The boys basketball story at a cozy little Catholic high school in central Fresno begins with a 14-year-old freshman who has six major-college scholarship offers.
Mere truth regarding Memorial’s Jalen Green.
If you have trouble processing that, plunk down 6 bucks and watch a 6-foot-5 guard with insane ability and humbleness – the beauty of all blends.
6 Major-college scholarship offers already received by Memorial 14-year-old freshman Jalen Green
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Yes, Fresno State is among those who have pledged allegiance. But, good luck coach Rodney Terry and the Bulldogs, opposing USC, Arizona, Florida State, Creighton and UNLV in the genesis of a guaranteed courtship army.
The caveat: If you choose to see Green at a home game of The Bee’s Central Section second-ranked Panthers, get there early because ticket demands are sure to be high and seating capacity low, about 8 hundy in the tiny house of horror for opponents.
There was a day in the early ’70s when Memorial hoops was so hot that some games were shifted to Selland Arena to accommodate throngs of more than 5,000 to watch the NBA-to-be Pondexter brothers, Roscoe and Cliff.
That won’t happen with the current 12-3 Memorial edition, but this is a special show that’s just evolving, nonetheless.
In addition to rookie Green (24 points, 13 rebounds), it was sophomores Deon Stroud (11 points, seven rebounds, four blocks) and Milton Burnett (12 points) and juniors Lunden Taylor (21 points, eight rebounds) and Jonah Geron who conquered a very respectable section Division I opponent, Buchanan, 70-62, Friday at Memorial.
With Green, 6-6 Stroud, who has been offered by San Jose State, 6-5 Geron and 6-3 Taylor, a three-year starter, the Panthers are long, athletic, explosive to the basket and exceptional defensively.
Buchanan 6-8 junior Spencer Heimerdinger, considered by Bears coach Pat Geil as the section’s premier low-post player, was double-teamed every time he touched the ball while being held to a career-low two points.
It was Taylor and Stroud who pounced on the big guy early while setting the defensive tone.
Still, this was a playoff-level duel as No. 9 Buchanan (13-4) of the Tri-River Athletic Conference led 25-19 early in the second quarter, 39-38 at halftime and trailed only 57-55 with 7 minutes to go.
It’s a Bears team sure to have an impact in the final two months as Heimerdinger is complemented by senior leadership at the point in Trey Mayhew, offensive forces in sophomore guard Jonah Crumpton-Murray and senior forward Tyree Leggett and a long-distance dandy in Kevin Hogue, who came off the bench to drain three high-arcing treys.
There will be no Buchanan-Memorial rematch because the Panthers will play postseason in D-II.
And it will be there that many anticipate a Memorial-Ridgeview showdown for the D-II title March 3 at 8 p.m. at Selland Arena.
The Panthers of the County/Metro Athletic Conference are pursuing their ninth section title in the 71-year history of the program, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Their first was delivered by coach Tom Cleary in 1970; their last by Geil in 2012.
“We played young tonight,” says Memorial coach Brad Roznovsky, who replaced Geil in 2001. “We’re very talented, but we make some mistakes, some young mistakes. That was a good win for us, though, against a team that I really think is going to make some noise in D-I.”
The Panthers depth has taken a hit, however.
Three-year starting guard Braden Fitzgerald – “The team glue,” says Roznovsky – appears lost for the season with a knee injury suffered a week ago in an 82-75 loss to Liberty-Bakersfield in the Clovis Elks Classic.
And reserve sophomore guard Justin Huelskamp is out indefinitely after suffering a gash above his right eye in a collision with Buchanan’s Phillip Fane early in the second quarter. The injury required stitches. Fane remained in the game.
Repeat dominance for Walberg, Eagles – His now top-ranked Clovis West team having whipped Bullard 83-64 on Tuesday night, Vance Walberg scooped 3-year-old granddaughter Rhyan into his arms, bounced around the Golden Eagles’ gym and was having a jolly ol’ time.
“I always have fun coaching,” he says in his second go-round with the program, “and it doesn’t matter what level I’m coaching. I just love to coach.”
He’s coached all three levels – preps, college and pro – and is 17-1 at Clovis West this season after going 343-68 from 1990-2002.
