Jacob Adler and Kaleinani Nallira light it up from behind the arc as this week’s Athletes of the Week

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Image courtesy of The Jack Kemp Foundation.
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Jacob Adler (sophomore), a shooting guard on the Occidental Men’s Basketball team. Taken at Occidental College on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Sam Orlin/The Occidental

Jacob Adler (sophomore) hit the game-winning three-point shot in a basketball game at California Lutheran University (Cal Lu) Feb. 2, where Occidental won 70–67. In the final seconds of the game, Adler knocked down a shot in the face of a Cal Lu defender, leading Occidental to victory. Adler attributed the play to a strong drive and pass in the pocket from guard/forward Austin DeWitz (senior).

“The game was tied, so we called a time-out, we just drew up a high pick-and-roll for Austin … and he basically pulled me aside and was like “If I drive and your guy helps, I’m kicking to you, just knock it down,” Adler said. “In the back of my head, I just said, “Be ready to shoot on the catch.’”

In a game against Pomona-Pitzer College Jan. 14, Adler said he found himself in a similar end-of-game position to pull Occidental into the lead, but missed the three-pointer short. Keeping this moment in mind, Adler was ready for another shot at closing out a tight game.

“It’s obviously tough — you don’t want to dwell on it — but shots like that kind of nag you throughout the season, especially in a game of that magnitude against Pomona, who’s first in our league,” Adler said. “So going into the play against Cal Lu, I just had to maintain focus, be ready, and I ended up getting the ball in my hands and I just had to shoot with confidence, and I’m just glad it went in.”

Head coach Brian Newhall said Adler’s ability to rise to the challenge of making impact plays for the team is a product of his dedication to becoming a well-rounded offensive threat.

“His confidence has been earned with long hours in the gym preparing for the big moments,” Newhall said. “His teammates and coaches believe in him. The Cal Lutheran crunch-time three was just another day in the office for Jacob.”

According to DeWitz, Adler’s ability to generate offense not only by putting away timely shots but also drawing defenders to create opportunities for his teammates makes him a key player for Occidental.

“He is definitely playing with a new level of confidence and freedom,” DeWitz said. “He’s a lights-out shooter and a crafty offensive weapon, so defenses spend a lot of time worrying about him. In the Cal Lu game, he was a spark for us off the bench when our offense hit a lull.”

Newhall recognized Adler’s continued development as a multifaceted player and is hopeful about his future in the Occidental program.

“He is one of the top three-point shooters in the SCIAC, has added a quality mid-range game, and is also finishing at the rim,” Newhall said. “Jacob is a hard worker, I have no doubt that he will continue to improve and expand his game in the next two years.”

Adler is a Media Arts & Culture major and cognitive science minor, and his favorite superhero is the Andrew Garfield-portrayed Spiderman.

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Kaleinani Nallira (sophomore) is a shooting guard on the Women’s Basketball team at Occidental College. Photo courtesy of Oxy Athletics

The Occidental women’s basketball team lost 85–63 to Chapman University at home. However, the game was highlighted by the performance of Kaleinani Nallira (sophomore), who scored a career-high 20 points, shooting 80 percent from beyond the arc. As a result of many major injuries to key players early in the season, Nallira was inserted into the starting lineup due to an injury to regular starter Alyssa Ramlochan (sophomore). Playing the shooting guard position, Nallira has averaged 11 points per game since coming into her new role.

Head coach Anahit Aladzhanyan spoke about how Nallira, also known as Nani, has always been prepared to step into the game when needed. She said Nallira puts in maximum effort each time she plays.

“Nani has brought great energy and scoring since coming into the starting lineup,” Aladzhanyan said. “Nani has been ready anytime her name has been called and given her best effort every time, whether [it] was when she was coming off the bench or when she has started and played substantial minutes.”

According to Nallira, she was excited to be given the increase in playing time and contribute more to the team.

“I didn’t feel any pressure. I was just really excited for the opportunity and the chance to be there. I have always been motivated to perform my best at all times but, yeah, my role has changed from being a supporter on the bench to actually be playing in the game,” Nallira said.

Nallira was also quick to credit her teammates for her performance. She said her teammates’ constant support and encouragement help her perform well and play her game.

Teammate Zoe Campbell (first year) said Nallira’s positive energy on and off the court and her jump shot are important factors that contribute to her success.

“[Nani] in practice plays just like she plays in the game, with a great intensity, and really aggressive in good ways,” said Campbell. “She has a shot that seems to always go in. She has great accuracy. The entire team gets really excited to see her play like that.”

Aladzhanyan said that the injuries and recent losses have been tough to deal with but that the team is learning from the experience and developing new skills.

“The team is doing reasonably well considering injuries and recent losses, and coming in each day and working to get better,” said Aladzhanyan. “Injuries and losses are certainly tough, and one silver lining in all of this is the resilience and grit that we are building having this shared experience.”

Nallira is a Critical Theory & Social Justice major and has been playing basketball since the third grade.