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Remembering A Giant

F

ull disclosure, you may have already read the longer version of this column online in our first issue of the month. But because this is our Basketball Preview Special, it seemed appropriate to offer this abridged version. I first met Tom Blackwood as a first-year prep sports writer for the Contra Costa Times in February 2001. Only a handful of weeks into the job, he may have been the first East Bay basketball coach I met and interviewed. I was dispatched to cover Blackwood’s Miramonte-Orinda team in a late-season home game. I don’t remember the opponent, or a lot of the details of the game. Most of what I remember about this game all happened once it ended. Miramonte won — the Matadors did that a lot during Blackwood’s remarkable 38-year tenure — and I caught up to Blackwood before he could join his team in the locker room. Blackwood, who was already 36 years into that aforementioned coaching stretch, caught my eye and glanced down at my notebook. At that point, he could’ve easily big-timed the rookie reporter he’d never met, and asked me to wait while he spoke with his team first. Instead, he flashed a grin, waved me forward and stuck out his big right hand. In addition to answering all of my questions about the game, he asked a few of his own: When did I join the Times? Where had I grown up and had I played basketball? Our conversation probably only lasted seven to eight minutes, but it paved the way for one of my favorite professional relationships during the early part of my Bay Area writing career. In mid-October, I learned Blackwood passed away in late September following complications with pneumonia. He was 81. Upon finding out, I had a number of fond memories of Blackwood surface. None more significant than that first meeting, though. In recollections of him in the wake of his death, many have spoken of the passion and kindness that were evident in my first encounter with him. “He was one of those people when you met him, you instantly liked him,” former Miramonte player Chris Kuhner said of his high school coach and longtime friend. “He was just so social. He liked to be around people. He lived life to the fullest.” While I enjoyed talking ball with Tom in the years after his coaching days, I’ll always regret not getting to see him coach more. I’ll forever be grateful for his kind gesture to a young writer, and his honesty and candidness as a source in the years that followed. A group of Miramonte alums have begun a movement to get the Miramonte gymnasium’s court named in his honor. I think that would be fitting. ✪

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Sheldon boys added a huge piece in their quest for a state championship

Girls preseason Top 20 12 EXCLUSIVE: rankings plus our preseason All-NorCal starting five

Boys preseason Top 20 13 EXCLUSIVE: rankings plus our preseason All-NorCal starting five

girls are out to prove they 16 McClatchy are still Sacramento’s best

YOUR TICKET TO CALIFORNIA SPORTS ADMIT ONE; RAIN OR SHINE This Vol. #9, November 15, 2018 Whole No. 156 is published by Caliente! Communications, LLC, PO Box 741, Clayton, CA 94517. SportStars™© 2010-2014 by Caliente! Communications, LLC. All rights reserved. Receive FREE Digital Subscription in your inbox. Subscribe at SportStarsMag. com. To receive sample issues, please send $3 per copy, or $8 total for bulk. Back issues are $4 each. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission of Publisher is strictly prohibited. The staff and management, including Board of Directors, of SportStars™© does not advocate or encourage the use of any product or service advertised herein for illegal purposes. Editorial contributions, photos and letters to the editor are welcome and should be addressed to the Editor. All material should be typed, double-spaced on disk or email and will be handled with reasonable care. For materials return, please enclose a stamped, selfaddressed envelope. SportStars™© and STARS!™© Clinics are registered trademarks of Caliente! Communications, LLC.

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WOODLAND CHRISTIAN - VOLLEYBALL - SENIOR It would be no understatement to say Trottier powered the Cardinals to their first Sac-Joaquin Section Div. V championship. In the final two matches of the tournament, Trottier combined for 56 kills, 26 digs, two aces and two blocks. She had 34 kills and 14 digs in a 3-0 semifinal win over Le Grand, and then posted 22 kills and 12 digs in a 3-1 finals win over Vacaville Christian. Woodland Christian played in Div. V after winning back-to-back NorCal Div. VI titles in 2016 and 2017. In a competitive-equity twist, they were moved up to Div. IV for the 2018 NorCal playoffs and were handed a No. 5 seed for the tournament that began Nov. 6. Trottier entered the state tournament with 540 kills, 93 aces and 297 digs on the season.