That’s a combined 360-69 and a head-spinning .839 winning percentage. And, for all of that, he says he has something now that he’s never had before with the Eagles – a 25-point per-game scorer in four-year guard Adrian Antunez, who has signed with Fresno Pacific.
It was Antunez’s 11 third-quarter points that helped rally Clovis West to a 73-66 win at Edison Friday night. He finished with 22 points, increasing his career total to 1,414 – fourth-best in school history, according to Barnett.
Walter Graves, a 6-7 senior who teams with Antunez as arguably the best inside/outside tandem in the section, scored all 16 of his points in the second half against Edison. Adrian Martinez, like Antunez, a powerful force driving to the basket, added 11 points.
The Eagles have scored 80 or more points 12 times, but the escape at Edison wasn’t their first. Bakersfield and Liberty-Bakersfield extended them to overtime on consecutive nights in Clovis West Nike Shootout games won 98-91 and 97-92 by the Eagles in December.
Clovis West now dives into the TRAC with back-to-back burners – Friday at No. 6 Clovis North and Jan. 17 at No. 5 Central. They represent last season’s D-I finalists, with Central winning 77-64 at Selland Arena.
CW girls No. 1 in state – Clovis West’s girls basketball team, already No. 1 nationally in USA Today’s computer rankings, has climbed to No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
“It’s a first ever for the top team from the CIF Central Section as the Golden Eagles ascend to the No. 1 position in the state rankings for the first time in school history,” the website reports.
Clovis West swaps spots atop the Cal-Hi Sports rankings with Archbishop Mitty-San Jose, which edged the Eagles 76-75 in overtime on Dec. 10 in the championship of the Nike Iolani Classic at Honolulu.
Clovis West carried a 13-1 record into Saturday night’s game against Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory-San Francisco at the Miramonte Showcase.
- 1. Clovis West (TRAC, 17-1)
- 2. Memorial (CMAC, 12-3)
- 3. Ridgeview (SYL, 7-2)
- 4. Bakersfield (SWYL, 7-10)
- 5. Central (TRAC, 8-4)
- 6. Clovis North (TRAC, 10-5)
- 7. Liberty-Bakersfield (SWYL, 11-5)
- 8. Immanuel (CSL, 8-4)
- 9. Buchanan (TRAC, 13-4)
- 10. Independence (SYL, 12-4)
- 11. Selma (CSL, 11-3)
- 12. Clovis East (TRAC, 9-5)
- 13. El Diamanate (WYL, 12-4)
- 14. Bullard (CMAC, 8-7)
- 15. West (SYL, 13-3)
Division I: 1. Clovis West, 2. Bakersfield, 3. Central
Division II: 1. Memorial, 2. Ridgeview, 3. Independence
Division III: 1. West, 2. Selma, 3. Golden West (16-2)
Division IV: 1. Immanuel, 2. Madera South (11-3), 3. Fowler (10-1)
Division V: 1. California City (9-2), 2. Strathmore (9-6), 3. Liberty-Madera Ranchos (10-6)
- 1. Clovis West (TRAC, 13-1)
- 2. Clovis (TRAC, 16-2)
- 3. Clovis North (TRAC, 10-6)
- 4. Independence (SYL, 14-2)
- 5. Mission Oak (EYL, 11-4)
- 6. Bakersfield (SWYL, 11-3)
- 7. Monache (EYL, 15-2)
- 8. Ridgeview (SYL, 11-4)
- 9. Hanford (WYL, 10-6)
- 10. Stockdale (SWYL, 12-4)
- 11. Central (TRAC, 9-6)
- 12. Golden Valley (SYL, 15-2)
- 13. Buchanan (TRAC, 9-6)
- 14. Sierra Pacific (East Sequoia, 11-3)
- 15. Madera (CMAC, 10-5)
Division I: Clovis West, 2. Clovis, 3. Clovis North
Division II: 1. Independence, 2. Bakersfield, 3. Monache
Division III: 1. Mission Oak, 2. Golden Valley, 3. Madera
Division IV: 1. Sierra Pacific, 2. Strathmore (14-3), 3. Orosi (10-5)
Division V: 1. Memorial (10-4), 2. Bakersfield Christian (7-5), 3. Kern Valley (8-4)
Note: All records through Jan. 6