Village News Reporter
Fallbrook High School senior Naiya Kurnik will continue her basketball career at Vassar College.
Kurnik signed a letter of intent to play for Vassar, which is in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The Brewers play in the Liberty League which also includes other Upstate New York schools.
"I'm definitely excited to further not only my athletic career but my academic career as well," Kurnik said.
"I hope to pursue sports management, possibly become a sports agent," Kurnik said. "I think I'm setting up my future very well by going to Vassar."
Kurnik was also considering Columbia University and Dartmouth College. "I wanted to go to a high academic institution," she said. "My basketball game is just kind of a plus for me."
Vassar is in Poughkeepsie, which is along the Hudson River and is approximately midway between New York City and Albany. "I definitely wanted to go back east," she said.
"I think it's a really good school for her," said Fallbrook girls basketball coach Trae Harrison. "I think it fits well with her goals, her ultimate goals as far as what she wants to do."
Kurnik and her mother visited the Vassar campus in August 2021. "I got to meet a few of my teachers and check out the college life on campus," Kurnik said. "I liked the intimate campus feel. Since I'm going so far away from Fallbrook, I like the community feel that Vassar provides. I also really like the coach."
Anthony Mason is Vassar's head basketball coach. He had previously been an assistant coach at Pepperdine University. "We had an immediate Southern California connection," Kurnik said.
They also have a Pepperdine athletics connection. Kurnik's father, current Potter Junior High School teacher Barry Kurnik, played basketball at Pepperdine after playing basketball at Damien High School in La Verne. Kurnik's mother, Elysian, is from Encinitas and attended The Bishop's School in La Jolla where she played field hockey and ran track. Kurnik has a younger brother, Oliver, who is a freshman at Fallbrook High School and is part of the Warriors' soccer program.
The 2021-22 season, when the Brewers finished with a 17-8 record, was Mason's first as Vassar's coach, so Kurnik will be an element of Mason's early coaching career at Vassar. "I'm looking forward to being a part of it," Kurnik said.
"I think Naiya's going to do well," Harrison said. "I know she's going to do well. She's a great player. She's a huge asset for them."
Kurnik attended William Frazier Elementary School for kindergarten, Fallbrook Street School from first grade through fourth grade, La Paloma Elementary School as a fifth-grader and sixth-grader, and Potter while in seventh and eighth grades. She started playing youth basketball when she was at La Paloma, and she was also involved in softball and dance prior to high school.
Jessica Ramirez was Fallbrook's head coach for 2018-19 and placed Kurnik on the varsity as a freshman. As a sophomore Kurnik was chosen for the all-league first team by the Valley League coaches. Harrison took over the Warriors' program in 2020, and Fallbrook won league championships both in 2020-21 and in 2021-22. Kurnik was not only a first-team Valley League selection as a junior and as a senior but was also the Valley League player of the year both years.
The 2021-22 Warriors had a record of 24-7 including playoff results. Fallbrook won the CIF Division II championship, which was the Warriors' first girls basketball CIF championship since 1982.
"Overall I had a positive experience, especially ending on a positive note by winning the championship," Kurnik said of playing for Fallbrook High School.
"My junior and senior year it definitely picked up," Kurnik said. "Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed all the memories I made with my teammates and just had fun."
Fallbrook's 2021-22 games included a 49-11 win Dec. 11 at Avalon High School, which is in Catalina, and that trip is one of Kurnik's favorite Fallbrook basketball memories. "It was nice to have that bonding time with my teammates and explore the island," she said.
Poughkeepsie has significant meteorological differences from Catalina. "She has to get used to that weather. That's going to be huge," Harrison said.
"I'm just excited for what the future holds in the next four years," Kurnik said.
She is also pleased about the four most recent years. "I'm glad I followed through all four years at Fallbrook High School," she said.