DeBoard: Local courts are a winter wonderland

From high-flying Division I recruits in Salida to the best local basketball talent of the area in Oakdale, the next few days are going to be loaded with high school basketball tournaments.

Modesto Christian boys basketball coach Gary Porter said this year's MC Holiday Hoops Classic has as much talent, "top to bottom," as any year.

The prestigious tournament draws teams from across the state, and this year is no exception.

Sylmar, and UCLA signee Tyler Honeycutt, is making the trip from Southern California. Other top SoCal teams include Inglewood, Colony, Etiwanda and Taft of Woodland Hills.

San Leandro won the Gridley Tournament. Skyline is representing Oakland. East Bakersfield and Clovis East are coming from the Central Section.

And don't forget about local teams Merced, Turlock, Ripon and Beyer. Beyer's entry marks the first Modesto City School to participate in the Holiday Hoops Classic.

"There's a lot of talent coming," Porter said. "It'll be an interesting four days, that's for sure."

Modesto Christian struggled in its first games, going 1-2 at the Gridley Tournament. Since then, the Crusaders have been practicing; and trying to get healthy.

UCLA signee Reeves Nelson, The Bee's 2007-08 boys basketball player of the year, is expected to play his first minutes of the season after suffering a torn meniscus during football. It was repaired via surgery.

"He's been practicing since the Gridley Tournament was over (Dec. 13)," Porter said. "He looks very good in practice. He's going to play.

"I don't know how much he'll be playing, but he'll play. It's a matter of getting back in shape."

Golden Valley transfer Liautaud Prophete is also recovering after suffering a knee injury last season.

"We're not 100 percent yet," Porter said. "But we're getting there."

THE OAKDALE Rotary Classic features the host Mustangs and three Modesto City Schools -- Davis, Enochs and Johansen. Davis and Enochs are among the top Modesto Metro Conference contenders this season.

Tournament play begins Saturday, and will run through Tuesday.

COLUMBIA COLLEGE is hosting a six-team round-robin high school tournament in partnership with its community college tournament. The highlight game could be Monday afternoon, when Tracy Tournament champion Golden Valley plays Sierra at 4 p.m. Sierra features one of the area's top players in guard Christian Williams.

THERE ARE TWO high-caliber girls basketball tournaments within a 45-minute drive, as well.

In Turlock, Pitman and Turlock high schools are co-hosting the Community Spirit Tournament, featuring an eight-team bracket that includes local teams Beyer, Sonora, Enochs and Central Valley. Central of Fresno and Rocklin round out the field.

The championship game is at Pitman High, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

And Friday, Tracy hosts its 16-team tournament that is spread between Tracy and West high schools.

Several local teams are in the field, including Downey, Modesto, Golden Valley, Los Banos, East Union, Manteca, Weston Ranch, Patterson and Linden. It will be undefeated East Union's toughest challenge of the young season so far.

A third girls tournament features some top small schools. The Ripon Christian Invitational kicks off Friday, and features a nearly all-local lineup with Oakdale, Denair, Hilmar, Big Valley Christian, Venture Academy (Stockton), Argonaut, Central Catholic and host Ripon Christian.

High school basketball fans can find all sorts of games, all sorts of styles, to get their fix this weekend and into next.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.