Kimball football’s Cooper Ivy-League bound

Kimball senior Rashaad Cooper is headed to Dartmouth College. (RECORD FILE PHOTO)

It’s stressful getting recruited as a football player from a program that’s new, or not a traditional power.

So for Rashaad Cooper, when Kimball struggled in his senior year to a 2-8 record overall and a 1-6 mark in the Valley Oak League, it meant an uphill climb. But he kept at it, sending emails and writing letters to coaches.

Over the past year, he’s had as many as four Ivy League teams approach him and hoping he’d play for them. After taking his official visit to Hanover, N.H., last week, he made his decision.

Cooper is heading to Dartmouth College, where he can help the Big Green as a running back and special teams whiz. His signature game as a senior came in lopsided loss to three-time defending state champion Modesto-Central Catholic, where he took 16 carries for 337 yards and four touchdowns.

“This was the school that was pursuing me the most and that I felt most comfortable with,” Cooper said.

Cooper is one of several local football commits, listed below.

CLASS OF 2015 FOOTBALL COMMITS

L.J. Reed (Tokay): UCLA, NCAA D-I

Rashaad Cooper (Kimball): Dartmouth, NCAA D-I AA

Brandon Russell (Tracy): Concordia University (Minn.), NCAA D-II

Tristen Taylor (Stagg): Eastern Washington, NCAA D-I AA

Demetrius Ferguson (St. Mary’s): New Mexico State, NCAA D-I

Cutler Salmon (St. Mary’s): Cal Poly SLO, NCAA D-I AA

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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Girls Basketball Weekly MVP: Aarion McDonald

Brookside Christian junior Aarion McDonald is a triple-double threat on any given night. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MAXPREPS)

Pico Wilburn has three NCAA Division I commits in his starting lineup. So it takes something incredible for the Brookside Christian girls basketball coach to be dazzled.

Wilburn, a two-time state champion as Oakland Tech’s coach, was vastly impressed with junior Aarion McDonald’s performance against VA Excel this past week.

“I’d rather just sit down and watch her, but I’m coaching,” Wilburn told The Record. “It’s a great luxury to have her.”

McDonald poured out 35 points in the 86-50 win, with nine assists, six rebounds and four steals. She had 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in a win over Valley Christian, and 23 points, 12 steals, seven assists and seven rebounds in a Saturday win over Presentation.

That’s why McDonald, a clear candidate in The Record’s All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year chase, is my latest Girls Basketball Weekly MVP.

McDonald, a transfer from Fresno-Bullard, is averaging 27 points, eight rebounds, six steals and five assists. The scary part is she’s a junior, and a verbal commit to Pac-12′s University of Washington.

Brookside Christian is ranked as the second team in NorCal Division IV by NorCalPreps, behind a Berkeley-St. Mary’s team that beat Brookside Christian 55-53 Jan. 17.

Jan. 5-10: Brijanee Moore (Weston Ranch, Sr.)

Jan. 12-17: Raziya Potter (Kimball, Fr.)

Jan. 19-24: Aarion McDonald (Brookside Christian, Jr.)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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Boys Basketball Weekly MVP: Druce Asah

Druce Asah, a senior for Tracy boys basketball, hit the game-winning 3-pointer against St. Mary's last week. (PHOTO BY WAYNE THALLANDER)

With one critical shot, senior Druce Asah threw Tracy boys basketball’s name into the hat for Tri-City Athletic League championship contention.

In a tight game at St. Mary’s, trailing 57-55, Asah nailed the game-winning 3-pointer with 7 seconds to go Wednesday. Now, Tracy and St. Mary’s are tied at 3-1 atop the TCAL. Asah led the Bulldogs with 20 points in that matchup, and dropped another 15 in a win over Lincoln Friday.

That’s why Asah is my latest, and third overall, Boys Basketball Weekly MVP.

Asah is a Cal State East Bay commit, an NCAA Division II program in quite possibly D-II’s toughest conference: the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

He’s likely averaging over 20 points — Tracy doesn’t have updated MaxPreps stats — and is a threat on the glass as well.

Congratulations, Druce. And as always, thanks for reading, everybody.

BOYS BASKETBALL WEEKLY MVPs

Jan. 5-10: Anand Hundal (Manteca, Jr.)

Jan. 12-17: Robin Hong (Lincoln, Sr.)

Jan. 19-24: Druce Asah (Tracy, Sr.)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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St. Mary’s, Brookside Christian, Lincoln girls still strong in national, state rankings

St. Mary's girls basketball's Sydney Fadal, a junior and Pacific commit, goes up for a shot against Piedmont. (CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD)

St. Mary’s girls basketball stayed firmly planted as a consensus — for the most part — No. 4 team in the nation and No. 2 team in the state after rolling through Tri-City Athletic League play thus far. Plus, the Rams knocked off Chatsworth-Sierra Canyon 85-77, and La Jolla Country Day 85-52 at their own MLK Showcase Jan. 17 and 19.

