Standing 5-foot, 8-inches and weighing 155 pounds, Vallivue boys basketball player Nick Fitts is usually the smallest player on the court.
And with that small frame came the critics.
“A lot of people doubted me as a player because of my size,” Fitts said. “I had plenty of people tell me I wouldn’t be as good at the 4A level as I was at the 2A at Melba. But that just made me work that much harder to prove to them that I could be a great player even though I’m not very tall.”
The senior guard had no problem proving his doubters wrong. Fitts averaged 16.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, three assists and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 82 percent from the free throw line, 39 percent from 3-point range and 43 percent from the field. He led Vallivue to the state championship game for the first time in nearly a decade and was named to the 4A Southern Idaho Conference First-Team, finishing one vote shy of being named the league Player of the Year.
For his achievements, Fitts is the 2016-2017 Idaho Press-Tribune’s Sports Stars Boys Basketball Athlete of the Year.
“It’s rare for a kid his size to have the kind of impact on the game the way he does,” Vallivue coach Ryan Lundgren said. “The amount of hours Nick puts in offset his size. His preparation and work ethic to always work on his game and weaknesses allowed him to get the better of the bigger guys he went up against. It enabled him to be a highly efficient player and play much bigger than his size.”
After spending three years at Melba, where he took the team to three consecutive state tournaments and was a two-time all-league selection, along with the 2A Western Idaho Conference Player of the Year last season, Fitts transferred to Vallivue for his senior season. The move was brought on after his parents purchased a house in the Vallivue school district.
The transition to the 4A level was a smooth one for Fitts, as he arguably had his best season to date. Fitts set school records for most 3-point field goal attempts and 3-point field goals in a season with 224 and 87 respectively. He was only five points away from breaking the school record for most points in a single season, finishing with 466. Fitts is also second all-time in 3-point field goal percentage (39) in a season, having double the attempts of the record holder, and is fourth in program history for free throw percentage (82) in a season. That kind of production helped a Vallivue team, which hadn’t won more than 11 games in a season in seven years to 20 wins and its first state appearance since 2010.
“I would compare his game to how Kyrie Irving plays. He’s got insane ball handling, can shoot off the dribble over anyone and creates for other people very easily,” senior Landon Cain said. “He likes to share the ball a lot and that showed this season. He got our team baskets just from him breaking down his defender and making others help. He can do anything and that’s why he was such a threat to other teams. You always have to know where Nick Fitts is at on the court.”
Fitts carried over that play into the 4A State Boys Basketball Tournament, guiding the Falcons on a magical state run. He averaged 14.5 points on 41 percent shooting from behind the arc in wins over Burley and Idaho Falls to get Vallivue to its first state championship game since 2008.
And in the title game against the defending state champion, Preston, Fitts and company gave a valiant effort, but fell just short in a 56-52 overtime loss. Fitts scored a game-high 18 points in the loss.
“Ever since I watched Kyle Dranginis and Isaiah Wright play in state championship games, I wanted to be on that floor just one time before I graduated and I did that,” Fitts said. “In that game, it wasn’t like we weren’t playing hard. It wasn’t like we didn’t execute well. We fought the whole time. We were down 12 in the second quarter and came all the way back to almost win. Me and my teammates accomplished something that most high school basketball players don’t get to do. We got to play on the biggest high school basketball stage in the state and it was an unbelievable experience.”
Fitts will now be taking his talents up north to Montana Tech. He received a full-ride scholarship to continue to play the sport he's loved his whole life.
“I’m really excited to head up there and see what I can do,” Fitts said. “When I went up for my official visit, the coach told me things that I love to hear. He said I was going to play how I play now and how I was going to be able to work my way into a spot. It was music to my ears. I know I made the right decision going up there because of the environment and the belief they have in me."
Not too bad for a kid many said was too small to hack it.
“No matter how big you are, or how tall you are or how athletic you are, it doesn’t matter as long as you work hard and have dedication to whatever sport you’re playing, you can be great at it,” Fitts said. “I’m proof of that.”
