January 28, 2008
Prince shows attributes coaches value

Marysville High School senior basketball standout Keenan Prince attended his neighborhood school Yuba City High as a freshman but transferred to Marysville as a sophomore to be closer to his father, Gerrard, who has coached basketball in several capacities at the school during the past eight seasons.

Keenan also wanted to play for longtime family friend Brian Lowe, the school's boys varsity coach.

But Prince's hardship transfer appeal was denied by the Sac-Joaquin Section that year so he played on the JV team, where he scored a school-record 724 points in 18 games.

"He was going off for 40 points a night, and I had no point guard on the varsity because he had hurt his knee in the first league game," Lowe said. "We had a good team that year but just missed the playoffs. Who knows how good we would have been had we had Keenan."

Because of that, he still was largely an unknown last season, but Prince made some noise in a face-to-face match-up with Roseville's highly touted Elston Turner Jr. during a tournament.

Prince outplayed the talented Turner, playing his senior year in a Houston-area high school, scoring 29 points and grabbing 13 rebounds while limiting Turner to 16 points and four rebounds.

"It was great playing against him," Prince said. "I knew he had already committed to Washington. I knew he was 6-4. But I didn't know much about his game.

"But I like to step up and show people I can play under pressure. And I got my teammates involved (he had five assists), and we got the win."

Lowe said it was a first against No. 16 San Juan on Jan. 22.

Instead of the usual double and triple teams that Prince has been seeing, several times he was surrounded by four defenders in the 78-52 Golden Empire League loss.

Yet he still scored and dished out assists.

"Those were the hardest 22 points he has ever tried to score," Lowe said.

On one play, Lowe said Prince split two defenders, then juked a third who came up to stop him. The last line of defense was San Juan's 6-3, 235-pound center Chaz Montague.

"It looks like Keenan is going to run him over, which is like a Volkswagen hitting a freight train, and at the last minute he contorts his body enough to turn sideways, miss Montague and switch the ball from his right to left hand to lay it in.

"I've watched Keenan for years, and he continues to amaze me."

We asked Fletcher Johnson, Prince's offseason AAU coach and as assistant at Cordova High School, to provide an assessment of Keenan's strengths and weaknesses.

"Keenan is a great kid that works very hard on his game. He shoots the ball very well and plays hard but has a tendency of trying to do too much sometimes. He gets away with that for Marysville because they need him to carry them. He has the ability to create scoring opportunities for others and could become a good lead guard once he learns to run a team and play within a system that requires him to make good decisions with the basketball.

"Keenan's dedicated to becoming the best player he can be. He never missed nor was he late to any practices. This is big when you consider he's coming from Marysville to Sacramento for practices. I wouldn't and don't hesitate to call Keenan any time I need a player for a game or tournament during the off-season.

"He complained not once when it was mentioned he wasn't on The Bee's All-Metro team last year, even though he was in the top 10 in the area of almost every statistic. His attitude was he would just have to play better this year. I was definitely impressed with that."

- Bill Paterson

Read more about Keenan Prince tomorrow in The Bee.

January 28, 2008
Public responds to coach's resignation

Our two articles reporting on the Pleasant Grove High School player revolt that led to resignation of boys basketball coach Lance Corgiat on Wednesday sparked dozens of responses (go to sacbee.com/prepsplus and see stories headlined "Coaches support deposed Corgiat" and "Players get wish: Pleasant Grove coach resigns."

The overwhelming majority criticized the players' decision, with many also blaming parents and Pleasant Grove administration for allowing it to happen.

Several others responded to me through e-mail, including Corgiat on Thursday night after I already filed my latest story and had left the office. We had tried a couple of times to reach him earlier for comment.

Corgiat wrote: "Please know that I am not being disrespectful to you by not returning your calls. I just don't think that any good can come out of me commenting on the situation. All I would like to say is thank you to all of the people, parents, coaches and players that have called, e-mailed and texted me with their support."