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release THE

HOUNDS With The Addition Of Marcus Bagley And Others, The Sheldon Huskies Are Built For Another State Title Run

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his past June, Marcus Bagley had little idea where he would spend his final two years of high school. That decision depended on where his older brother would be drafted. His family discussed Phoenix as a possible destination — not far from their hometown of Tempe — because the Suns held the No. 1 overall pick. Sacramento, Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas were also on the map. Marvin III was a consensus All-American in his first and only season at Duke University and was projected to be taken anywhere in the top five spots of the 2018 NBA Draft. That left Marcus and his family in the lurch waiting for their next destination. Prior to their East Coast time, the Bagley’s had spent the past half-decade in Southern California, where Marvin and Marcus found success at Sierra Canyon School — a private institution nestled in the trees, Story By Steven Wilson north of Los Angeles. So when Marvin’s name was called Photos By with the No. 2 overall selection by the David Gershon Sacramento Kings, it didn’t take long for Marcus to start considering schools in the area. “It went by so fast, it’s crazy,” Marcus Bagley recalled. “It seems like just yesterday my brother committed to Duke. But I know I’m enjoying it, just having fun right now and being a kid.” One of the first times Marcus heard of Sheldon High came in late March, when the Huskies were taking on his former squad in the 2018 CIF state title game. Despite their loss to Sierra Canyon at the Golden 1 Center, the Huskies had left an impression on the young star. “I knew I wanted to compete at the highest level, against the best teams,” Bagley admitted. Although Marcus did not participate in prep basketball during his brother’s tenure with the Blue Devils, he stayed in shape, playing with AAU leagues around North Carolina. He has offers from a handful of Div. I schools and is seeking a state title to pad his résumé before trekking off to college. “Marcus is a great kid,” Sheldon coach Joey Rollings said. “He shares the ball, he’s not selfish, he works hard, he’s good in school, he’s polite — he’s just a good, all-around person.”

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ADDING TO THE PACK

Fresh off a 29-6 season and a trip to that state championship game in 2018, Sheldon returns a handful of key players this year, including backcourt standouts Xavion and Xavier Brown, Justin Nguyen and Kaito Williams. But the team’s frontcourt will look much different with Bagley and Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove transfer Josh Morgan filling up the paint. “They really add to what we try to do – we’re a defensive team, and that’s what we were last year, too,” Rollings stated. “Last year we had guys that were 6-foot-7 or 6-8, but Josh is 6-11 and Bagley and (Brennen) Newsom are both 6-8, so they really add to our defense and give us flexibility.” The new additions mean Sheldon should be able to play more press defense, leaving Bagley and Morgan in the paint to protect the rim. Sheldon also added Preston Heede, a 6-4 senior post who earned second-team all-Mid-Willamette Conference honors last year at Crescent Valley in Corvallis, Oregon. While most teams in the section, especially the ones still playing at the end of the year, rely on one or two standout players destined for the collegiate level. Rollings says he has a handful of players who will continue their careers at the next level, whether at Div. I universities or smaller Div. 2 schools. Williams, a senior guard, is committed to Cal State East Bay, Bagley has offers from Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State, USC, Nevada and Pacific, and Morgan is committed to Long Beach State. The latter is the team’s tallest addition. He has the wingspan of a pterodactyl, specializes in blocking shots and averaged 1.8 rejections last season for Pleasant Grove. Now, he makes the jump to a new school, just three miles away, and the transition on the court has been eye-opening for Morgan. “Before I transferred, I worked on explosion training maybe one or two times a week… but Coach Rollings has me in the gym nearly every day,” Morgan said. “That’s been one of the biggest differences — the work we put in.”

