Sports

Menlo School's Bisconti is playing with the big boys

Normally at this time of year, Nick Bisconti is getting ready for the summer water polo season. That, actually, hasn't changed. What is different is which team the Menlo School senior-to-be is playing on.

Bisconti will not be training with his club team this summer and will miss Menlo's annual trip to Coronado to train with Navy Seals. There's a good reason for that.

Bisconti is currently on the roster of the U.S. Men's Senior National Team, which will wrap up a four-game exhibition series with Serbia with matches Saturday at Cal and Sunday at Stanford, both at 3 p.m.

"This is really exciting stuff," said Menlo water polo coach Jack Bowen. After he spent a week with the national team at the Olympic Training Center (in March), I realized that this was really a reality. He has a goal of playing in the 2020 Olympics and this is the beginning of that goal coming to fruition."

Bisconti was one of six junior players -- the only one from Northern California -- invited to train 10 days with the senior team in Colorado Springs. His size (6-foot-6, 200 pounds) and work ethic caught the eye of new USA head coach Dejan Udovicic,who is pushing youth development in USA Water Polo.

Bisconti received a phone call a month ago from a team assistant, notifying him that he'd been placed on the senior team.

"I was through the roof," Bisconti said. "I don't know how better to describe it. This has been a dream of mine for a long time."

Bisconti is the only senior team player returning to high school this fall, quite an honor for a player who didn't start playing the game until the seventh grade.

This past school year, he was the Most Valuable Player in the PAL Bay Division, a first team all-Central Coast Section selection and a fourth-team All-American. Last summer, he played on the Men's Cadet National Team -- Double A ball on the scale of Major League Baseball.

"He's profoundly excited about this," Bowen explained. "He has achieve a tremendous amount in a short time. He's a tremendous player and has a great head on his shoulders."

Bowen said the combination of Bisconti's body type, positive attitude and how his plays the game gave the USA coaches good reason to believe Bisconti has a bright future with the program.

"Just playing with these guys is phenomenal," said Bisconti, who has been getting great advice from 2012 Olympian John Mann on how to play defense, among other things. "I'm just thrilled to be along for the ride."

Bisconti has been training with the senior team this past week at Sacred Heart Prep. The bulk of the squad just returned from winning a gold medal at the FINA Intercontinental Tournament that wrapped up Sunday in Shanghai, China.

Stanford's Alex Bowen and Bret Bonanni combined for three goals to help the Americans defeat Brazil, 11-7, in the title match for their sixth straight victory. Also on the team are Stanford players Jackson Kimbell and Conner Cleary.

By reaching the medal round of the event, Team USA clinched a berth in the upcoming FINA World League Super Final, set for June 14-21 in Dubai.

Bisconti isn't planning on making that trip. In fact, he figures he won't be on the senior team at that time. Instead, he could be training for the 13-man team that travels in August for the FINA World Men's Youth Water Polo Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. That event is for players 18-under.

There's also the U.S. Junior National Team, which will be competing at the Junior Pan American games in Riverside this July. Since Bisconti is still in high school, he's eligible to play on both teams.

"I'm not trying to worry about what team I'm on," Bisconti said. "I'm just hoping to take my game to the next level."

Whatever team he makes and wherever he's playing, Bisconti most likely will be missing that annual Menlo team trip to Coronado.

"When he told me about his internationally exciting plans with the U.S. team this summer, the first thing he said to me was 'I'm so bummed. I'm not going to be able to go on the Menlo team's Coronado trip,'" Bowen said. "I'm not surprised, but it's still cool to see an adolescent remain grounded and true to his roots as he's heading off to play with the best in the world."

Bisconti said his Menlo teammates have been very supportive and understand why he won't be with them this summer. Once he returns, Bisconti will be all business with the Knights as they try to unseat rival Sacred Heart Prep as the Central Coast Section Division II champion.

"We're looking to give Sacred Heart Prep a run for its money this year," said Bisconti. "I've had enough of this losing to them."

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