Here are some other comments e-mailed to me:

Guys Anderson, Cordova baseball coach: "Pete Saco's remarks are as right as it gets. There won't be high school athletics in the future if this kind of thing continues. Selfish parents and weak administrations continue to contribute to damaging high school athletics. ... Having coached for nearly a half a century and having been an athletic director for 20 years, I hope that the education community would start to stand up for a very important part of the eduction of young people (athletics) and put a stop to these types of situations."

Rick Hunter, Foothill girls baseball coach: "It's a sad day when something like this is allowed to happen to coaches. This is (Pleasant Grove's) first senior class. Losing to St. Mary's and to Monterey Trail doesn't mean the coach isn't doing his job.

"I hope this isn't a trend."

Jim Jones, Lincoln resident: "You just can't allow the players on the Pleasant Grove B.B. team to get away with such actions against Coach Corgiat. This sort of immature behavior is unheard of and can't be condoned. I've played many years of all sports at higher levels and have always understood the authority of the coaches. Coach Corgiat's record speaks for itself. I've seen several of his games and appreciate his demeanor and coaching abilities. If the kids on the team would follow his lead and play proper team ball their record would be better at this point.

"There are many talented boys on the squad. ... I think prima donna attitudes will always conflict with team ball. The coach has strived for this. This team could easily be a top-10 club in the area, but the attitude of a few of the players has not allowed this to happen.

"All coaches make a mistake or two. The vast majority of coaches love the kids and would never intentionally do anything to hurt them."

- Bill Paterson

January 24, 2008
Just half a game for ailing Baugh

The start was stellar, the end disappointing. That is how Vicki Baugh's night went Thursday.

The University of Tennessee women's basketball player and former Sacramento High School standout scored seven points and grabbed a rebound in seven minutes during the No. 2-ranked Lady Volunteers' 98-55 victory over visiting Arkansas before 13,270 at Thompson-Boiling Arena.

But asthma medication administered by the Tennessee medical staff cut Baugh's participation short. Sports information director Debby Jennings said Baugh, a 6-foot-4 freshman forward, developed an upset stomach from ingesting the medication and was unable to play in the second half.

Baugh remained in the Lady Vols' locker room for most of the second half. She emerged with about 11 minutes left and watch the rest of the game from the bench.

Baugh played solidly despite the limited court time. Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt has urged the 2007 McDonald's High School All-American to play with more energy and aggressiveness. Baugh delivered as she made three of five shots from the field and was 1 for 1 from the free-throw line

"Vickie Baugh is a great player," Lady Vols' All-America guard-forward-center Candace Parker said. "She played just seven minutes, but they were a good seven minutes. Hopefully, we can get her more minutes soon, because we're going to need her when the postseason comes around."

The illness, however, ruined a night when Baugh was scheduled to be the featured Lady Vol of the Game. It's honor in which she was to sign autographs for the fans after the game.

- Quwan Spears.

January 24, 2008
Tight quarters, even at star-studded Tennessee

You might think earning a scholarship to play for the University of Tennessee women's basketball team, arguably the premier outfit in the country, would come with a little luxury attached. Maybe some comfy off-campus digs where a star could kick back.

That's not the case for Lady Volunteer freshman forward and former Sacramento High standout Vicki Baugh.

Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt has a rule that freshmen live in the on-campus dorms, like all the other first-year students. So Baugh shares a room with teammate and fellow freshman guard-forward Angie Bjorklund from Spokane, Wash.

Bjorklund and Baugh's room is next to freshmen Kelley Cain, a center from Atlanta, and Sydney Smallbone, a guard from Granger, Ind.

Bjorklund and Baugh reside in a modest, 10-feet-by-10-feet place, about minimum square footage for a couple of basketball players. The room is decorated with posters of Dwayne Wade, Michael Jordan, and Lady Vols items. Both young women have personal computers they use for study and video games.

Baugh sleeps on a twin bed that cannot accommodate her 6-foot-4 frame. "It's OK," she said. "I slept in a fetal position in anyway."

Baugh asked visitors to excuse the clutter in the room. She had a long day full of classes and practice and had little time to clean.

Home sweet home.