ALL CONFERENCE LISTS
5A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Kobe Terashima, sr., PG, Rocky Mountain
Co-coaches of the Year: Dane Roy, Rocky Mountain; Manny Varela, Boise
Paul Pennington, jr., Boise; Kolby Lee, sr., Rocky Mountain; Cam Howard, sr., Mountain View; Justin Saunders, sr., Capital; Delveion Jackson, sr., Centennial
Cameron Godeny, sr., Capital; Brooks King, sr., Centennial; Jalen Galloway, jr., Mountain View; Ellis Magnuson, so., Borah; Lucas Centeno, jr., Boise
Jake Poulton, so., Columbia; Jacob Erickson, sr., Rocky Mountain; Sloan Kruger, sr., Capital; Zack Barton, jr., Kuna; George Tarlas, sr., Borah; Zac Zenner, jr., Timberline; Jaydon Clark, sr., Centennial; Andrew Theobald, sr., Boise; Parker Schwers, jr., Eagle; Tyler Brotherson, sr., Mountain View
4A SOUTHERN IDAHO CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Max Rice, jr., G, Bishop Kelly
Coach of the Year: Alex Maxwell, Middleton
Nick Fitts, sr., Vallivue; Cayden Wright, jr., Skyview; Dan Sabala, sr., Bishop Kelly; Bronson King, sr., Bishop Kelly; Caden Stevenson, sr., Middleton; Reece Robinett, sr., Middleton
Corbin Beets, sr., Caldwell; Jayson Hibbard, jr., Skyview; Marcus Egusquiza, sr., Mountain Home; Steele Hadlock, jr., Vallivue; David Kofoed, sr., Middleton
Ammon Mafua, sr., Ridgevue; Landon Cain, sr., Vallivue; Chase Downs, sr., Middleton; Conner Jensen, sr., Ridgevue; Luc Overton, sr., Emmett; Jacob Russell, sr., Bishop Kelly; Tyriq Perry, jr., Mountain Home; Jordan Gleim, sr., Emmett; AJ Woodruff, sr., Mountain Home; Hunter Sedillo, sr., Vallivue; Kyle Pierce, sr., Skyview; Brion Bethel Jr., sr., Mountain Home
3A SNAKE RIVER VALLEY CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Alberto Sanchez, sr., W, Weiser
Coach of the Year: Brad Adolfson, Weiser
Payton Pinz, sr., Parma; Bridger Bumgarner, sr., Weiser; Brayden Jensen, so., Parma; Colton Lewis, jr., Payette; Tyler Eiguren, sr., Fruitland
Bryant Gerdes, jr., Payette; Jake O’Neil, so., Fruitland; Cole Eiguren, so., Fruitland; Braden Bumgarner, jr., Weiser; Jared Nielson, so., Parma
Tully Martin, sr., Payette; Jacob Richins, jr., Fruitland; Isaac Tarelo, jr., Weiser; Mason Kincheloe, so., Homedale; Dylan Erlebach, sr., Weiser; Scott Matlock, jr.. Homedale
2A WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Enrique Quebrado, so., G, Marsing
Coach of the Year: Mark Van Weerdhuizen, New Plymouth
Cody Fernley, sr., New Plymouth; Justin Trappett, jr., Melba; Riley Harris, sr., New Plymouth; Griffin Carson, jr., Nampa Christian; Tyler Krogh, sr., Cole Valley Christian
Josh de Jong, sr., Nampa Christian; Tanner Langley, sr., Cole Valley Christian; Dominik Panchenko, sr., Cole Valley Christian; Dusty Rhodes, jr., Nampa Christian; Beau Bromgard, sr., Melba
Ben Knudson, jr., McCall-Donnelly; Lah Say, sr., New Plymouth; Dakota Hardy, sr., Marsing; Eli Bangerter, sr., Melba; Doug Wilkinson, sr., McCall-Donnelly; Scott Orr, sr., Melba; Caleb Johnston, sr., New Plymouth
1A DIVISION 1 WESTERN IDAHO CONFERENCE
Player of the Year: Jaxon Hughes, sr., G, Ambrose
Coach of the Year: Juan Colunga, Wilder
Dedi Seme, sr., Riverstone; Ethan Christianson, jr., Ambrose; Gavin Miller, jr., Horseshoe Bend; Cole Hinnenkamp, so., Liberty Charter; Jack Goltry, sr., Riverstone
Jack Roberts, sr., Ambrose; Kyle Gardner, so., North Star Charter; Fabian Blanco, sr., Wilder; Jacob Godina, sr., Notus; Quade Renfro, so., Horseshoe Bend
Ashton Valdez, sr., Liberty Charter; Caleb Zimmerman, jr., Notus; Alex Macha, sr., Riverstone; Michael Osorio, sr., Horseshoe Bend; Hunter Crownover, sr., Compass Honors; Jared Franklin, sr., Victory Charter; Sam Cole, sr., Riverstone; Paul Yenor, fr., Ambrose; Mark Green, jr., Notus; Isaiah Renteria, jr., Wilder; Lewis Rutan, jr., Rimrock; Clay Gardner, sr., North Star Charter