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ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Eli Terpsma, Ripon Christian basketball
AOW Eli Terpsma
Eli Terpsma

The 6-foot-3 senior guard can feel himself rounding into basketball shape, and he believes Ripon Christian (6-0, 14-7 overall) — the top team in the Trans-Valley League — still has room level up as it approaches the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Terpsma tallied 20-plus points in all three of the Knights’ lopsided wins last week. He averaged 24 points, five rebounds, four assists and 1.7 steals while facing constant double teams. In addition, he made 52.9% of his shots from the field, 38.5% from behind the 3-point arc (10-of-26) and 72.7% from the free-throw line (8-of-11).

The team was undermanned at the start of the season, as much of its core players were wrapping up an historic football season. Terpsma was a standout outside linebacker for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII champion Knights.

“It took a couple weeks, but the last two or three I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Terpsma said. “It was just being more confident, honestly. Coming off of football, for one, I had to get my basketball legs under me, and two, I didn’t have the same amount of confidence. I was still practicing and shooting all the time throughout football season and in the summer, but nothing can get you in game shape like a game. That has been getting progressively better each week and that’s what I want, is for every week to be better than the last.”

Ripon Christian started last week with a 64-50 romp at Riverbank on Jan. 17 before routing rival Ripon 59-43 on Thursday and handling Hughson on the road the following night, 60-37.

Terpsma scored 24 points and hit a varsity career-high six 3s in the Riverbank game. The most 3s he has made in a game is seven during an impressive high school debut in which he went off for 40 points as a freshman on the JV team’s season opener against McNair in Riverbank’s Ron Peterson Tip-Off Tournament back in 2019.

Terpsma is averaging 18.8 points per game.

“I think we are improving every day,” Terpsma said. “There are still a lot of things we can clean up and will clean up by the playoffs. A lot of the guys are in the same boat as me; over half our team played football. We just need to lock in mentally. Physically, I think we’ve moved on from football, it’s just our mental game that needs to get tougher. If we can cut down on some mistakes as a team, like turnovers, I think we have a bright future.”