- Quwan Spears

January 23, 2008
Next Davis coach might be close at hand

Davis High School might have its next football coach waiting right there within the program.

He's the big guy with the broad smile and engaging personality.

Dan Gazzaniga was the Blue Devils' offensive coordinator last fall, and his play calling and teaching of a young team helped steer Davis, under just-retired head coach Jim Johnson, into the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, since the days when Dave Whitmire was coach.

Why Gazzaniga?

He's already on staff, has a wealth of experience and is relatively well known in Yolo County. He was a UC Davis lineman, blocking for future NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien, under coach Jim Sochor in the Aggies' heyday of the early 1980s. He also projects spirit and fun, ideal qualities in a job that calls for inspiring young players and making football more an adventure and less a chore.

Johnson stepped aside after Davis 7-4 season to spend more time with his family. Gazzaniga might be a logical choice to take it from here.

- Joe Davidson

January 23, 2008
Tough recipe for cooking up rankings

Rio Americano High School boys basketball coach Brian Davis says he's no activist.

And he knows that the people who gather each January to formulate the league strengths for Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball power ratings do so with good intentions.

But he still can't understand why the league in which he plays - the Capital Athletic League (6.7) - continues to get a significantly lower league strength rating than the Sierra Foothill League (7.4), the fourth-strongest among the section's 26 leagues.

Davis said he knows he has a tough argument to make. After all, the six CAL teams have a combined 5-11 record against the seven SFL teams so far this season.

But he thinks that other than second-ranked Rocklin, his fourth-ranked Raiders, No. 3 El Camino and No. 17 Bella Vista are better this year than any of the other SFL teams. Those three are 3-3 against SFL teams, with El Camino having lost twice to Rocklin.

"I have no idea how the SFL gets a higher rating than us," he said. "Other than Rocklin in that league, nobody has done anything (Del Oro is ranked No. 19 by The Bee). And we have three teams ranked (in The Bee's top 20).

"Rocklin is going to run through that league, and they are going to be the No. 1 seed (in D-II). But we've got to battle with three teams."

That's the rub. Having three high-quality teams in a league with a low strength rating is pressure, pure and simple.

In a formula that gives 70 percent of the weight to league victories and 30 percent to nonleague wins, every league win is precious, every league loss devastating.

Davis needs only to point to the first power ratings the section released on Tuesday as an example.

Despite having a 14-2 overall record when the first ratings were compiled, Rio Americano, now 17-4, managed just a No. 11 spot in D-II. Eight teams ahead of them are either below them in The Bee's rankings or not ranked at all. That includes SFL representative Granite Bay, No. 4 in the power ratings. (In fairness it should be noted that the Raiders had played fewer league games than those teams, skewing the initial ratings.)

But after being upset by Bella Vista in last week's league opener and falling 77-69 to El Camino Tuesday night - a day after a triple-overtime win against Franklin in the Hoops for Homeless Families Classic that counts for nothing in the power ratings - the Raiders find themselves in real trouble.

The chances of earning a top-four playoff seed now appear remote, and the Raiders will need to get into the top eight just to get one home playoff contest.

"You want to be a top-four team, bottom line," Davis said. "You want two home games. It's hard to win on the road in the playoffs. You don't want to have to go into Rocklin in the second round.

"You want to play on your home court for the first two games, then when you get to Arco (for the semifinals), it's a neutralizer for everybody."

- Bill Paterson

January 22, 2008
One class for Baugh on a cold day

Vicki Baugh is not only adjusting to being a member of the University of Tennessee women's basketball team, she also is learning how to deal with inclement weather here.

This morning, for example, Baugh and other Knoxville residents had to endure freezing rain that iced over city streets.

But Baugh, the former Sacramento High star, remains unfazed.

"This is nothing," Baugh said about the 29-degree day. "It's been colder on other days."

Nevertheless, the Tennessee campus was closed from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m, and as a result, two of Baugh's three classes were canceled.

An undeclared major, Baugh made it to her 11 a.m. anthropology class, looking comfortable and appropriately athletic in a red Adidas sweatshirt, blue sweat paints and black-and-white sneakers. She sits in the fifth row from the back and in the third seat to the professor's left. She plays for good position even off the court.

