RIPON -- It was difficult to pick Tyler Goslinga out of the crowd in junior high. He was 6 feet tall, but nothing spectacular on the basketball court.
That all changed in the summer between his seventh and eighth grade. He lost weight, worked on his shot, improved his footwork and became the go-to player in eighth grade.
"My dad was Tyler's coach and he'll tell you he made a commitment that was a sight to behold," Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen said. "It was quite a transformation, and every year since he has kept getting better."
He's kept getting taller, too.
Goslinga is up to 6-8 and he is one of the Stanislaus District's top inside players, averaging 21.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game.
He helped RC win 16 of its first 19, but back-to-back losses knocked it out of the Trans-Valley League race. It also fell from No. 1 to No. 4 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V power ratings, and is in desperate need of a win tonight when it visits rival Escalon.
The Knights are looking to Goslinga to help regain the momentum they once had.
"Tyler has improved in his individual moves and sheer power this year," said Vander Molen, whose center is shooting 61 percent from the floor and 73 percent from the free-throw line. "Kids who used to be able to guard him say they can't anymore."
Goslinga is part of a talented group of post players that includes Pitman's 6-6 Dominic Romeo, Linden's 6-7 Aaron Judge, Mariposa's 6-6 Cody Wichman and Central Catholic's 6-6 Dan Hulst.
None are in the TVL, so Goslinga has had his way inside.
"The guys that are shorter, they're often heavy and have a low center of gravity," said Goslinga, who has at least 10 rebounds in 11 consecutive games. "I've had to get stronger so I can hold my ground, otherwise they'll be trying to push me out from the hoop."
Goslinga's preparation for his final season at RC took a detour last summer: He was diagnosed with melanoma, a skin cancer that killed nearly 7,000 in the United States last year, and had a chunk of skin removed from his shoulder.
"I weighed 280 last summer because I was inactive for six weeks," said Goslinga, who is down to 260 and hopes to drop another 15 or so after the season. "The big thing is that I'm OK, doctors say, because they caught the melanoma early."
The weight has slowed Goslinga, but it's also made him difficult to defend under the basket. With his wide hips making it difficult for defenders to reach around and bat passes away, Goslinga is a fixture on the low post and the first option for the Knights.
"The two players he relies on to get him the ball are Daniel Van de Pol and Steve (Vander Molen), and I believe the fact that they have played together since sixth grade is a bonus," said RC's coach, referring to his 6-2 guard duo.
Goslinga's production, and RC's record, has been helped by the emergence of junior Logan Vos. The 6-4 forward averages 13.6 points and 5.8 rebounds, and his ability to hit the trey keeps foes honest.
Vos had 22 points in a 52-47 win over rival Ripon in January, hitting six of 10 treys.
"Ripon was totally focused on Tyler and Logan delivered the scoring," said Vander Molen, who says the ability to have multiple scoring threats is crucial to the Knights' success. "Winning the section is the goal for this team, and it's a realistic goal. The Trans-Valley League is going to prepare us well for the playoffs."