Lincoln and Brookside Christian, though they both suffered losses, are getting respect as well. Here’s an outlet-by-outlet look at how the Rams, Knights and Trojans stack up.

ESPN

  • St. Mary’s (19-1) is still fourth on the espnW national Top 25. Santa Ana-Mater Dei is not only ranked No. 1 in California, but in the nation. That could be the Rams’ Open Division CIF State championship opponent in late March in Berkeley, but that’s a long way away.
CAL-HI SPORTS
  • St. Mary’s remains No. 2 on Cal-Hi Sports’ state Top 20. Brookside Christian (14-2) dropped out from its No. 17 spot to on the bubble, while Lincoln (14-2) remains on the bubble.
NORCALPREPS
  • St. Mary’s is ranked No. 1 in NorCal’s Division I, while Lincoln is fifth. The only other Sac-Joaquin Section team in that top five is No. 3 Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills: the team St. Mary’s beat for a section title last season.
  • Brookside Christian is ranked No. 2 in NorCal’s Div. IV, behind Berkeley-St. Mary’s.
  • Undefeated Kimball, led by freshman Raziya Potter, is tenth in the Div. II list.
  • Ripon Christian is ninth in Div. V.
MAXPREPS
  • St. Mary’s is fourth in the USA in the Xcellent 25 human-voted poll, and sixth in the national computer rankings. Brookside Christian is not in the Xcellent 25 but comes in at No. 24 in the computer rankings.
USA TODAY
  • St. Mary’s is getting more respect everywhere, moving up to seventh from 10th after rolling through the MLK Showcase.
BOYS BASKETBALL
NORCALPREPS
  • In the NorCalPreps divisional rankings, Sierra is sixth in the NorCal Div. III list while Manteca is eighth. St. Mary’s is sixth in Div. IV, though that was before its loss to Tracy this past week.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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McNair’s Romero leads batch of locals in The California Wrestler Top 40 Rankings

McNair junior Roman Romero is the only local wrestler ranked in the Top 10, of The California Wrestler’s Weekly State Top 40 Rankings.

Romero is ninth in the 182-pound rankings, a year after finishing second in the Sac-Joaquin Section in 152s.

There are eight other local wrestlers ranked in the Top 40 of their divisions, too:

113: West sophomore Greg Viloria down to 19th from 12th.

120: Lincoln senior Alex Olivera down to 22nd from 18th.

138: Kimball senior Reese Chew up to 11th from 12th.

182: Calaveras senior Ayden Garcia up to 36th from 37th.

195: Escalon senior A.J. Camarena up to 30th from 33rd.

220: Lincoln senior Yates Hunter down to 13th from 12th.

220: Tokay junior K.C. Kranich down to 28th from 27th.

220: Calaveras junior Shane Torre up to 38th from 39th.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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Thunder sale/league move update

There wasn’t any official news on Wednesday regarding the sale of the Thunder, other than Brad Rowbotham confirming he still officially owned the team, at least as of late that afternoon. But the changes, they are a coming.

The Thunder will certainly be purchased by the Calgary Flames of the NHL, and it will likely happen over the weekend or early next week. And the move from the ECHL to the American Hockey League next season also looks as if it’s no longer in doubt.

Further proof came via a blog by Mark Pudy of the San Jose Mercury News, who said sources have confirmed that the Sharks will put its AHL franchise in the Shark Tank for a year and would officially announce it on Jan. 29.

So the all-California division of the AHL would look like this:

Calgary’s AHL team in Stockton
San Jose Sharks in San Jose
Edmonton Oilers in Bakersfield
L.A. Kings in Ontario
Anaheim Ducks in San Diego

Here’s the link to the Mercury News blog:

http://blogs.mercurynews.com/purdy/2015/01/21/sharks-minor-league-team-moving-san-jose-sap-center-yes-really/

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Girls Basketball Power Rankings, Vol. II

St. Mary's junior Mi'Cole Cayton (left) battles against La Jolla Country Day Monday. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

St. Mary’s girls basketball has done nothing but to prove its national, state and local ranking is correct. The Rams are among the best the nation has to offer.

And so St. Mary’s is an obvious No. 1 again, atop my Vol. II of local girls basketball power rankings: including teams from the Tri-City Athletic League, San Joaquin Athletic Assocation and Valley Oak League, and a freelance squad as well.

Here is the ranking, team, last week’s ranking in parenthesis and record:

1. ST. MARY’S (1) 17-1, 3-0 TCAL

The Rams have players fourth or fifth off their bench that could be league MVPs in other situations. Senior Angel Johnson has an offer from NCAA Division I Hawaii, and just got into the starting lineup for the MLK Showcase. Junior Sydney Fadal, also off the bench, has verbally committed to Pacific, where former Rams Kendall Kenyon, the Tigers’ all-time rebounds leader, and Unique Coleman already play.