After following the professors presentation intently and cracking a smile at a joke he made, Baugh heads to the campus cafeteria for lunch. She eats pasta and chicken wings before returning to her dormitory room, where she spends the rest of the day relaxing, Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt having given the team a day off from practice.

That's something even funky weather can't wreck.

- Quwan Spears

January 22, 2008
Baugh battles, blocks against the guys at Tennessee

Vicki Baugh plays for the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers. But the college women's basketball player and former Sacramento High School standout practices against men.

That's how they do it at Tennessee, and on Monday Baugh and her teammates went through a two-hour workout against an all-male practice squad as legendary coach Pat Summitt watched and taught.

For more than 10-years, Summitt has assembled a practice squad of men to challenge her players. That innovation has been credited with helping prepare Tennessee teams that have won seven NCAA national championships under Summitt since 1987.

Whether it's man-to-man or zone defenses, rebounding and fast-break drills, Baugh and her teammates hold their own with men, who are athletic and physical.

One time on Monday, Baugh blocked a shot of one of the guys and later stymied another's attempt to drive past her for a lay-up with good defensive position.

The team was shorthanded Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with senior point guard Alexis Hornbuckle and junior guard-forward-center Candace Parker missing practice. Hornbuckle sat out because of undisclosed injury and Parker missed because of a soar throat.

- Quwan Spears

January 19, 2008
Clash of different division titans

Director Steve Caruso calls Monday's game between top-ranked Sacramento High boys and unranked Capital Christian at his eight-game Hoops for the Homeless Families Classic high school basketball showcase benefit the perfect Goliath vs. David matchup.

Until moving into Division IV this season, Capital Christian has been a Division V power that finished second to Modesto Christian the past five years in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-V finals. Sac High is usually among The Bee's top-ranked teams and won last season's D-III section championship.

"This is probably the game of the year for Capital Christian, other than Modesto Christian (which also is now in D-IV) in the section finals," Caruso said. "I think they'll be a good test for Sac High."

Capital Christian will need a special slingshot.

The Cougars have to play the 6:30 p.m. game at Capital Christian without star forward Gabriel Strong, who suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury earlier this month. Strong had been averaging 21.9 points and 10 rebounds.

- Bill Paterson

January 18, 2008
Ducks appear good at MEL mining

Oregon landed a gem of a recruit this week when it received a verbal commitment from Josh Kaddu.

As ferocious a hitter as I saw all season, the Vacaville High School linebacker moved piles. Imagine a mosh pit of players moving along like a mass of tumble weeds. Then imagine Kaddu shooting up like a missile and crashing into the fray. He did that regularly, and recruiters drool over players with that sort of power.

Kaddu was especially impressive in a playoff loss to Elk Grove, hammering away at the Herd's running game.

Kaddu will play his preferred position of outside linebacker for the Ducks, though he also could wind up as a safety. He is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, and Kaddu admits he'll need to add 20 pounds to handle Pac-10 Conference tailbacks if he remains at linebacker.

Regardless, he's a player. And along with Napa's John Boyett - already enrolled in Eugene - Oregon made a nifty sweep throughout the Monticello Empire League.

- Joe Davidson

January 18, 2008
Sharing scoring wealth is the point

Mesa Verde High School senior point guard Jonathon Long is one of those high school boys basketball rarities, a player who'd rather pass first and shoot second. That approach is a big reason he ranks fifth in the state in assists.

The 5-foot-8 Long averages nearly twice as many assists (8.4) as he does points (4.6). His dishing and dealing to teammates has helped the Mavericks to a 14-5 overall record and 2-2 mark in the Pioneer Valley League after Wednesday's 80-77 win at El Dorado.

"I take pride in my passing," said Long, the team's only returning starter for last season. "It's my favorite thing to do."

One team that figured out how to beat the Mavericks and hold Long in check was defending PVL and two-time defending Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section champion Colfax.

