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AUGUST 16, 2019

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HIGH SCHOOLS, RECREATION & SIGN-UPS

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Antioch hoops star signs with Italian team By Patrick Gordon Correspondent

It has always been Eric Donaldson’s dream to play basketball overseas. On Aug. 20, he’ll fly to Rome to make that dream come true, after signing with Vigor Matelica, a professional team in Italy. Donaldson’s father, Robert, played and coached in Europe for 25 years. Eric was born in Coventry, England, and got his first taste of high-level European basketball with the United Kingdom’s under-16 national team at the European Championships in 2017. “It was a great experience to have, and that’s what I wanted to do,” said Eric Donaldson. “I really enjoyed it.” The former Antioch High School star will play guard and forward for his new team. His older brother, Sydney, who has been playing professionally in London for the past three seasons, will join him on the team. For the Donaldson family, it’s an ideal situation. “I think it’s great,” said Robert Donaldson. “He’ll get a chance to be mentored by Sydney. There’s no better character than his brother to mentor him in the process [of playing overseas], because he’s actually been doing it himself.” For the two brothers, it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and planning.

Former Antioch High School basketball star Eric Donaldson has signed with Vigor Matelica, a professional team in Italy.

Photo courtesy of Marcus Donaldson

“We’ve always talked about playing on the same team,” said Eric Donaldson. “That’s been a dream of ours for a couple years now.” Since Sydney is 11 years older than

Eric, they’ve never had the chance to play on the same team. But when he played in the European Championships, Eric realized playing alongside his brother might be within reach.

For his first season, Eric will retain his amateur status while playing for Vigor Matelica. This will preserve the option to come back to the United States to play collegiate basketball a year from now, if he believes that’s the best fit. “I want to keep the doors open for any opportunity possible,” he explained. “If the best fit for me is to stay in Europe and play at a higher level with this team or another team, that’s what I’m going to do. If the best fit is to come back to America and play at a top tier division one school, that’s what I’ll do. I’m keeping my options open.” After earning a 3.76 grade point average in high school, including a 4.0 in his junior and senior years, college is still an option. “As hard as he has worked on the court, he’s also worked in the classroom, so he’s prepared for both,” said Robert Donaldson. “It’s a dream come true to play with his brother in Europe, but he has also been accepted by colleges and could register for school tomorrow if he had to.” Robert Donaldson said his son’s work ethic made this opportunity possible, pointing to his self-motivation and persistence. see Hoops page 16A

High school football season kicks off next week The high school football season kicks off on Aug. 23. For most Bay Valley Athletic League (BVAL) football fans, that will mean jumping into their cars to watch their local squads, at least for the first week. Four of the six BVAL teams — all but Antioch and Deer Valley — will start their 2019 campaigns on the road, but nobody is complaining, and every squad is entering the season with high expectations. “Everyone wants to be 10-0, but on the same hand, you want to be competitive and get after it,” said Heritage head coach Don Sanders. “I think we’ll definitely be able to do that.” Liberty, the reigning California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division 1-A state champions, will travel to Vacaville (6-5 last season) for a rematch against the 2018 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff squad, whom the Lions beat 35-10 at home last year. Fellow Brentwood squad Heritage (1-9 last season) aims to reverse their fortunes while defending against North Coast Section (NCS) Division I champion San Ramon Valley (9-4 in 2018), a team Sanders said shell-shocked his young squad in last year’s season opener.

Liberty quarterback Jay Butterfield and his Lions teammates, the reigning state champions, will open their 2019 season next Friday at Vacaville.

Press file photo

“Last year, we had SRV, and we were so young that I think it kind of shocked them how outmatched we were in that game,” he said. “It took us a while to get back on track, but I don’t think that will be an issue this year.” Meanwhile, Freedom (9-4 in 2018), last year’s NCS Division I runner-up, will begin their season with a fresh-faced squad on the road against Turlock (8-4

last year), who made it to the quarterfinals in last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. Despite a slew of new Falcons taking the field this season, Freedom head coach Andrew Cotter said the team’s mindset hasn’t changed. “It’s not a whole lot different,” he said. “We try to take a very consistent approach to the game. The two biggest

things are working as hard as we can and trying to stay as positive as we can. Football is a game of adversity and how you deal with it, and we like to think with hard work and positivity, you can get through any adversity.” Pittsburg (7-4 last year), a perennial NCS Open Division Playoff team, will begin its season at Stockton’s St Mary’s, (7-5 last year), a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinalist last season. Back in East County, Deer Valley (4-6 last season) looks to claim its first win of the season from visitors American Canyon (6-6 last year), a NCS Division II playoff quarterfinal squad a year ago. “I really like to take it one game at a time,” said Deer Valley head coach Robert Hubbard. “I want to win the first game.” Not far away, Antioch High (7-4 last season) will look to shake off a tough NCS quarterfinal loss to Vintage when it welcomes Amador Valley (8-3 last year), a 2018 NCS Division I quarterfinal squad. Antioch’s, Deer Valley’s, Freedom’s and Pittsburg’s games begin at 7 p.m., with Heritage’s starting at 7:15 p.m. and Liberty’s at 7:30 p.m. For complete BVAL team previews and schedules, visit www.thepress.net/ special/bval_football_preview.

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