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BOYS HOOPS: Jump-start
NorCal champs stay busy despite limited summer
Bulletin boys basketball 2020-21
Basketball standout Donjaé Lindsey high-steps the hurdles during an agility drill Wednesday at Weston Ranch. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Fall sports teams are not the only ones hard at work at local high schools.

This is also a time for winter sports athletes to sharpen their tools, and the two reigning NorCal boys basketball champions from the area are doing what they can to carry over their success under unusual circumstances.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the summer programs for Weston Ranch and Ripon Christian, both of which are accustomed to more intense settings in the offseason. 

The California Interscholastic Federation Division II champion Cougars from the Ranch, for example, were supposed to be in Phoenix this week for the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association Section 7 Team Camp — a massive showcase that drew 152 squads from nine states and more than 300 college coaches last year. 

Instead, players from the junior varsity and varsity teams have been grinding through agility drills led by strength and conditioning coach Vincent Bordi. The Cougars met Monday and Wednesday of this week, when sports teams from Manteca Unified schools were finally permitted to assemble for summer training.

Bulletin boys basketball 2020-21
Strength and conditioning coach Vincent Bordi demonstrates a drill for the Weston Ranch boys basketball team on Wednesday.

“It's better than nothing,” Weston Ranch head coach Chris Teevan said. “Usually in June, every weekend we are playing. This is more internal competition right now. You can still learn a lot about these kids and see who is putting in the work.”

With expectations continuing to grow for his Cougars, Teevan stacked their summer schedule with big-time events from out of the area. Included were camps hosted at college sites such at San Diego State and Saint Mary's in Moraga as well as the De La Salle Elite Summer Tournament. Teevan anticipates some of those camps will be moved to September.

“Getting into those live-period camps is a big deal, especially because we have seven seniors that are college-level players,” Teevan said. “They could use the exposure.”

Ripon Christian, which ruled Division VI for its fourth NorCal crown, usually don't venture as far over the summer. They were signed up for tournaments at St. Mary's in Stockton and Turlock.

“Summer practices are more (engaging) for the players when there is a game or tournament coming up,” Knights coach Mark Hofman said. “It can honestly be hard to keep the kids motivated.”

Guidelines for Ripon Christian differ from that of MUSD schools, however, so Hofman's squad isn't stunted by the same restrictions. While the school gym is closed to Teevan's group, which is also prohibited from using equipment, Hofman and the Knights have access to their indoor facilities and players can bring their own balls.

“We just started doing individual skill training,” Hofman said. “We're not doing any team concepts or defense because of contact. They have their own ball, they bring their own water and there's hand sanitizer everywhere. A lot of the training is shortened to an hour because there's only so much we can do in the context of the COVID situation.”

One other advantage Ripon Christian has: smaller numbers. One of the smallest schools in the Sac-Joaquin Section has had anywhere from eight to 12 players attend the boys basketball workouts, whereas Weston Ranch more than doubles the Knights' peak attendance.

“Sometimes, each player gets their own basket for layup and shooting drills,” Hofman said.

Hofman and Teevan have the next month to prepare their teams. On July 20, the CIF will examine where the state is in its reopening plan from the COVID-19 lockdown and ultimately decide the fate of high schools sports. Currently, the fall season opens July 27 with the first official football practices and Aug. 3 for the remaining fall sports in the SJS.

There's a strong possibility of high-contact sports such as football getting pushed back, which could of course effect the winter calendar. 

“The future is really up in the air,” Hofman said. “I've pondered that possibility of no basketball or a significantly shorter season.”

No matter when the season tops off, Teevan said his Cougars will be prepared.

“We always pride ourselves on being ready,” Teevan said. “We feel like we can play right now. Those are things the kids can control.”