This is the time of year when fatigue battles desire. But desire can prevail in this race.
High school athletes start thinking about what sport they’ll focus on in the spring and summer months. Specifically, giving up one team to dedicate all their time and efforts to another.
A bit of advice: Maximize your fleeting opportunity to compete in as many sports as possible, because if you’re fortunate enough to land a scholarship – only 1 percent of American teenagers do – you won’t play two sports in college. In 25 years on the local beat, the No. 1 regret heard from athletes well after graduation is that they gave up one sport for another. You don’t get those days back.
Folsom and Cosumnes Oaks are prime examples of high schools encouraging athletes to play more than one sport. The schools met in the Sac-Joaquin Section and Northern California Division II basketball championships with football players on both rosters playing paramount roles in record seasons. Most return next fall for another run.
But invariably, those football players will wonder if basketball is expendable. Folsom’s Lukas Hendricks is an agile 6-foot-5 defensive stopper in high tops that is being recruited in football as a defensive end. Josiah Deguara , who is being recruited by colleges as a 6-2 wide receiver, starts at shooting guard for the Bulldogs. Their futures are in football, but basketball can boost their scholarship chances.
College football coaches encourage athletes to play multiple sports, to enjoy the experiences. Playing different sports requires the use of different muscles, and it prevents burnout. Recruiters often watch recruits play in basketball games to study a linebacker’s demeanor and work ethic, to see a defensive tackle’s body outside of shoulder pads. Recruiters don’t care about statistics or wins and losses, but they want to see character traits, to see how one reacts to competition and adversity. A lot of football recruits are sealed because of how they look in basketball.
UCLA football coach Jim Mora took one peek at Nate Iese running the floor in a Sheldon basketball practice two years ago and loved the view. He marveled at Iese’s 6-4 physique and effort, turned to a coach and said: “Tight end. Or linebacker. Maybe fullback. We’ll figure it out. We’ve got to have him.” They got him, and basketball helped deliver him.
Alex Van Dyke of Cosumnes Oaks was a Bee All-Metro football receiver last fall who signed with UCLA in February. He wasn’t going to miss basketball, and Mora didn’t want him to. Van Dyke earned All-Metro honors as an undersize center.
“It’s an obligation, to the school and your teammates, to play as many sports as you can,” said Van Dyke, who now has his sights set on the state track meet as a sprinter.
Cosumnes Oaks’ basketball team had three starters who are generating recruiting interest in football. Like the Folsom players, hoops will help them. Jaaron Stallworth is a quarterback and L.J. Reed and Eric Toles are receivers, and college recruiters saw them play some basketball games and jotted down notes.
Each Cosumnes Oaks athlete said football and basketball go hand-in-hand.
“It helps with agility and conditioning and leadership, and it’s fun,” said Reed, who has scholarship offers from eight Pacific-12 Conference schools to play receiver. “For some of us, it’s what we’ve always done: football and basketball. Everyone should do it.”
Around the region• Wide receiver Jeremy Ross (Laguna Creek) re-signed with the Detroit Lions after a 2013 season that saw him return one punt and one kickoff for touchdowns. He has been working out regularly in the Bay Area with new Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew .
• Fresno State offensive lineman Austin Wentworth (Whitney) impressed on his pro day. The 6-5, 315-pound senior ran a 5.06 40-yard dash.
• The New England Patriots recently worked out Eastern Washington defensive end-linebacker Anthony Larry (Burbank).
• UCLA defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes (Placer) will miss spring drills with a foot injury that is not expected to sideline him this summer.
• Patriots defensive tackle Armond Armstead (Pleasant Grove) will compete in the team’s offseason program that starts April 21. He missed last season with an infection that required surgery and was placed on the non-football illness list before training camp.
• The annual Kris Fontes Memorial Golf Classic is May 5 at the Rocklin Golf Club in a “Who’s Who” of area football names. Among those expected to be on hand are Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs , The Bee’s 1998 Player of the Year from Elk Grove; retired 49ers executive John McVay ; retired Lions coach Wayne Fontes and his brother Mel ; Sacramento State football coach Marshall Sperbeck and his father, Dick ; retired Sac State football coach John Volek , and new Christian Brothers assistant coach Dave Hoskins .
For information on foursomes and singles rounds, call Mel Fontes, (916) 630-0622.