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Vandenbrink, Sorensen are playing beyond their years

By January 3, 2011

Enterprise correspondent

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They aren\’t the tallest players on their teams. And they are certainly not the most experienced. But when both the Davis High boys and girls basketball squads want to get physical, each has its own super sophomore to call upon.

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And so far in the 2010-11 season, 10th-graders Ashleigh Vandenbrink and Kevin Sorensen have been rugged revelations for their respective teams.

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While standing at 6-foot-4 (Sorensen) and 5-9 (Vandenbrink) has the pair among the tallest players on their Blue Devil teams, they often find themselves having to guard taller players, due to DHS\’ notorious lack of size. So far this season, Vandenbrink has walked out for jump balls and found opponents who are as tall as 6-4 waiting for her, while Sorensen came off the bench to face teams that had players standing 7-1 and 6-11 at the ESPN/iScore tournament in San Diego county.

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Sorensen and Vandenbrink met in the spring of 2004, when they played on a Little League baseball team coached by Kurt Vandenbrink, Ashleigh\’s father. Led by the two current basketball standouts, that squad eventually won the Double-A championship when Sorensen recorded the final out to end a 10-inning, 1-0 thriller. Vandenbrink later switched to softball, and now plays shortstop for the DHS junior varsity team.

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So how does a JV softball player end up as the starting center on the varsity basketball team? Like many physical players, Vandenbrink prides herself on a diligent work ethic:

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“I always try as hard as I can and not give up. I try not to get frustrated with how the game goes.”

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Sorensen uses the bulk he acquired from playing football in the fall — he was the JV Blue Devils\’ top running back in 2010 — to his advantage on the court.

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“I try and use my physical abilities to make things happen,” Sorensen says. “I\’m one of the stronger players on the team.”

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While neither Devil center follows many players in professional leagues, Sorensen says he tries to model his style of play after Chris “Birdman” Anderson of the Denver Nuggets. The Birdman is known for his aggressive style and for working hard to get back from a two-year drug suspension to become a productive NBA player again.

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Not surprisingly, Sorensen only tries to emulate certain parts of the Birdman.

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“I like how he plays with emotion and gets really physical,” Sorensen says, adding that he doesn\’t plan on copying Anderson\’s heavily tattooed arms and mohawk. “He kinda goes crazy. So maybe not that far, but the emotion.”

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While Vandenbrink and Sorensen have been getting major minutes so far this season, both must lean on their more experienced teammates to help them adjust to the varsity game. Luckily, both have older players with a similar games to practice against and learn from.

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At DHS girls basketball practice, Vandenbrink muscles up with junior Lauren Blackwell to prepare to face bigger opponents, while Sorensen posts up against senior Tyler DeLaughder during the Devil boys\’ workouts.

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The emergence of these two young sparkplugs has helped to energize the Davis basketball programs.

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After watching last year\’s team break into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for only the second time in head coach Dan Gonzalez\’s 11-year tenure, Sorensen wants to help the Blue Devils get even further this season.

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“We want more than just to get to the playoffs, we want to contend,” Sorensen says. “We hope go a couple rounds deep.”

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Vandenbrink know the DHS girls will be at their best when the work together.

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“It\’s not so much whether we win or lose, but to work hard the whole time and come together as a team,” she says. “I think I bring a positive attitude and a strong work ethic in practice and in the game.”

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Whatever happens this season, the future of both Blue Devils programs looks bright because of two players who met in Little League, but are now playing big.

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Notes: Sorensen\’s three older siblings (Brian, Katie, and Jeff) all played basketball for DHS. Like His younger brother, Brian Sorensen also made the varsity squad as a sophomore under Gonzalez in the 2004-05 season, the same year Jeff was a senior. Brian finished his career in 2007 and Katie Sorensen is a 2009 DHS graduate.

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— Reach Benjy Egel at [email protected]

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Benjy Egel

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