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Nunnally brothers reunited

Younger sibling explodes for 19 in homecoming

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Nunnally brothers reunited

Brothers Michael, left, and James Nunnally, representing University of the Pacific and UC Santa Barbara, respectively, dueled in Big West Conference action Thursday at Spanos Center.

JAGADA CHAMBERS/The Bulletin


POSTED February 5, 2010 2:47 a.m.
STOCKTON — They have played basketball at the park, in the church and on the driveway.

Both earned multiple Valley Oak League championships for different Manteca Unified high schools.

And Thursday evening their basketball careers crossed paths for possibly the final time at Spanos Center where sophomore James Nunnally and UC Santa Barbara got the better of big brother Michael Nunnally’s Pacific Tigers 61-48 for the second time in Big West Conference play.

The Nunnally brothers took to the court as starters for opposite ends of the NCAA Division-I matchup, and it was the younger Nunnally who provided the early sparks for a large family support team to applaud.

James scored eight quick points, helping the Gauchos open the contest on a 14-2 run. James knocked down a perimeter jumper off of the game’s opening tip and continued scoring until a final breakaway lay up gave Santa Barbara its final points.

James, who finished with 19 points, is blossoming into the player the Gauchos will need him to be, giving him an opportunity to accomplish remarkable things for a program that has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2002.

“He is really growing up,” Gaucho head coach Bob Williams said. “His willingness to play out of position has been a key for us. We’re really proud of him and how much he is growing up.

“I am very happy with the relationship I have with James.”

Michael’s relationship with his younger brother has flourished as well during his brief college tenure. The pair stays in constant communication, and James’ recent success on the hardwood is a testament to one of his biggest influences.

“I am so proud of him,” said Michael, a senior. “He used to have a problem with his temper, (but) it has gotten way better and it shows. I had to get in his ear earlier in the season, but anytime we play against one another it’s fun.

“We still talk everyday, whether it’s a text, on (instant messenger) or on Facebook — our relationship is really close.”

Both brothers experienced a great deal of success in high school and that seems to be a solid foundation for a strong college career.

Michael Nunnally led East Union its first two of three straight VOL championships in 2003 and 04, earning all-league MVP honors his senior year.

He went on to Delta College and was named the California community college co-Player of the Year in 2007. Michael is averaging over eight points per game for the Tigers and has become a team leader.

James Nunnally was a part of Weston Ranch’s first-ever VOL championship team as a sophomore in 2006 and led the Cougars back to the title in 2008 when he was voted league MVP.

James has made instant contributions at UC Santa Barbara but is taking his game to new levels. He’s averaging 18.1 in 10 Big West games, pouring in at least 19 points in each of the Gauchos’ past five games.

“Last year I struggled a little bit trying to just get accustomed to the system and playing at a high level every game,” James said. “We are a really young team with a lot of good pieces. We are all learning together at the same time.

“Things are getting a little easier for me and we are having some success.”

The game was more than just another Big West Conference game for both of the Nunnallys. Michael is trying to lead his first-place Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament, while James is trying to become the player and teammate that his brother is almost finished developing.

“He just told me to play hard,” James said of Michael’s preparation speech for the next level. “I have always looked up to my big brother, and he’s had some success so I just wanted to keep it going. His message to me was to work hard. When everyone else is sleeping, you have to be at the gym working hard.

“He’s been a mentor to me like a big brother should.”
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