‘OUTWORKING’ THEIR OPPONENTS Rollings makes one thing perfectly clear to his group of players: He requires his group to outwork the teams they play, and that starts in the weight room. From conditioning and weight training, to film study and practices, this program has a heavy collegiate influence. “When you get to that level, you’re lifting weights or conditioning at 5 a.m. every day,” Rollings said. “You also have to keep your grades up and study for two hours a day, so we try to simulate a lot of that. Get these guys to know that we can’t just walk into the gym and think we’re better than the other team — we have to work for it. Because when you get to the playoffs, you can’t be lackadaisical.” Rollings and his staff use multiple techniques in practice to put players in difficult and adverse situations. That way, when his team comes across fierce competition, they can be ready for it. “We want to see who can will their team to a 10

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Kaito Williams

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victory, no matter the situation,” Rollings admitted. “Because we’re going to get in those situations this year, and we’re going to have to put our heads down and outwork our opponents.”

COLLEGIATE-LEVEL TALENT Sheldon has witnessed a handful of special players over the past decade, many of whom have taken their talents to the next level, but Marcus Bagley could take the cake as most impressive. “He’s very smart with the ball,” Rollings pointed out. “He knows when to screen, when to roll, when to pop, when to drive and he’s not selfish with the ball.” At 6-8, Bagley looks like your typical low post player. But regardless of his size, he has excellent versatility and prides himself on his ball-handling. “I can do it all — shoot, rebound, dribble, get my teammates open, defend, just do everything on the court,” Bagley acknowledged. That’s in part due to his roots. He grew up watching his older brother Marvin III, who was the tallest player on the floor and was consistently put in the post to play. But their dad, Marvin Jr., knew his boys could do more than just play in the post. So Marcus, who didn’t enjoy the same height advantage over his classmates as his brother, grew up playing guard, honing his skills as a ball-handler. “He can play one through five,” Rollings said. “That’s how good he is. He can play point guard, he can play the two-guard, he can play small forward, power forward or center — he’s that flexible and we’re going to use him at every spot.” The loss of Sac-Metro Player of the Year, Del Currie — who averaged 15.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals — to graduation leaves a hole at point guard, but the team believes its additions will pay off in the long run. “We’ve been to the big stage, and now we know what we have to do to get (back) there,” Xavion Brown said. “So we just have to execute and do it, and actually take away the goal.”

CHAMPIONSHIP PEDIGREE The Huskies have dominated league play over the past four seasons, and a 2018 realignment which moved Grant-Sacramento out and Cosumnes OaksElk Grove in, shouldn’t change that. Since realigning from the Delta River League in 2014 to the Delta League, the Huskies have lost just one league contest in 56 tries. That sort of dominance won’t help diminish the hype already associated with this year’s squad, and it won’t stop Bagley from lofty goals either. The junior says he has two things in mind this year — win as many games as possible, and win one in particular — the state championship game. “They made it to state last year, but fell short to Sierra Canyon (in the championship),” Bagley said. “I bring a whole new dimension to the team and I think we can get it done.” That game is still months away, but fans will get their first glimpse of the championship contenders on Nov. 24, as they open the year against St. BernardPlaya del Rey at Newark Memorial’s NorCal Tip-Off Classic — and that should satisfy the salivating Sheldon hoop fans in the meantime. ✪ Follow us on Twitter & Instagram, like us on Facebook!

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girls basketball2018-2019 preseasonall-norcal team preseasontop20 STARTING5

1. Archbishop Mitty-San Jose (29-1): Yes, we know Pinewood beat Mitty in the NorCal Open finals last year, and that the San Jose power lost a ton to graduation. However, Haley Jones is still wearing the Monarch uniform and she’s the best player in California. Of course there’s still more talent, led by four-year senior Anna McNicholas, and sophomore Hunter Hernandez. Mitty was also bolstered by a couple of high-level transfers, plus returners who learned from a trial by fire down the stretch last season.

Bamberger

KLARA ASTROM (Pinewood-Los Altos Hills, Sr.) Position: Wing. Height: 5-9 2017-18 averages: 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 50% shooting, 2.2 steals Astrom’s gritty style masks a skilled player who can make 3-pointers (39%), grab tough rebounds and defend at a high level — and expect her to do even more this year for one of the top teams in the state.

