Langley senior Nate Shafer, a 6-foot-5 shot-blocking force, admitted he prefers structured basketball over the run-and-gun style of an all-star game.
But while Shafer enjoys a team-oriented approach, that didn’t stop the defensive standout from excelling in Sunday’s dmvstream.com Nova Challenge --- an event that featured some of the top seniors from Northern Virginia competing in a pair of all-star games, a 3-point shootout and a dunk contest.
Shafer scored 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked seven shots and helped the Fairfax North All-Stars defeat the Loudoun County All-Stars 108-101 on April 10 at Marshall High School.
All-star games are known for offense, but Shafer, the 2016 6A North region Defensive Player of the Year, made life difficult for Loudoun County players who tried to score in the paint.
“I can still apply some tactics that we use [during structured basketball] to an all-star game,” Shafer said. “I typically find a guy that can’t shoot as well so I can camp in the paint and that gives me more blocks and more contested shots and more rebounds, so that sort of pads my stats in an all-star game like this, which is fun.”
Shafer, who will play at Swarthmore College, said he enjoyed making defensive plays in an offensive environment. During one possession, Shafer swatted multiple Loudoun County shots.
“Those kinds of plays get the gym on their feet,” he said, “so I like to do that.”
Shafer’s teammate at Langley, Tavon Tarpley, finished with 12 points for the Fairfax North All-Stars.
“I always love playing with T,” Shafer said. “I’m just glad I [got] another opportunity to do it.”
Blake Francis, a member of the state champion Westfield Bulldogs, earned team MVP honors for Fairfax North, finishing with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists. He knocked down a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, cutting the Fairfax North deficit to 64-50. Fairfax North outscored Loudoun County 58-37 in the second half.
Francis, who shot 8-for-17 from the floor and 5-for-12 from 3-point range, is still weighing his college options.
“It’s good experience,” Francis said, “going against the top talent in the Northern Virginia area.”
Hank Johnson, Francis’ teammate at Westfield, scored four points and grabbed nine rebounds.
“Hank, we’re going to be good friends for a long time,” Francis said. “It’s just good playing with him.”
Centreville’s William Unterkofler scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds. He also won the dunk contest, earning a perfect score of 30 on his final attempt, when he jumped, brought the ball between his legs and threw it down with his right hand.
Unterkofler will attend Virginia Tech but doesn’t plan to play basketball. He said he could first dunk a basketball in ninth grade.
“It was pretty cool,” said the 6-foot-5 Unterkofler. “I’ve wanted to be in a dunk contest for a long time because I practice dunking all the time and I never get to show it, so it’s really exciting to get to come out and do it.”
Fairfax High’s Alex McNaughton, who will play at Salisbury, scored 17 points and shot 6-for-9 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from behind the arc. Fellow Rebel Manny Miller had six points and seven rebounds.
Marshall’s Tyler White finished with nine points and five rebounds. Chase Barrand, White’s teammate at Marshall, had six points and three rebounds.
South Lakes’ Marty Gryski scored two points. Madison teammates Taiga Walker and Daniel Ungerleider finished with four and three points, respectively.
“It feels pretty good,” Ungerleider said about getting the victory. “Mostly, we’re just out here having a good time, but [I] always want to win.”
Ungerleider, who will attend the University of Virginia but doesn’t plan to play basketball, reached the finals of the 3-point shootout.
“It was pretty scary,” Ungerleider said, referring to media attention during the contest. “I had to get in a little zone and zone out everything around and just shoot.”
Earlier in the day, the Prince William All-Stars defeated the Fairfax South All-Stars 110-107.
West Springfield’s Lewis Djonkam earned team MVP honors for Fairfax South. The 6-foot-9 post player scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Deng Nhial (Wakefield) and Jordan Jones (T.C. Williams) each had 16 points for Fairfax South, Tavaris James (T.C. Williams) finished with 14 and Spencer Askew (West Springfield) added 11.
“It was great,” Djonkam said about competing in the event. “Every kid on the court I love. I grew up with half the kids on the court. … [It was] my last time playing with the kids. It was great. I loved it.”