Hollister High boys basketball coach David Kaplansky is always appreciative of having a bona-fide post player on the roster—and with good reason.
A solid big man allows the team to go inside-out and collapse the defense, opening things up for the perimeter game and dribble-drive penetration. A talented center also rebounds and blocks shots, providing an anchor defensively.
And so it is that the Haybalers have all of that in senior Jaiden Prado, who has been nothing but consistent in his three years in the program. Despite graduating its top two scorers from last year’s team and being placed in the tougher Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division this season, Hollister entered the week 10-7 overall and 3-4 in league.
“It’s so nice to have a big man in the program,” Kaplansky said. “In years’ past we’ve always taken advantage of the post and Jaiden has done a great job on defense and rebounding the basketball. Our best game is when Jaiden plays well.”
The Balers own wins over rivals Salinas and Palma, the latter on Jan. 11, nearly nine years to the exact day the last time they had beaten the Chieftains. In between that span, Palma owned a 13-game winning streak in the series, all by double-digits and two by 40 points or more.
So, when Hollister finally bested Palma a few weeks ago, the team was as fired up and charged as it has been all season.
“We had not beaten Palma for a while and we really grinded this season to get that win at home in front of our crowd,” Prado said. “Definitely for our program, Palma and Salinas have always been rival schools, so it felt good to finally beat them.”
Prado uses his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame well, backing smaller defenders deep into the paint for close-range shots. On the occasion when Prado goes up against a taller center, he utilizes his body and footwork to get shots off.
Prado said his best game came in a 61-60 overtime win over Soquel on Dec. 14. He scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, made eight field goals and was a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
“I was scoring from below a lot, hitting some free throws that really helped us win,” he said.
After finishing in a tie for second place last year in the PCAL’s Mission Division, Hollister opted and was voted up to compete in the tougher A-league Gabilan Division this season. Prado said previous coach Bo Buller did a nice job in getting the program up and running again after several losing seasons, and that Kaplansky has continued the momentum.
“With Kap this year he’s really brought us to a different level,” Prado said. “Our team is way closer this year, we have fun on the court, we bond, we’re tight. It’s just a different era and Kap has really brought our defense up and that showed with wins over Salinas, Palma and Alvarez.”
Incidentally, Kaplansky was on the sideline the last time Hollister beat Palma previous to the Jan. 11 game, in the 2013-2014 season, which was his final year in his first go-around with the boys team (he previously had a successful run coaching the Hollister girls squad).
The veteran basketball coach has liked how the players have competed all season, and he’s always fond of seniors like Prado who does everything asked of him and makes an impact.
“He’s just done a phenomenal job inside the paint when it comes to defense because our defense has been the strength of our team, especially in league play,” Kaplansky said. “And he opens things up for us as well. In order for us to be a perimeter shooting team, we need to have a threat in the middle and he’s given us that.”
Prado attended and played at Monte Vista Christian in his freshman year before transferring to Hollister for his sophomore season, the period in which Covid lockdowns were still in place.
“Transitioning from MVC to San Benito was a little harder because of Covid,” he said. “We did a lot of practices and conditioning outside because we weren’t allowed inside the gym, had a new coach as well in coach Buller, but it was a really good team. We all connected and things were good. I loved everyone on the coaching staff and we had a good season.”
Prado doesn’t know whether he’s going to have the opportunity to play in college. For now, he’s simply enjoying being in the moment.