Modesto hoop tourney tips off today

They won't crown a champion in this week's Modesto Basketball Classic, but it doesn't mean there won't be plenty to play for.

A handful of noteworthy battles highlight the three-day, 18-game event, which will be played at Downey and Modesto high schools.

The top team might be Pitman, which made the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals a year ago with just one senior. All-Stanislaus District guard Austin Keaton leads the Pride, and will face Davis' Jose Blanco and Modesto's Nate Jackson -- two of the top guards in Modesto.

Pitman faces Davis tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Modesto gym, then the Pride returns to face the hosting Panthers at 8 on Friday.

Though it's early, the results count in the power ratings that determine which teams make the playoffs and their seeding.

HOOP HIGHLIGHTS -- Modesto Christian junior forward Reeves Nelson and senior guard D.J. Seeley are on the preseason Sac-Joaquin Section team, as is Weston Ranch senior forward James Nunnally. Blanco and Merced guard Jarrett Sparks are honorable mention.

Elsewhere on the court:

Southern California is legendary for the way players swap schools, and this year is no different. Division II state champ Artesia, for example, saw its top players walk: Renardo Sidney is at Fairfax of Los Angeles and Malik Story is at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, according to

It's no coincidence that defending Division I state champ Fairfax is atop the preseason poll.

Weston Ranch, a NorCal playoff team last year, is No. 7 in the Division III boys rankings.

Modesto Christian's enrollment moved it from Division V to Division IV this season, but it didn't hurt the Crusaders' reputation. They're No. 2 in the state, behind defending champ Campbell Hall of North Hollywood.

STATE VOLLEYBALL -- Three of the five top seeds in the Northern California Tournament advanced to Saturday's state championship matches at San Jose State. Nevada Union of Grass Valley (44-4), the lone Sac-Joaquin Section team alive, won the Division I regional title and will face Lakewood (29-7).

There's no mistaking where the region's best volleyball is played: Four of the five teams playing on Saturday are from the Central Coast Section. Mt. Madonna of Watsonville (29-6), which ended Ripon Christian's season in the semifinals, faces Central Valley Christian of Visalia (30-6) for the Division V title.

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