2008-09 ALL-AREA BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM
G Kiwi Gardner, Manteca sophomore — Diminutive dynamo at 5 feet, 7 inches, the all-Valley Oak League point guard provided substance (19.8 points, 6.0 steals, 2.7 steals per game) with style in leading the Buffaloes to their first conference championship since 1989.
G Matthew Ratto, Ripon junior — Two-time all-Trans Valley League first-team selection fired in a team-high 14.5 points per game and converted an impressive 88 percent of his free-throw attempts.
G Derrick Sykes, Weston Ranch senior — Earned a spot on the all-VOL first team despite being hampered by a groin injury for most of the regular season. Led the Cougars with 11.5 points, 2.3 assists and 2.5 steals to go with 4.8 rebounds.
F Nick Scheible, Manteca senior — Productive wing scored 17.5 points while grabbing 6.5 rebounds per game to earn all-VOL first-team recognition for the second straight season.
C Tyler Goslinga, Ripon Christian junior — Voted the TVL’s Most Outstanding Player, the Knights’ 6-foot-7 stalwart churned out 16.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Even within the confines of a gymnasium does his voice hardly stand out.
But his game does.
The Bulletin’s 2008-09 All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year is the new Sierra High single-season record holder for total points scored (666).
The 6-foot-1 guard averaged an area high 26.6 points per game, good for 12th best in the state according to MaxPreps.com, adding 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.8 steals an 84-percent free-throw percentage and 44 percent from 3-point range to his impressive senior-season campaign.
With Williams leading the way, Sierra achieved a rare feat for public schools, hitting the 20-win barrier for the fourth time in five years.
“No one meant more to his team than he did,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said after Williams was voted the Valley Oak League’s Most Valuable Player.
That was most evident in Sierra’s first and last games of the season.
Williams was visiting relatives in Jackson, Miss. when he missed Sierra’s preseason opener against Lodi. Unable to break the host Flames’ stifling press, the Timberwolves quickly fell behind 16-2 and turned the ball over 26 times in the first half en route to losing, 64-41.
Lodi finished the season 12-13 and did not make the playoffs. Sierra lost its next two games but won 11 of its next 12.
The Timberwolves lost just two games in league, both to champion Manteca. Starting center Tyler Willis hurt his knee in the first Manteca game, so they had to make do without their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer until the final week of the regular season.
“When Tyler went down, that hurt a lot,” Williams said. “I just knew that from there I was going to have to put them on my back and carry them, so that’s what I tried to do and I succeeded until we got to the playoffs.”
Sierra was in prime position to advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs semifinal round after it was awarded the fourth seed, but No. 13 St. Mary’s of Stockton pulled off a 53-42 upset. Williams did what he could, producing game-highs of 35 points and 11 rebounds despite double- and triple-team pressure with three starting teammates fouling out with little contribution to scoring.
“I was just like all right, I’m going to have to start pulling up from halfcourt,” Williams said. “It was all I could do.”
The heartbreaking loss does little to tarnish what Williams and the Timberwolves achieved all season.
Viewed more as a combo guard his junior year, Williams played for an AAU team in Fairfield to sharpen up his skills as a primary ball handler and floor leader. And with the help of Thomason, himself a deadly perimeter shooter during his days at Turlock High and the University of the Pacific, Williams improved his outside stroke and became more of a physical presence.
Williams complemented his soft touch from 3-point range with smooth ball handling, allowing him to fearlessly drive the lane and bang bodies with the big boys.
“I just wanted to get better as a player,” Williams said of his off-season goal going into his final prep season. “I knew I only had one year to prove myself, so I just took that to the fullest and tried to make my teammates better.”
Williams looks to former rivals to prepare for the present and beyond.
Williams works out with Manteca High sophomore standout Kiwi Gardner and are great friends off the court. And there are the occasional conversations with Weston Ranch alumnus James Nunnally, a two-time All-Area Player of the Year selection now starring at Santa Barbara.
“He told me to stay up on my books, stuff like that,” Williams said of Nunnally. “He says some positive things to me, so it’s cool to have those kinds of talks with him since he’s there already.”
Where “there” is for Williams is still up in the air. He said Sacramento State, Jackson State, Georgia Tech and Pacific are interested, but his decision probably won’t be made until the NCAA postseason tournaments are over.
Until then, the silent assassin will continue to work on his game.
“I have to get bigger, get stronger,” he said. “I know the bump up to the next level is going to be tough.”