors on this team really kept my head in it. I just try to play my game. Last year I was a little nervous coming in as a freshman. This year I was more confident and more in the flow."
He has been especially good with his assist totals. Saldivar has 47 assists (6.3 avg.) over the first seven games to lead the Big Sky. He has recorded four games of seven or more assists this season, including a career-best 11 against Alabama State. After recording just one in the season opener against Iowa State, he has averaged 7.2 assists over the last six games.
"I do the easy part with the shooters on my team with Gabe, Eric and Cam," said Saldivar. "It also helps with scoring because everyone is worried about them and they sag off me. I can hopefully knock down an open shot. It is more my teammates that open things up for me."
Saldivar's passes have been finding open shooters all season. In fact, Eric Platt (7th) and Gabe Rogers (4th) both rank among the national leaders in three-point percentage after the first three weeks of the season.
"What he is has done has been remarkable with how he passes the ball," said Platt. "His awareness is so much better and he sees the floor. He is not looking at the ball but trying to find me or Gabe spotting up. He is a pass-first, shoot second guy which is great for a point guard. Not only is he passing well but his shooting has got a lot better. He is running the team and doing a good job."
Game Notes: Fans are encouraged to arrive early to secure parking on Saturday night due to the NAU Holiday Dinner that will be held at the DuBois Center. Season ticket holders will be able to park in P46 & P48 and shuttles will be available from the back of the Walkup Skydome lot from 6 to 10 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 6:35 p.m. but was moved to accommodate travel plans for Bethany, which plays at UC-Merced Friday night…Football player Ify Imodu has joined the basketball team and will be in uniform for the first time on Saturday.