The celebrated star was gliding over plastic hurdles in an agility drill Monday afternoon, barriers as high as his shins, when disaster struck.
Alex Van Dyke, whose graceful strides as a wide receiver will earn a him a scholarship to UCLA, was suddenly in a tangled mess of yellow sticks, scrambling to piece them together. His Cosumnes Oaks High School basketball teammates following close behind crashed to a halt, like bumper cars at the carnival.
There was a pause, then hearty laughter by all, headed by Van Dyke. This spoke of team harmony as gaffes turn to giggles, and tripping over a hurdle has been about the only speed bump in a smooth, effortless ride this winter.
Riding a 15-game winning streak, the fifth-ranked Wolfpack (16-1) is emerging as a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship contender. Cosumnes Oaks is a swift, efficient, entertaining team. There is balanced scoring with an emphasis of making the extra pass.
Cosumnes Oaks isnt blessed with an abundance of height. At 6-foot-4, Van Dyke is the tallest player at swingman, but overall team effort masks the deficiency. The tone is set in practice. Every session is competitive, a score attached to every dribbling or three-man weave drill. And someone always keeps count of how many times Van Dyke butchers those poor hurdles.
I couldnt get my legs to work on that one, Van Dyke joked. But were having fun.
Cosumnes Oaks has captured the attention of area basketball purists. Todd Reiswig, who coached championship teams at Elk Grove in the 1990s and now works as an administrator for the Elk Grove Unified School District, has watched two Cosumnes Oaks games. Hell surely see more.
Thats one of the most talented offensive groups Ive ever seen, and its beautiful to watch, Reiswig said. And I love how Van Dyke plays. What an example.
Van Dyke never doubted he would play basketball this season, despite his verbal commitment to UCLA. The senior with a 3.9 grade-point average said it is an obligation and an honor to play three sports, including track and field in the spring.
He breaks it down even more.
Football gives you toughness and strength, he said. Basketball gives you agility and quickness. Track is speed and conditioning. I love all three.
Four of the five starters on Cosumnes Oaks basketball team also played football. Besides Van Dyke, the Wolfpack includes L.J. Reed, a 6-3 forward who has 10 college scholarship offers to play receiver; Eric Toles, a 6-3 guard who played receiver, and Jaaron Stallworth, a leader in the fall at quarterback and a floor leader at guard. The non-football player is guard Josh Johnson.
The schools all-time career scoring leader, Van Dyke is averaging 18.2 points. Stallworth scores 11.6, Johnson 11.1, Reed 10.6 and Toles 10.2. Stop one player and teams have to worry about the others. But the clear team leader is Van Dyke.
When he speaks, Cosumnes Oaks coach Patrick Roth said, it means something,
Were hard to stop, Reed said. We have a lot of chemistry. Weve known each other for a long time and that helps with trust and balance.
And they hope to continue to stay together. Reed said his family looked into him transferring to Jesuit in recent weeks. Reed said he would prefer to stay put and expects to.
This is my school and these are my teammates, Reed said. I love it here.
Another common bond is the fact some players come from a family of athletes.
Reeds father, Lee, was a linebacker at Valley in 1986, when the Vikings won the Delta League championship. Reeds mother, Ebony McFalls, played basketball on Kennedys 1990 Metro title squad. Toles father, Eric, played basketball at Valley in the 1980s and won Delta titles. Van Dykes father, Alex Sr., graduated from Burbank and was an All-America receiver at Sacramento City College and Nevada before a brief NFL career.
All the fathers are regulars at Cosumnes Oaks games.
Coach and scholar
A social science teacher on campus, Roth started the Wolfpack basketball program from scratch when the school opened in 2008. Incredibly, hes closing in on a fourth consecuitve 20-win season. Roth is in his element as the Wolfpacks coach, often unable to mask his joy on the sideline, though prone to bark at players if things turn sluggish in practice.
Its the greatest job in the world, teaching and coaching, Roth said. Some may call it narcissism too into it. But I love it.
Roth said his glue player is Matt Muldavin, a team captain. The 5-11 senior guard works hard in everything he does. Competition? Hes scrambling to rise in rank as a scholar. His 4.64 GPA is sixth best in his class. He ribs Van Dyke, calling him UCLA whenever he stumbles on hurdles.
He was still warming up on those hurdles, Muldavin said. Its been a great year. Schools important and so are sports, and were an example that no one cares about stats. Just wins.
Added Roth: Matts an absolute gym rat. Hes the hardest-working kid in our program, and the players notice, so they work, too.
Follow The Bees Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.