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Seward vs. Lincoln Christian, 12.4

Seward's Nate Lliteras grabs a rebound against Lincoln Christian earlier this month at Lincoln Christian High School.

Nate Lliteras’ path to Division I men’s college basketball was well-marked, thanks to family members and an AAU summer team that opened up numerous opportunities.

The 6-foot-7 Seward senior guard/forward signed with Longwood last month after also considering offers from Army, Air Force, Stony Brook, Rider, American and Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

One of Lliteras’ older brothers, Jake, played collegiately at Oral Roberts after spending his high school years in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Another older brother, Noah, is a student manager in the Nebraska men’s basketball program with the hopes of pursuing a college coaching career after he graduates.

“They both had good insight into the recruiting process, which really helped,” said Nate Lliteras, who moved to Seward from North Carolina when he was in seventh grade. Noah, 6-8, played his junior and senior years of high school for the Bluejays after the move.

“Jake is my role model/competition because he was a 6-5 perimeter player who did a lot of the same things on the court that I am trying to do right now,” said Lliteras, whose father, Dave, played college hoops at Chadron State. Dave is a pharmaceutical manager at GSK (GlaxoSmithKline).

“Jake still has that competitive edge," Nate said, "and we’ll still play against each other at family reunions.”

Lliteras averaged 13.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for the Bluejays a year ago, but it was some strong July performances for the Thunder Elite club team in tournaments in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix that put him in the Division I recruiting spotlight.

He ended up committing to Longwood (located in Farmville, Virginia) after taking an official visit in the fall.

“I really connected with the coach (Griff Aldrich), and I think the program has the potential to be really good,” Lliteras said. “Watching them practice, I could see myself fitting in really well into their offense. It’s a little smaller compared to my other offers, but it’s where I felt I fit in the best.”

With the college decision behind him, Lliteras can focus on his senior season, one in which the Class B No. 5 Bluejays are off to a 2-1 start. Hastings (4-0) knocked off Seward 51-40 in the opener, but the Bluejays have bounced back with wins at C-1 No. 1 Lincoln Christian (66-48) and at home against Northwest (54-32).

With Seward returning five senior starters from last season, “everyone told us coming into the season that we were going to be really good,” Lliteras said. “We let that go to our heads a little bit and we came out lackadaisical in that first game. Hastings came ready to play and it cost us. It slapped us awake because the last two games we’ve played the hardest I think we’ve ever played before.”

Seward has one of the tallest overall lineups in the state regardless of class. In addition to Lliteras, the Bluejays have 6-6 Kelly Vyhnalek, 6-4 Brett Meyer, 6-4 Derek Holtorf and sixth-man Bryson Janousek, also a 6-4 senior. The point guard is 6-2 senior Joseph Krause, the standout quarterback who broke the Class B football single-season passing record this past fall.

Meyer, Krause’s favorite receiver, is the team’s leading scorer right now, averaging 15.7 points per game. Lliteras isn’t far behind at 14 points and five rebounds per game, while Holtorf is at 7.7 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per contest.

“The chemistry between all six guys is out of this world,” Lliteras said. “After games, we’re always hanging out, and you can really see it on the court, too.”

Seward coach Mark Cidlik likes the versatility and length of his starters, all of them possessing the ability to either shoot the three or post up inside. He can put Lliteras wherever he needs him depending on how defenses match up against the Bluejays.

“When we put Nate out on top, it’s hard to trap us because he can look over the defense and he sees the court very well,” Cidlik said. “It’s nice having someone 6-7 who can handle the ball, shoot the three and still post up, rebound and defend inside.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or rpowell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ronpowell_ljs.

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Sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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