2. Pinewood-Los Altos Hills (27-3): Stanford-bound Hannah Jump and super-versatile Klara Astrom are back, but Doc Scheppler’s free-flowing offense — he likes to make it clear Pinewood was playing this way long before the Warriors adopted the style — will miss graduated point guard Brianna Claros. Still, it would be no surprise if Pinewood once again finished atop these rankings at season’s end. 3. Salesian-Richmond (27-6): All eyes will be on USC-signee Angel Jackson, and not just because she’s 6-5, but opponents who forget about seniors Nia Chinn, Makayla Edwards and Anjel Galbraith will be in for a rude awakening. Salesian has always flown a bit under the radar, but don’t be surprised if the Pride wind up playing for the Open championship.

ALI BAMBERGER (Carondelet-Concord, Sr.) Position: Post. Height: 6-3 2017-18 averages: 20.1 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 2.3 assists The Washington-commit has steadily improved throughout her high school career, and with a veteran team around her, the strong and skilled post player will get plenty of opportunities to show off the reasons why she’s a Pac-12 player.

4. St Mary’s-Stockton (27-3): St. Mary’s supporters may grumble at the “low” ranking, but though there’s still lots of talent, the overwhelming array of Division I-bound athletes will slow a little this year. Still, Jada Moss, Anna Blount and Amaya Oliver — back after losing last season to injury — are a very potent trio.

ANGEL JACKSON (Salesian-Richmond, Sr.) Position: Post. Height: 6-5 2017-18 averages: 14.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.6 blocks Jackson is a formidable presence in the paint, and though she’s always been a defensive presence — especially as a shot-blocker — the USC-bound talent is becoming more and more of an offensive threat.

Astrom

Jump

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6. Carondelet-Concord (22-8): New coach Mike Morris comes from Vacaville Christian, a Division V school, but his transition to the big time will be eased by the presence of Washington-bound post Ali Bamberger and five other talented seniors. 7. McClatchy-Sacramento (23-6): Last season ended with a pair of postseason upsets, but with Nia Lowery (signed with Washington) and Kamryn Hall back, coach Jeff Ota has one of the best one-two punches in Northern California.

HALEY JONES (Archbishop Mitty-SJ, Sr.) Position: Wing. Height: 6-0 2017-18 averages: 21.8 points, 64% shooting, 45% 3-point shooting, 10 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.0 steals, 2.5 blocks Anyone casually connected to the girls high school basketball scene knows Jones is a generational player in Northern California. Wherever she chooses to play at the next level, she’ll be the jewel of the incoming freshmen. So we should enjoy every second we can before she heads off to college. HANNAH JUMP (Pinewood-L. Altos Hills, Sr.) Position: Wing. Height: 5-11 2017-18 averages: 16.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 45% 3-point shooting Jump is made for the modern game: The Stanford-bound 5-11 wing who can shoot from anywhere. Not only does Jump shoot at a high percentage from distance, she also does so as a volume shooter (102 made 3s last season) rather than just picking her spots.

5. Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland (19-11): Though losing Zakiya Mahoney will hurt, coach Malik McCord has everyone else back, and the Dragons will be a very tough out despite a lack of size. And since Lexi Love and Jada Holland are the only seniors, O’Dowd may only get better down the road.

8. St. Joseph Notre Dame-Alameda (28-5): The loss of talented junior Sophie Nilsson to an ACL tear shouldn’t slow the Pilot juggernaut too much. Coach Shawn Hipol has almost everyone else back from last year’s surprise team. 9. Bradshaw Christian-Sacramento (22-13): This young group lost by one in the NorCal Div. IV finals to Woodside Priory-Portola Valley, and returns all its firepower — and will have significantly more depth after finishing the year with just six players.

Jackson

NEXT5 ANYA CHOICE / Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa / 5-8 / Jr. KAMRYN HALL / McClatchy-Sacramento / 6-0 / Sr. JADA HOLLAND / Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland / 5-6 / Sr. NIA LOWERY /McClatchy-Sacramento / 5-11 / Sr. RYANNE WALTERS / Sacramento / 5-6 / Sr.