Driving his team's 70-52 defeat of the Mavericks on Jan. 3 in Citrus Heights, Colfax coach Ron Pucci put 6-6 Joey Ballenger, normally the team's center, on Long.

"They put that big dude on him, and he couldn't see the court as well," said Antione Newson, Mesa Verde's leading scorer with nearly 25 points a game and key beneficiary of many of Long's assists.

While the Mavericks have one of the area's smallest teams with a lineup that averages 5-11, it wasn't always that way.

Bobby Evans, a 6-8 post who now is a senior at top-ranked Sacramento High, was a Mesa Verde teammate of Newson and Long as a freshman and sophomore.

"Most of us have been together since we were freshmen, so we have good chemistry on the basketball court," Newson said. "But Bobby leaving was a big loss. It was nice having a big guy back there to help out on the press."

- Bill Paterson

January 17, 2008
Delta River League is area's power

The Sac-Joaquin Section released its boys basketball league power ratings today, and it is no surprise that the Delta River League ranks as the area's toughest for the second consecutive season.

The DRL, which earned an 8.0 rating after the Jan. 5 power ratings presentation meeting, is clearly the deepest in the section.

After three rounds of play, Folsom, Sheldon, Jesuit and Monterey Trail are all tied for first place with 2-1 records. Jesuit's 70-68 win over Sheldon Wednesday knocked the Huskies from the ranks of the league unbeaten as did Folsom's 53-50 win over Monterey Trail.

Pleasant Grove is 1-2 after Wednesday's 70-53 victory over winless Florin, and the Eagles have three- and five-point losses to Jesuit and Monterey Trail, respectively.

Pleasant Grove can even its league record with a win at Folsom Friday. Sheldon plays at Monterey Trail and Jesuit is at Florin in other Friday games.

Among the other area leagues to earn high strength rankings were the Delta Valley Conference (7.6) and the Sierra Foothill League (7.4).

The stronger the strength rating, the better are a team's chances of reaching the postseason and hosting early round playoff games.

League wins and losses count 70 percent toward a team's power rating; nonleague games played before Jan. 1 count 30 percent.


Here is a rundown of the all the section's league boys basketball strength ratings.

1. Delta River League 8.0; 2. Central California Conference 7.8; 3. Delta Valley Conference, 7.6; 4. Sierra Foothill League, 7.4; 5. Modesto Metropolitan Conference, 7.2; 6. Tri-City Athletic League, 7.0; 7. Metropolitan Conference and Capital Athletic League, 6.7; 9. San Joaquin Athletic Association, 6.4; 10. Sierra Valley Conference and Monticello Empire League, 6.1; 12. Pioneer Valley League, 5.8; 13. Tri-County Conference and Capital Valley Conference, 5.5; 15. Valley Oak League, 5.3; 16. Solano County Athletic Conference, 5.0; 17. Golden Empire League, 4.8; 18. Mother Lode League, 4.6; 19. Western Athletic Conference, 4.4; 20. Trans Valley League, 4.2; 21. Central Valley Christian League, 4.0; 22. Southern League, 3.8; 23. Harvest Christian League, 3.6; 24. Northern Pacific Athletic Conference, 3.4; 25. Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League, 3.2; 26. Mountain Valley League, 3.0.

- Bill Paterson

January 12, 2008
Visitors not warmly received

We always enjoy stopping by Earl Crabbe Gym at Placer High School in old Auburn, which is like stepping back in time.

Built in 1937, the place has a Hoosiers' feel with dozens of championship banners lining the walls and rafters and fans rooting from ancient, wooden bleachers for their teams from high above the floor.

But it can be a nightmare experience for visiting teams, although Mesa Verde fans will say it was more than the rucous Placer band and spectators that did in their boys on Friday night in the Pioneer Valley League tussle with the Hillmen.

They believe the referees had a hand in their 73-69 overtime loss. Which is too bad because it was an otherwise entertaining match-up between two well-coached teams with contrasting styles.

Coach Mark Lee's Hillmen like to get into their half-court offense and take time off the clock in trying to work the ball inside to their big men, 6-foot-6 Charlie Harrison (13 points) and 6-3 Ryan Miller (15 points).

