More than a game: NDP’s Skylar Certo talent extends past basketball

Notre Dame Preparatory senior Skylar Certo has made a significant impact over his time at the school, scoring more than 1,000 career points over three years. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

After bringing the basketball up court, Notre Dame Preparatory senior Michael Liborio handed the ball off at the left wing to fellow senior Skylar Certo, who was already rounding to the basket.

Upon reaching the elbow, three Cactus Shadow defenders immediately swarmed Certo, forcing him to clear the ball out. After a couple of passes, Liborio found Certo again, this time several feet behind the 3-point line near the Cactus Shadows logo.

After a few second of staring down the defender, CJ Nnorom, Certo pulled up for a 3-point basket, banking it in.

While Certo has made numerous 3-point shots during his career at NDP, this one was different. It signified his 1,000th career point.

NDP senior Skylar Certo fires away a 3-point shot that put him over 1,000 career points. (Photo courtesy of Mike Harvey/Peak Image Pro)

Certo has played on Notre Dame Prep’s varsity squad for three years. He’s been one of the team’s top scorers since his sophomore season, scoring more than 400 points in his junior and senior seasons. This led him to a feat only two others before him have accomplished at NDP.

Despite all his talents with the basketball, the sport is not the top priority in his life. Certo has visions of reaching Wall Street to work in stocks or managing businesses.

“It’s always been what I wanted to do and I’ve used basketball as a catalyst to get to that point,” he said.

He’s got the intellect to reach those goals. NDP Head Coach, Kyle Diemer, said Certo has pulled off high scores on both the ACT and the SAT, calling him a “high academic kid.”

Even with a focus on his academics, he’s still a menace for opposing teams.

Basketball has been a part of Certo’s life since he was a young boy, but it hasn’t always been easy. He’s had to work for his accomplishments.

Over the years, Skylar has developed a love for the game, but also he finds the game as part of his identity. He says he’s been playing the game so long it’s hard to imagine life without it, comparing the game to a drug because he’s always felt the pull to play.

“I don’t know what I’ll do when the season ends because it’ll be the first time that I don’t have any athletic commitments, especially for basketball,” he said.

“I love being out here with all my friends, everyone out here is my friend. It’s going to be tough to let go because of that camaraderie built with your team. And it’s something I’m good at. It’s not like I’m super bad. I’m here to have fun. I love competing and just having fun.”

Basketball growth

Certo, who Coach Diemer described as an introvert, is a 6-foot-4 guard who has been playing basketball since he “was in diapers.” He recounted having a child’s plastic basketball hoop in his living room that he would use regularly.

But basketball wasn’t the only sport in his life. He tried football and baseball but they never stuck. His love was for basketball.

“Both my parents played in college, they played DII in Florida,” Certo said. “They wanted me to play basketball the whole time and my body is a basketball body. Everything just aligned and I’ve always just played.”

Certo said he thought he was talented in middle school, but later admitted he might have overestimated himself.

He came to that realization prior to his freshman year when he had hopes of playing at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix. He didn’t think he’d make the team there and later transferred to NDP.

As a freshmen, Certo said he came off the bench on the freshmen team. His father Trevis Certo said that freshmen season sparked Skylar’s progress.

“He worked really hard and by his sophomore year he was getting a lot of playing time on the varsity team,” Mr. Certo said.

That work included three-hour gym sessions per day, Skylar said, as well as weight lifting and a timely growth spurt.

NDP senior Skylar Certo races up the court. (Photo courtesy of Mike Harvey/Peak Image Pro)

Skylar said he thinks he grew almost five inches between his freshman and sophomore seasons, claiming his natural growth helped more than his workouts.

During his sophomore year, he averaged a little more than 10 points per game, making him the second-leading scorer on the team.

“That was a really fun team to be a part of,” Skylar said. “They all trusted me so it was really easy to get acclimated to the varsity team.”

His junior year, he bumped his average to more than 18 ppg and this year, he averaged more than 20 ppg.

Coach Diemer has been at NDP through the entirety of Skylar’s career. He’s seen Skylar’s growth, saying that timely growth spurt benefited him.

“The biggest change in his game is being able to put some strength and size on him,” he said. “Each year, he’s been able to add more and more to his game.”

Early on, Coach Diemer categorized Skylar as primarily a shooter. As the years wore on, he noticed Skylar’s ability to start scoring in other parts of the court, making him a player that can score at all three levels and a threat from anywhere on the court.

“It just gives us an opportunity on the offensive end to really dictate or pick and choose where we want him,” Coach Diemer said. “If we really need a bucket here and there, we can just call a play and get him a bucket versus I don’t know if we can get one or not.”

Skylar also played for Powerhouse Hoops basketball cub. Club also helped Skylar improve his game because of the high-caliber, concentrated talent competing.

But this success doesn’t stop Skylar from coasting on workouts. Coach Diemer said Skylar is constantly taking time to work on his game, even after practice has ended.

This is a big source of pride for Mr. Certo because of how he’s seen that work ethic grow over the years.

“I cannot tell you how many parents have commented to me over the years that they see him working out every time they go to our local gym,” he said.

“Just knowing that he is working hard to achieve something he wants makes me most proud. Basketball will eventually come to an end, but if he applies his work ethic to his college classes and later in his career, I know I won’t have to worry about him.”

More than a game

On the night Skylar eclipsed the 1,000-point mark, the Saints suffered a 79-60 loss. While the accomplishment was momentous, it wasn’t a focal point for Skylar.

“I don’t really care about that,” he said. “I want our team to be good. Sure, that might be a byproduct of what happened but I wasn’t at home celebrating. … We still lost that game and it hurt.”

NDP senior Skylar Certo breaks the double team for a layup attempt. (Photo courtesy of Mike Harvey/Peak Image Pro)

In remembering the milestone, Mr. Certo said he thinks Skylar would have rather won the game than score as much as he did.

“I’m not really sure he understands the significance of the achievement, but I think he will later in life,” he said.

Teamwork has been one of Skylar’s biggest takeaways from his time at Notre Dame Prep. He thought he was too much of the focal point during his junior season as he was the only player last year to average double-digit scoring.

Coming into his senior year, he wanted to have a more team-oriented attitude. While Skylar is still the leading scorer this year, other players are more involved. Skylar said he hopes the teamwork he’s learned will translate into the work force.

With his future in mind, Skylar hoped to use his time with Powerhouse Hoops to gain the attention of a high-academic school. With the club, he got to take trips to several Ivy League schools and he’s met with several Division III schools with prestigious academic programs.

Skylar says his future is still cloudy. He’s received some offers from Division III schools but he thinks those offers “may not make financial sense.”

“I would like to play but since all of my opportunities are DIII, it just depends on how the finance stuff is going to work out,” he said.

Still, his mark is left at Notre Dame Prep and Coach Diemer had only compliments for his star guard, saying he’s been a good leader to the team, a good kid and a mature young man.

“He’s grown up a lot over these last four years,” Coache Diemer said.

“It’s fun to see.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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