Josh Sykes says his job on the court was simple: Play big.
The Golden Valley senior did just that, averaging 10.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and four blocks per game to help lead the Cougars to a second straight Central California Conference championship.
"I played help-side a lot, coach calls it a one-man zone," Sykes said. "That's what I like to play. I like to cheat in the paint."
The statistics only begin to explain Sykes' impact on the floor this season. That's why the conference coaches selected Sykes as the CCC Most Valuable Player.
"He was a difference maker," said Buhach Colony coach John Bliss. "Even when you were able to get dribble penetration, you still had to deal with him. If you beat your guy off the dribble he was still there to block the shot or alter the trajection of the shot.
"You had to know where he was every time you were around the basket."
The Cougars (24-5) had two other players with MVP-caliber seasons in Christian Carroll and Evan Stillahn.
However, Sykes was the one player Golden Valley could not do without.
When Sykes came off the floor the Cougars were a different team.
"Teams had a tough time scoring against us and a lot of that was him and his presence," said Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter, who was named the CCC Coach of the Year. "I don't know how you put a value on that."
Standing 6-foot-6, with a wingspan of 7 feet and the ability to jump up and touch the top of the square on the backboard, Sykes was a tough matchup for opposing teams on both ends of the court.
"You try to come up with a defensive game plan for all their players, but Josh has a unique skill set," Bliss said. "It's like nobody else in the league.
"He can play above the rim and he doesn't need a lot of room or space to do it. You always have to be aware of where he is."
Sykes improved a lot on the offensive end where he averaged just 3.5 points per game as a sophomore.
"He can put the ball on the floor and get the ball to the basket when he wants to," Hunter said. "His post-up game vastly improved. He can score on the block, which is a lost art in basketball."
The all-CCC first team was comprised of Dashawn Holcombe (Turlock), Stillahn, Carroll, Joe Marquez (Buhach Colony), Roger Klauser (Buhach Colony), Ben Peterson (Atwater) and Travante Richard (Merced).
Stephen Hillyer (Buhach Colony), Dusty Nunes (Golden Valley), Branson Garcia (Pitman), Devin Bains (Turlock), Daniel Motz (Atwater), Jonathan Chairez (Merced) and Kenny Fraser (Turlock) all were named to the second team.
Western Athletic Conference
Livingston's Brian Perez and Pacheco's Daniel Marquez were named to the all-WAC second team.
Central Catholic's John Fenton was named the conference's MVP and the Raiders' Mike Wilson was picked as the Coach of the Year.