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Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Week

2/10/2012
ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Week Gokul Natesan of Cupertino has a 4.38 GPA to go with 253 career three-pointers. Harold Abend/ESPNHS

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Gokul Natesan will end up No. 2 on the Cupertino all-time scoring list behind Kurt Rambis and knows when to take over a game. He’s perhaps even more impressive academically with a 4.38 GPA.

It was late in the third quarter and the Cupertino boys basketball team only led visiting Los Gatos 32-27 when star player Gokul Natesan got even busier than he already had been.

Natesan (pronounced Nah-tay-san) already had 19 of his team’s points, but then he completely took over. He scored off a steal, then drained an NBA-range 3-pointer to make it 39-31 entering the final period.

Gokul started the first two minutes of the fourth quarter with a block and a basket off a steal, another steal, another block and another NBA-length trey ball that pretty much sealed a 58-41 victory.

Even the Cal-Hi Sports caravan’s presence at the Wednesday night game earlier this week couldn’t kibosh Natesan’s performance. The 6-foot-3 senior finished with 31 points on six 3-pointers, five rebounds, five steals, three assists and three blocks.

Last week, in a 54-47 win on the road at De Anza League rival Palo Alto, the 4.38 GPA student-athlete had 32 points and drained seven 3-pointers.

Now, after that performance and a record-setting four-year career, plus his academic excellence, Natesan has been named the ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Week.

Following the Los Gatos game, which came after Natesan learned he won the award, the CIF Central Coast Section’s leading scorer had per game averages of 23.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 steals, 1.7 assists and 1.6 blocks.

For his career, Gokul also has scored 1,438 points with 253 shots made on 3-pointers.

While his final career point total won’t make the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book, Natesan will finish as the No. 2 scorer in school history behind former NBA player and coach Kurt Rambis.

“To know how well he did makes me feel good about myself, but I’m not completely satisfied I couldn’t get the number one spot,” Natesan told Cal-Hi Sports.

Natesan’s 3-point career total isn’t finished either, but that number will make the state record book’s all-time list.

With his on-court numbers, high GPA and a 2170 SAT score, there should be some college offers, but there aren’t too many South Asians playing at the next level so there are skeptics. Most of the interest has been from Division III schools.

“I still have a chance to play at a D1 or D2 school and I really want to play at that level if possible.”

MIT, Colorado School of Mines and UC Santa Cruz have expressed interest.

“Right now, I’m real interested in engineering as a career but that could change, so I’m looking at schools with top engineering programs. MIT is a fantastic school and a great option.”

Teammates and goals

“We can’t lose any more games and maybe we can get a league co-championship.”

“My own goals are to achieve the team’s goals. I want to play well, improve the play of my teammates, put the responsibility on myself to make my teammates better, and be someone they look up to.”

My best assets are…

“My leadership and how hard I work on and off the court. I lead through example and never make excuses.”

Coach’s comments

“For three years, he’s been our guy,” said 12-year coach and Cupertino athletic director and P.E. teacher Craig Ellegood.

“Even as a sophomore, he’s made countless big shots to win games. He’s welcomed that challenge.”

“Obviously he can shoot the ball, but even when he goes through cold spells he won’t get down on himself.”

Family

“My family is at every game. They support me no matter how good or bad I play.”

Gokul’s father, Ranki Natesan, a software engineer, played some basketball growing up in India. “He put me in leagues when I was young,” said his son.

His mother, Sumathi Natesan, teaches ESL in adult education.

Older sister Amlu Natesan is a dancer that just graduated from Cal and is going to medical school.

Comparisons

Not only did Gokul’s favorite player, Stephen Curry, have a huge Thursday night for the Golden State Warriors, another player he admires, and the only American-born Chinese player to play in the NBA, former Palo Alto star Jeremy Lin, had another great night as well for the New York Knicks.

“It definitely gives me a person to look up to,” said Natesan of the player that led Paly to the 2006 Division II state championship. “If he made it, I’m looking at what I can do to achieve my full potential.”

Other favorites

Movie: “Invictus, about South Africa and Nelson Mandela.”

Music: “Hip-hop.”

Car: “The new Acura that just came out. The TS something.”

Vacation spot: “The Caribbean.”

Outside activities

Besides basketball and academics, Natesan is the ASB treasurer at Cupertino.

Gokul is also involved in the highly cultural South Asian community in the San Jose area. He volunteers and helps in fundraising for the Sankara Eye Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that works toward eliminating curable blindness in India.

Things he looks forward to in college

“Playing basketball, meeting new people in a different environment, pursuing a degree, and the work you have to put in.”

Advice to youngsters

“No matter what anyone tells you, don’t stop playing. Everyone can get better. Listen to your parents. Learn how to manage your time and put in as much work in class as on the court. Do what you love. Go out and work to be the best you can be.”

You can send AOW nominations to mark.tennis@espn.com or tweet them to us @CalHiSports. Don't forget to follow Harold Abend on Twitter: @HaroldAbend