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10. Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa (27-6): Monica Mertle’s North Bay power never seems bothered by graduation, and with super-quick junior guard Anya Choice in charge, don’t expect much of a drop-off this season. 11. San Ramon Valley-Danville (27-6) 12. Miramonte-Orinda (28-6) 13. Bear Creek-Stockton (28-4) 14. Heritage-Brentwood (23-8) 15. Sacramento (18-12) 16. Antelope (26-6) 17. Folsom (27-5) 18. West Campus-Sacramento (29-7) 19. Aragon-San Mateo (23-6) 20. Christian Brothers-Sacramento (25-8)

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boys basketball2018-2019 preseasontop20 preseasonall-norcal team 1. Sheldon-Sacramento (29-6): The rich absolutely get richer when it comes to the Huskies. In addition to returning four starters and a great majority of the 2017-18 squad that won the CIF Open Division NorCal title, Sheldon landed 6-foot-8 junior Marcus Bagley (the younger brother of Sacramento Kings’ rookie, Marvin Bagley III). While the four-star Bagley handles the wing, the paint will be home to another incoming talent, 6-foot-10 Josh Morgan (Long Beach State) from Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove. Size, speed, depth. The Huskies have it all. 2. Modesto Christian (29-4): And here’s the team that actually beat Sheldon in the Sac-Joaquin Div. I championship last March. It graduated Junior Ballard, who sank the dagger 3-pointer in that contest, but still returns four of its top six scorers from last season’s 29-win team. Dathan Satchell and Aaron Murphy will lead the Crusaders this season.

STARTING5 MARCUS BAGLEY (Sheldon-Sacramento, Jr.) Position: Wing. Height: 6-8 2017-18 averages: Not available Younger brother of Sacramento Kings’ firstround draft pick, Marvin Bagley III, arrives with family from a year in North Carolina (where Marvin III attended Duke). The younger Bagley can play position 1 through 5 and will lead NorCal’s top team to open the season.

3. Salesian-Richmond (30-2): There were just two seniors on the Pride team which won 30 games and was NorCal’s No. 1-ranked team for most of last season. The Pride were ranked No. 1 in the state and the No. 1 seed in the NorCal Open Div. before being upset by Folsom in the opening round. James Akinjo (Georgetown) was one of those two seniors to depart, but Salesian’s depth will absorb the loss. 4. Dublin (26-6): Robby Beasley averaged 21 points, three rebounds and three assists as a sophomore for a Gaels team which went undefeated in the EBAL and came within a double-OT buzzer-beater of reaching the NCS Div. I final. The loss of three key seniors may be felt early, but the Gaels should reach top gear pretty quickly. 5. Clayton Valley-Concord (26-4): There may not be a more fun team to watch in the East Bay this year. The Ugly Eagles return two starters, and several key members from last year’s NCS Div. I runner-up squad. They will press. They will run. And they will shoot — from anywhere.

ROBBY BEASLEY (Dublin, Jr.) Position: Guard. Height: 6-2 2017-18 averages: 21 points, 3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 45% 3-point shooting Already in this third varsity season, Beasley is ready to make another leap in his junior season. It’ll be a tough encore considering what he accomplished as a sophomore. Defending his is a pick-your-poison proposition, as he can finish at the rim or drain a 3-pointer. ISAIAH HAWTHORNE (Tracy, Sr.) Position: Wing. Height: 6-8 2017-18 averages: Approximately 15 points,

6. Riordan-S.F. (17-12): The Crusaders have a chance to usher in a changing of the guard in the West Catholic Athletic League. That’s thanks to Sacred Heart Cathedral-S.F. transfer Bryce Monroe. He’ll join forces with his cousin, Jelani Clark, to form potentially the best duo in the league.

12 rebounds

7. St. Mary’s-Stockton (26-6): Bryce Johnson, Carson Simi and Jamar Marshall all return after each averaging double figures for the Rams last season. Johnson averaged a double-double of 17.8 points and 12.5 rebounds.

fectively play the wing aren’t going to be easy

8. Moreau Catholic-Hayward (22-8): Talented grid-hooper, Maxwell Anderson, will lead a Mariners squad that returns five of its top six scorers from a year ago and will add up-and-coming, 6-foot-5 sophomore guard DJ Johnson.

