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FOCAL POINTS

Eric Duncan emerging as Weston Ranch’s playmaker

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FOCAL POINTS

Weston Ranch standout point guard Eric Duncan soars to the basket against El Cerritos during the McDonald’s Classic at Delta College on Dec. 7.

Photo By SEAN KAHLER/


POSTED January 25, 2013 12:54 a.m.

WESTON RANCH – Chris Teevan followed the bouncing ball from Modesto to Turlock, climbing basketball’s ladder in a hard hat and sneakers.

He earned his way onto the floor for Beyer High, Modesto Junior College and eventually Cal State Stanislaus with talent and ability. He stayed there, though, with tenacity, sheer will and buckets of sweat.

“I prided myself on being the hardest worker on the floor,” said Teevan, now in his first season as the boys varsity coach at Weston Ranch. “I never thought I’d find another player who worked as hard as me.”

And then Eric Duncan strutted into his gym, stepping out of the shadow of former McNair teammate TJ Wallace and into the driver’s seat of a Valley Oak League contender.

On a team that features bona fide stars in shooting guard Dylan Alexander and center Daiveon Leverett, Duncan has emerged as the team’s MVP.

“He’s the least talked about kid in this area, and he’s the heart of our team,” said Teevan, whose voice spikes with excitement and energy when conversation turns to Duncan, his 6-foot-1 captain.

“A lot of people doubted him. All the stuff I heard about him when he was coming over here – can’t play, can’t control the ball, can’t keep his head. All those people came up with excuses to bring him down, but why not acknowledge how good he is?”

People are starting to take notice.

A perennial playoff team under former coaches Bill Slikker and Ryan Bono, the Cougars haven’t lost a step under new leadership.

Weston Ranch is 14-6 and tied atop the conference table with two-time defending champion Sierra (18-3) at 8-0.

The two have been on a collision course all season long, and tonight, they finally collide at Weston Ranch.

The area’s top boys basketball teams meet in what is expected to be a fiery test of wills.

Sierra prides itself on shutting down the opposition and using snipers like Guillermo Nunez and Eric Melgar to create separation.

Weston Ranch, on the other hand, plays with speed, swagger and a fearlessness it gets from Duncan, its on-floor orchestrator.

“To me, we’re playing another really good team. We respect them and what they’ve done,” Teevan said. “But for us, it’s the next league game we have.

“Our goal is to win a section title. If the VOL comes before that, so be it. We have to get better and this will let us see where we’re at.

“I know one thing … Eric Duncan will play.”

The take-charge point guard has been everything his toughest critics said he couldn’t be when he transferred from McNair to Weston Ranch.

At McNair, Duncan often played second fiddle to Wallace, a University of Pacific-bound guard who is playing his final season at Modesto Christian.

Duncan was used as an off-guard in the Eagles’ system, Teevan said, and he had moments of brilliance. He averaged 17.2 points last season, with a few monster games: 28 points apiece in wins over West and Stagg, and three consecutive games of 22 or more against Stagg, Edison and St. Mary’s.

But he was playing out of position – and losing steam on the recruiting trail.

At Weston Ranch, with Teevan’s trust, Duncan is back at point and rebuilding his college profile.

“That’s been the biggest improvement. I didn’t have that chance at McNair. I wanted to have the ball in my hands in my last year to show people what I could do,” Duncan said.

“A lot of college coaches backed off me. Now they’re coming back because they’re hearing and seeing what I’m doing.”

And his critics? Crickets.

Duncan’s scoring (16.7) and rebounding (4) averages have dipped slightly, but his assists per game have doubled (6) and his first step has been virtually indefensible in league play.

 “I heard a lot of people talk like that,” Duncan said of his naysayers. “I’ve worked hard to improve my game and prove them wrong. It doesn’t bother me. I just worry about my team and what we can do to be successful.”

Teevan’s tip: Keep working, kid.

“He’s a beast. How hard he plays in games is how hard he goes in practice. That right there is a testament to his dad. His dad was a linebacker,” Teevan said, referring to Eric Duncan Sr., a teammate of Marshall Faulk’s at San Diego State. “And Eric plays like a linebacker.”

A linebacker in sneakers and metaphorical hard hat.

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