Josh Sykes unleashed a full-scale attack on basketball rims throughout the Central Valley this season.
The Golden Valley 6-foot-6 junior is a high-flying highlight waiting to happen when he gets into the open court.
Dunking is a joy, Sykes said. I get excited in my head every time Im about to jump to dunk, especially an alley-oop. I only have to give Christian Carroll) a look or point up to let him know to give me the pass. Whenever Im up there I think about trying to break the rim.
Rattling rims is only a small part of Sykes game. The Cougars center had an impact on both sides of floor, averaging 10.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4 blocks per game on his way to being named the Central California Conference MVP after leading Golden Valley to the conference title and 24-5 record.
Sykes can add another postseason accolade to his list as the Sun-Star Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Sykes is the youngest of an athletic family. His father, John, still holds rebounding records at Merced High and is the head coach at UC Merced. Joshs older brother, John, was a star at Golden Valley, leading the Cougars to a deep playoff run his senior year that ended at Arco Arena in 2009. Older sister Reina was a two-time Sun-Star Volleyball Player of the Year.
Josh had a family legacy to uphold when he arrived at Golden Valley.
"It was tough," Josh said. "I had to learn from my brother and I got beat up by my sister. It made me tough. My dad is so well known I have to play as hard as I can.
"It was a lot of pressure. I thought I was going to be dreadful. I thought I might die in this gym. I didn't think I'd have enough endurance to last. I ended up surviving. I worked hard and I improved a lot."
Josh was the backup center as a sophomore last year, rarely logging big minutes on the floor.
This year, there was a noticeable difference in Golden Valley's play when Sykes was on the floor and when he wasn't.
"He might have been that good last year, I don't know," Cougars coach Keith Hunter said. "But he got to play more this year. Josh plays basketball year round so he improves a lot quickly.
"What I saw from him on the floor this year was he placed more value on the ball. Last year he might turn the ball over once or twice and I couldn't wait for the third one.
"He really improved his foot work and he's strong when he's got the ball with two hands. He was able to pivot and see the floor and then come back to make a move."
Ask Josh which stat he is most proud of and he doesn't hesitate to answer.
"Blocking shots are like my points," he said. "When you block a shot, not only are you taking points from the other team, but sometimes they lead to easy points for your team."
Expect to see an improved version of Josh next season as he plans to spend this offseason working on a mid-range shot.
"I want him to be able to hit a 15-foot shot consistently," Hunter said. "I think if he can do that it will open up so much of his offensive game. I still want to see his footwork improve -- not only in the low post -- but the high post as well. I don't only want to see him score, but see the floor."
Give him another year and Sykes should be even bigger and better.
Basketball rims won't stand a chance.
Sun-Star's All-Area Boys Basketball Team
Guard: Evan Stillahn, Golden Valley, Junior
Guard: Joe Marquez, Buhach Colony, Senior
Guard: Travante Richard, Merced, Junior
Forward: Aaron Deatherage, Chowchilla, Senior
Center: Ben Peterson, Atwater, Junior
Guard: Christian Carroll, Golden Valley, Junior
Forward: Roger Klauser, Buhach Colony, Senior
Forward: Brian Perez, Livingston, Senior
Guard: Daniel Motz, Atwater, Senior
Guard: Stephen Hillyer, Buhach Colony, Senior
Coach: Keith Hunter, Golden Valley