DISHON JACKSON (St. Patrick-St. Vincent-

9. Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland (27-6): Of all the preseason Top 10 teams, the Dragons are probably replacing the most. However, a pair of four-year varsity players, Will Chavarin and Iniko McNeil, are good base to start anew with.

bounds, 3.3 blocks

10. Grant-Sacramento (23-11): Grant returns its entire rotation from its breakout season a year ago, including 6-5 wing Steven Richardson and 6-7 forward David Jones and 5-11 point guard A.J. McGee. 11. De La Salle-Concord (21-9) 12. Vanden-Fairfield (20-10) 13. St. Ignatius-S.F. (18-10) 14. James Logan-Union City (20-7) 15. St. Joseph Notre Dame-Alameda (22-11) 16. Campolindo-Moraga (21-11) 17. Archbishop Mitty-San Jose (13-17) 18. Capital Christian-Sacramento (22-9) 19. San Leandro (12-14) 20. Jesuit-Carmichael (22-8)

nationally for the Class of 2020 and #10 in the

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Beasley

Hawthorne was a matchup nightmare during his Tri-City Athletic League MVP campaign a season ago. Most 6-8 players who can efto guard. He’s committed to play for Pacific next year.

Vallejo, Jr.) Position: Forward. Height: 6-8 2017-18 averages: 14.7 points, 10.2 reArizona and California are two of the Pac-12 schools who already have offers to the Bruins’ double-double machine. Jackson ranks #63 state.

Satchell

DATHAN SATCHELL (Modesto Christian, Sr.) Position: Guard. Height: 6-3 2017-18 averages: 12.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals Satchell did a little bit of everything for Crusaders a season ago. The backcourt duo of him

NEXT5 XAVION BROWN / Sheldon-Sacramento / 6-1 / Jr. BRYCE JOHNSON / St. Mary’s-Stockton / 6-6 / Sr.

and junior Michael Pearson may be one of the

KESHAD JOHNSON / San Leandro / 6-8 / Sr.

fiercest defensive tandems in all of Northern

BRYCE MONROE / Riordan-S.F. / 5-10 / Jr.

California.

KENDALL MUNSON / Capital Christian-Sacramento / 6-9 / Jr.

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seatedSENSA

Upp A National Standout In Sitting Volleyball

When people watch sitting volleyball for the first time, some assume it is easier than the standing version. Zach Upp is here to inform them that it is not — at least not for him. Upp, who was born without part of his right arm, has been playing both sitting and standing volleyball since he was 13. He joined the U.S. Men’s Sitting National Team in 2017, helping it qualify for the 2018 Sitting World Championships with a second-place finish at the Para Pan American Games. He plays both sitting and standing volleyball with an impressive black prosthetic arm. In the standing game, he can move to his spot on the court and then use the arm to block or pass. But in the sitting game, he uses both his arms to push himself into position, then quickly lift them to block or pass, which can be a clumsy process. “Blocking is such a big part of the game and I’m at a huge disadvantage,” he said. “But I am working on it.” It has been a year of transition for Upp, who graduated from high school in May and then moved from his home near Chicago to Edmond, Oklahoma, to become a resident athlete at the University of Central Oklahoma. He is not enrolled in classes this year, so his time is primarily spent training and getting stronger. “It is definitely different practicing every day,” he said. “The toll on my body is a lot different. To wake up every morning to go to practice is different. “I also have to get stronger mentally. Playing all the time after the three weeks of being overseas for Worlds, it definitely took its toll.” The U.S. Men’s Sitting Team finished eighth at the 2018 World Championships. It was the team’s best finish to date, but not

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ATION as good as it had hoped. “We are still an improving team,” Upp said. “We still need to improve together as a team. Not necessarily each individual.” It has also been a year of personal transition for Upp, the last of three brothers to move away from home. “I moved out and a couple months later my parents put our old house on the market,” Upp said. “They are moving into an R.V. and they are going to travel around the U.S. They are definitely happy about that.” Living by himself has been an adjustment for Upp, but he does not regret his decision to join the Sitting National Team full-time. “I’ve settled in,” he said. “It was just odd, not having anyone to have dinner with. But living on my own, I have definitely matured. I’m not such a little kid anymore.” ✪ — Copy and photos provided by USA Volleyball, NCVA

