February 21, 2024

With an intriguing mix of guard skills to go with a lanky frame, Batavia’s Jax Abalos has lofty ambitions as far as where he thinks the game can take him.

That used to be somewhat of a burden for the 6-foot-7 Abalos, but as his breakout junior season continues, he’s embracing the journey.

“I’d like to go to a high-major college,” Abalos said. “There’s a lot of work to do with that — my overall skill set, not just shooting. I have to lift more, gain more weight and develop my all-around game.

“I used to think of it as pressure, but now I think of it as an opportunity to work my hardest and try to get there.”

Much like the rest of his teammates, Abalos didn’t get much of a chance to showcase his improved game Friday night in a 48-29 DuKane Conference loss to Lake Park. The Lancers’ stifling defense limited Abalos to five points.

Nate Nazos scored 10 points to pace Batavia (13-6, 6-2). Cam Cerese led all scorers with 24 points for Lake Park (18-3, 8-0) while also handling most of the defense on Abalos.

“Every time I get the ball, he’s right up on me,” Abalos said. “It was really hard to go by him or get a shot off at all.”

While Friday’s game was an outlier, Abalos has become one of the top players this season for the Bulldogs after playing a bench role as a sophomore.

“He’ll be the first one to say this game was tough,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “He’s going to be a very nice player. He has a lot of very nice things to him. He’s got a very good future and he does a lot of things well.

“He can be very good, but he’s not there yet. But he will get there. He’s still young and growing into his body, but he’s had a great year for us.”

Rough nights like Friday’s game are part of a young player’s development as well.

“He will respond,” Jim Nazos said. “He’s someone who gets back into the gym and works. He doesn’t complain. He has the right attitude on things. He’ll bounce back.”

With Abalos’ ability to hit 3-pointers at a high level and also play above the rim, Nate Nazos loves having that option at his disposal when he runs the point.

“I know he’s a great guy to pass to,” he said. “You know most likely the shot is going in. His length is very useful at guard. He’s very athletic, too.

“When you’re out running with him, he might stop and hit a three or cut to the basket.”

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Batavia didn’t score its first point Friday until there was a minute left in the first quarter. The Bulldogs trailed 19-7 at halftime. Abalos scored five of those points.

The Bulldogs eventually clawed back into the game, cutting the deficit to 38-28 with 3:15 left in the fourth quarter on Nazos’ layup.

Batavia's Kyle Porter drives to the basket as Lake Park's Pavle Magazin defends during a DuKane Conference game in Batavia on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

“We weren’t going to just let them go home with the win,” Nate Nazos said. “We got a couple baskets and cut it down to 10. Unfortunately they were good at closing, got some easy buckets there.”

Abalos said he was looking to turn the page from the rough loss and continue building on the strides he has made all season.

Jim Nazos knows Abalos has the mindset to get to where he would eventually like to go.

“His best is ahead of him,” Nazos said. “He understands that he’s a work in progress and he works hard. He’s a great kid, great student. He has all the intangibles.”

Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.