Coach Pat Pavelchik's Mavericks, without a player taller than 6-2, prefer to run the floor, press and get layups or penetrate and kick the ball outside for three-point shots. They also have a dazzler in 6-0 senior guard Antione Newson, an outside sharpshooter who can also make like a pretzel in slashing to the basket. He would finish with 28 points and hit a number of big baskets every time it seemed as if Placer might pull away.

But as has been the case in numerous games this season, the Mavericks staged enough of a second-half rally to have a one-point lead, 63-62, and the ball with 6.9 seconds left after a Placer turnover.

That's when a Mesa Verde player was hacked as the ball was inbounded. Then he said something. And that's when the referee called a technical.

Placer got two free throws and the ball (after the Mavericks missed the front end of the one and one). The Hillmen made one of the two attempts and although they turned the ball over on its possession, forcing an extra period, you could tell the Mavericks were emotionally and physically spent as they did a slow burn in going down to defeat.

They clearly didn't enjoy their Earl Crabbe Gym experience.

-Bill Paterson

January 11, 2008
Bulldogs look good, despite tough loss

Although Folsom High School's boys basketball team lost its Delta River League opener 66-55 in overtime to Sheldon on Wednesday and faces another tough match-up tonight against defending league champion Jesuit, the Bulldogs look like they could return to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.

The Bulldogs had a nice preseason run, finishing 11-3 and winning the Kendall Arnett tournament at Placer High School on Dec. 29.

That's impressive considering that three starters graduated, including Bee All-Metro first-team selection Kyle Thomas (now playing at Loyola University of Chicago), from last year's 21-9 team that made the section semifinals.

Junior point guard Tony Johnson, who worked into a key role as a sophomore, has been a force. The 6-foot-1 Johnson has made all-tournament teams in each of the four tournaments Folsom competed in. He was selected the Arnett MVP.

Also playing well is 6-foot senior guard Ben Palmer, a returning starter who has developed into a potent multidimensional scorer. He made three all-tournament teams.

Those two, averaging nearly 44 points combined per game, also have accepted leadership roles on a team with just four seniors.

"Since they were the only two of the top seven back from last year, we made it very clear to them that they were going to lead the way," says Folsom coach Mike Wall. "I'm proud of how they have stepped up and gone from being role players to leaders."

• In the Cal-Hi Sports state basketball rankings this week, the Sacramento boys are No. 3 in Division III. Rio Americano, Rocklin and Cordova are fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in Division II. Colfax is No. 8 in Division IV.

In girls rankings, Sacramento is No. 5 in D-III and Grant No. 9 in D-II.

- Bill Paterson

Look for Bill Paterson's coverage of the Father Kelly Tribute in The Bee on Sunday.

January 10, 2008
Feeling fine and winning games

We thought we saw the last of Bob Jones six years ago, and that would have been a real shame.

The Cordova High School boys basketball coach is as respected a mentor of young athletes as you will find. He's in the Harvey Tahara, Mike Takayama, Paul Casey, George Skezas group of longtime leaders who exude class and professionalism.

Six years ago, the Honda Jones was driving was rear-ended in traffic. He suffered two ruptured discs, a torn rotator cuff and injured some cervical vertebrae.

Worst part of the ordeal, he said this week, was missing that year's basketball season, sitting it out so he could heal. Jones wondered if he'd ever be cleared medically to coach again. Turns out, he missed just the one season.

These days, he has one of his best teams, which is saying something since Jones has fielded a bunch of good ones since taking over at Cordova in 1984.

The team's senior leader is forward Ethan Stone, one of the area's most versatile players who leads the team in scoring (18.1) and rebounds (8.1). The future also is the present in freshman point guard Josiah Turner.

Cordova is 12-1 entering tonight's game against Ponderosa, another red-hot team. The Lancers enter the game having lost only to Rio Americano, 76-59, in the second game of the season.

- Joe Davidson

Read more about Cordova coach Bob Jones in Joe Davidson's On Preps feature in The Bee on Friday.