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THINKING

BIG Despite A Lack Of Height, McClatchy May Still Be The Sacramento Region’s Best Team Story by Jim McCue Photos by James K. Leash 16

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G Y

ou don’t need big players to have big expectations. The McClatchy High girls basketball team has downsized on height and depth, but retains the same high hopes and expectations that come from five consecutive seasons with at least 23 wins and a pair of CIF State Division I Championship game appearances, including claiming the 2015 state title. “We are small,” said Jeff Ota, who starts his third year as the girls varsity head coach at the school where he has been involved with the boys’ and girls’ programs for more than a decade. “We will be playing small ball more than we have in the past, and will rely on our quickness and athleticism.” What the Lions lack in size and depth, they will try to make up for in experience. McClatchy returns seven key contributors from last year’s team that graduated just two players. Three of this year’s seniors have been on the varsity roster since their freshmen seasons, and have three years of postseason experience, including the Lions’ run to the 2017 Div. I state final at The Golden 1 Center just miles from their historic Sacramento campus. Four-year varsity players Nia Lowery, Kamryn Hall, and Jenna Waki will be relied upon by Ota to lead on the stat sheet and in the leadership category. Lowery is a University of Washington commit who will get plenty of attention from opposing defenses, Follow us on Twitter & Instagram, like us on Facebook!

but her primary focus will be on improvement as a team in addition to personal improvement on the court. “I want to be a more complete player and have all of the elements of my game come together,” Lowery said. “But I have other goals. A lot of people get lost in stats, but I want to become a better leader and improve my confidence in myself and try to help others on the team.” The experience of McClatchy’s seniors has increased importance due to the fact that Ota may keep up to four freshmen on the roster. While he won’t have to reteach his team’s core the basics of the Lions’ offensive and defensive schemes, he will need his leaders to pass along their knowledge and experience to the newcomers. “They will have to help bring the freshmen along,” Ota said of the Lion cubs. “They will let them know what to expect and how to act and react. It’s better coming from them anyway than coming from the coaches all of the time.” Hall is 5-foot-11, but is not a typical low post “big” who will stay within 10 feet of the basket on both ends of the floor. She may be McClatchy’s most versatile player, and is likely one of the few players in the area and section who can play almost every position.

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November 15, 2018

Pictured above: McClatchy key returners (L to R) Nia Lowery, Kayla Fermil, Jenna Waki and Samaya Beatty.

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“She is one of the smartest players that I have seen, and she can play every position except maybe shooting guard,” Ota said of Hall. “She’s like Magic Johnson, She can bring the ball up and run the offense, pass, rebound and block shots. “Her versatility and court awareness covers up a lot of mistakes that other players make because she always sees the play and knows where the ball is going to help out on defense.” Waki is a 5-foot-8 wing/guard. She does not fill up the stat sheet, but fits the role of pestering defender and “glue” person on and off the floor. She will fly around in McClatchy’s pressure and trapping defense and be the first one to accumulate bruises and floor burns from diving for loose balls and mixing it up with any player, any size. Juniors Samaya Beatty and Kayla Fermil also logged significant minutes in 2017-18 for a Lions team that finished the season with a 23-7 record, including a perfect 14-0 mark in the Metropolitan League. The duo can match up with most opponents and teammates in terms of athleticism and hustle. Beatty is starting to catch the attention of four-year schools with an impressive wingspan on her 5-foot-10 frame and a serious rebounding veracity. Fermil is the Lions’ top three-point shooter, and gained confidence last season after missing her entire freshman campaign recovering from a knee injury. McClatchy’s wild cards will be the three or

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Nia Lowery

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Kamryn Hall four freshmen that could gain more minutes as the season progresses. Ota is excited and cautiously optimistic about the contributions that his newcomers might make, especially in league play and the playoffs. But the coach also knows that the Lions can only go as far as Lowery, Hall and Waki can lead them. “Those girls are focused on and off the floor,” he said of his senior trio. “Nia can get to the basket and create opportunities for others, and if she improves her three-point shooting, watch out.” McClatchy has traditionally played a challenging nonleague schedule before competing with Sacramento High in the Metro League to get battle-tested for the postseason. With realignment this year, though, the Dragons are no longer in the Metro, so the Lions will have to seek new rivalries to prepare for the playoffs. “I will miss that a lot,” Lowery said of the rivalry with Sac High that filled their gymnasiums every game. “It was real fun and like a playoff atmosphere. When you hear the crowd respond to every play and basket, it feels real good.” With Sac High’s departure from the league, McClatchy will be favored to win at least a share of a fifth consecutive Metro title, but teams like Monterey Trail-Elk Grove, River City-West Sacramento, and Kennedy-Sacramento could make another league title a difficult goal. “Our chemistry will be key,” Lowery said. “It all starts in practice and I believe that we can get more out of ourselves than we think because we will work harder and create a competitive intensity that can translate to games. “It’s a huge thing to know that we have three seniors that know the coaches and can translate everything to the younger players.” Almost as big as the expectations the Lions and others have put on the team. ✪ Follow us on Twitter & Instagram, like us on Facebook!

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K K C C O O ROOCCKKSS!! R

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, , y y it it rs rs e e iv iv n n U U p p u u s s s s e e J J s s m m a a li illi Wil W re aare p p re re P P ls ls o o o o h h c c S S h h ig ig H H l l a a c c o o LL n Seeaassoon ntt S meen rnaam urn Toou F Foorr T

The William Jessup University men’s basketball team is off to a strong start with the Warriors dominating in their first few games. Looking ahead, they are excited to be hosting two winter tournaments that promise fierce competition and great action for the fans. First up is the Warrior Holiday Tip-Off Classic that takes place Dec. 17-19. The Warriors will go head to head with Pacific Union College out of the Napa Valley area and Westcliff University from Irvine. The Warriors play Westcliff at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 17 and Pacific Union at 3 p.m. Dec. 19. Following the Holiday Tip-Off is the New Year’s Classic on Dec. 27-29, which brings San Diego-based University of St. Katherine and UC Merced. The Warriors play St. Katherine at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 27 and UC Merced on Dec. 29 at 3 p.m. . “Both these classics will be very competitive contests with

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multiple nationally recognized and respected programs participating,” said Lance Von Vogt, Warriors men’s basketball coach and William Jessup athletic director. “I think the thing I enjoy most during the holiday season is connecting with friends and family while making lasting memories,” Van Vogt said. “That’s why these classics were created, so that our community, friends and family could enjoy some high-level basketball that also serves as great interactive family fun. Make it a point to join us and I can promise that you won’t regret dropping into these games and making some awesome family memories.” General admission fees are $8 and $5 for seniors, military and children 12 and under. William Jessup University is located at 2121 University Ave. in Rocklin. Go to jessupathletics.com for more information.

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N K!!LLIIN K NORCAL TIP-OFF TOURNAMENT RETURNS Rocklin and Whitney High Schools, in conjunction with Placer Valley Tourism, are teaming up to host their annual NorCal Tip-Off Basketball Tournament. This action-packed fourday event takes place Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 and is considered the premier high school varsity basketball tournament in Northern California. “We are excited to have 16 teams coming from Reno, the Sacramento area, the Central Valley, Fresno and San Luis Obispo,” said Rocklin High coach Stephen Taylor. “Basketball fans will have an opportunity to see some excellent competition early in the season. The majority of the games will be played at the high school locations. However, the final four games are held at William

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Jessup University on Dec. 1. “Playing the championship games at Jessup is exciting for the fans and the players, plus all the proceeds from the tournament benefit the Rocklin and Whitney high school boys basketball programs.” Entrance fees are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and children ages 6 to 17. 5 and under are free. Concessions will be available to purchase during games. Mark your calendars and come watch some top-notch teams hit the courts. Rocklin High School is located at 5301 Victory Lane in Rocklin, Whitney High School is located at 701 Wildcat Blvd. in Rocklin and William Jessup University is also in Rocklin at 2121 University Ave. ✪ — All copy and photos provided by Placer Valley Tourism

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The Honor Group Issue 156  
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