January 9, 2008
Home sweet home after time on the road

High school basketball teams savor home-court advantage, but playing far from home can result in some advantages.

The Bella Vista, Rocklin and Colfax boys teams recently participated in out-of-town tournaments, and the coaches of those respective teams agreed those trips had significant value.

No. 20 Bella Vista played in the Surf-n-Slam tournament Dec. 26-30 in San Diego, and Broncos coach David Gonzalez said the experience was well worth the hard work and logistics necessary to make the trip happen.

"I thought it was a good experience for everybody," said Gonzalez, whose team lost 50-49 in overtime to Booney Lake of Washington in the title game. "We got on a plane and spent five days away from home, and I saw the kids come together. The seniors got to be leaders. We won two games and played for a championship. There were a lot of positives."

Third-ranked Rocklin, which is 16-1 this season, played some of its best games in winning the Don Bambauer Memorial Tournament in Marin.

"It was neat to go out of town and just focus on basketball," Taylor said. "It was probably the best competition we've seen overall this season."

Colfax coach Ron Pucci said he felt the same way about the opportunity for his seventh-ranked Falcons to play and defeat Pacific Grove and Palma of Salinas in the Pacific Grove Challenge early last month, then beat Moreau Catholic of Hayward, Marin Catholic and Lowell of San Francisco to win the Otis Spunkmeyer Classic championship in Piedmont later in December.

"It was a good way for our players to get a little closer, and it's a good experience to play against some quality teams you don't usually see and don't know much about," Pucci said.

- Bill Paterson

Look for Bill Paterson's coverage of tonight's Sheldon-Folsom boys basketball game in The Bee on Thursday.

January 8, 2008
Fewer bodies, but a lot of talent

I get asked this every so often: "Is this a good recruiting year for football?"

Well, yes.

That's the short answer. Anyone who goes to USC - such as Armond Armstead, the defensive lineman from Pleasant Grove - makes for a great haul. But in terms of sheer numbers, this won't be a banner season on letter-of-intent day, Feb. 6. At the moment, 14 local players have given verbal commitments to specific universities. Those are not binding, but each athlete has told The Bee that he definitely is headed to the school to which he has verbally committed.

John Boyett of Napa - The Bee's Player of the Year - won't sign a thing on Feb. 6. He's already signed and delivered. The quarterback/defensive back is enrolled at Oregon after graduating early from Napa. Somehow, I sense he'll play next fall.

Terrance Dailey, the tailback from Vacaville, is bound to Washington. The same is true for Del Campo defensive back Tony Gobern. That makes for a nice haul for beleaguered Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham.

The Sacramento region has had years when up to 30 players signed, others when 25 was the number. So the current 14 sounds a bit meager, but it's not. It's about quality, and this is absolutely a high-quality recruiting crop

- Joe Davidson

January 8, 2008
Hungry for a bowl of playoffs

It appears that California Interscholastic Federation officials will vote later this month to make the state football championship bowl series permanent, expanding to a much-needed five divisions in the process.

That's a good starting point, although we'd love to see a Northern California playoff added to the equation as soon as possible.

One thing CIF officials should look at, if not for next year then at least not too many years down the road, is playing some, if not all, of the bowl games in Northern California, preferably the Sacramento area.

Despite some good bowl matchups in December, attendance at the Home Depot Center was more than 1,300 below the inaugural year, 2006, when inclement weather was blamed for keeping the gate below 14,000 at the 27,000-seat stadium.

If CIF officials are looking to improve their live football gates, they need to consider playing the state games in Northern California, which seems to better support state high school events. That's a big reason the state high school basketball playoffs have found a home at Arco Arena.

UC Davis might be a strong possibility once it expands its seating capacity from the current 7,000 to 15,000 or 20,000, but a better initial choice might be Hughes Stadium, if Los Rios Community College officials would realize the huge benefits of installing a synthetic-turf surface at Sacramento City College's 22,000-seat gem.

- Bill Paterson

For Bill Paterson's weekly look at what's happening in high school boys basketball, see tomorrow's edition of The Bee.

About the Prep blog

Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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