St. Mary’s slammed La Jolla Country Day 85-52 Monday, after staving off Sierra Canyon 85-77 Friday. In the Sierra Canyon game, the Rams led by 32, 54-22, at half before easing up a bit.

Brookside Christian's Ra'kyra Gabriel practices during her sophomore season. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

2. BROOKSIDE CHRISTIAN (3) 14-2

Last week, I should’ve had the Knights at No. 2 instead of Lincoln, separated only by a common opponent (Prairie of Washington) that Brookside Christian beat but Lincoln lost to.

The Knights, who will drop in NorCal and state rankings, did lose to Berkeley by a bucket, 55-53 over the weekend, but are still led by junior and Washington commit Aarion McDonald, a triple-double that could strike at any time.

Lincoln's Zahria Hendrix (left) fights for a rebound against St. Mary's Naje Murray during her freshman year. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

3. LINCOLN (2) 15-2, 3-0 TCAL

The Trojans have ripped through their TCAL games against Lodi, West and Tokay, but fell to a tough Narbonne team Monday at St. Mary’s MLK Showcase.

Sophomore Zahria Hendrix hits a ton of 3-pointers and gets rebounds, while guards Lianna Tillman and Celeste Almendarez provide all kinds of energy.

Kimball freshman Raziya Potter (top) is an integral part of the Jaguars' success in 2014-15. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

4. KIMBALL (5) 17-0, 4-0 VOL

The Jaguars keep rolling through their schedule untouched. They’ve been so dominant, they haven’t lost a game in single digits yet. Freshman Raziya Potter, sophomore Donwanae Anthony and senior Sarah Nunes provide the Jaguars a great trio.

Their best test in league play so far comes Jan. 27 at home against Weston Ranch, which was No. 5 on last week’s rankings.

5. VA EXCEL (NR) 12-5, 4-0 CCAA

Excel has thrived quietly this year, and gets a chance to take down a titan against Brookside Christian on Thursday. A key win came this weekend, edging Weston Ranch by a bucket at the MLK Showcase at Modesto Christian.

On the Bubble:

  • Weston Ranch Cougars
  • Bear Creek Bruins
  • McNair Eagles
  • Manteca Buffaloes

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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Boys Basketball Power Rankings: Vol. II

St. Mary's senior Lance Coleman goes for a dunk at home at Morelli Gymnasium. (PHOTO COURTESY OF MAXPREPS).

Sierra boys basketball made a statement Tuesday night.

The Timberwolves, winners of three consecutive Valley Oak League championships, outlasted rival Manteca at home at The Den in a 48-40 defensive battle.

That kept Manteca, which was No. 3 in my last week’s power rankings behind Sierra at No. 2, at bay.

Here’s the latest edition of my rankings, involving large and medium schools from the Tri-City Athletic League, San Joaquin Athletic Association and VOL. As the season gets into the homestretch, I’ll begin a small-school ranking as well.

Here you go, with the rankings, team, last week’s ranking in parenthesis and record.

1. ST. MARY’S (1) 12-6, 2-0 TCAL

It’s been a rough go of it for the Rams against Bay Area powers of late. St. Mary’s fell 76-55 to Richmond-Salesian in the MLK Showcase at Cal’s Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, after dropping a 78-72 game to Moraga-Campolindo at home the weekend before.

The Rams have been tested in TCAL play, in a 71-53 win over West and a 56-44 win over Tokay, but have prevailed, and are tied for first atop the league with Lincoln heading into Wednesday’s action.

Senior Lance Coleman II is having a phenomenal year, averaging 22 points and nine rebounds.

Sierra guard Daniel Wyatt (center) competes during the McDonald's Classic hosted by Edison. (CRAIG SANDERS/THE RECORD)

2. SIERRA (2) 16-2, 5-0 VOL

For a moment, it seemed like last night was Manteca’s night. When sophomore Tydus Verhoeven nearly forgot the clock was running out, and hit a jumper at the first-quarter buzzer for a six-point lead, it seemed inevitable.

But when Sierra forward Joshua Patton, a 6-foot-8 senior, checked back in after missing a few minutes with two fouls, the Timberwolves took the game over.

Sierra was a Sac-Joaquin Section runner-up when Patton was a sophomore, for the second straight year, and he and the Timberwolves could be contenders to return to Sacramento.

Bear Creek senior Brandon Moss goes up for a dunk during the McDonald's Classic hosted by Edison. (CRAIG SANDERS/THE RECORD)

3. BEAR CREEK (4) 17-3, 3-0 SJAA

The Bruins appear to be heavy favorites in the SJAA, and with good reasons.

Bear Creek has very, very solid seniors in starters Andre Green, Brandon Moss, Craig Perkins and Quinn Ryan, and junior John Berna is the true point guard missing from many teams’ mixes.

Green is putting up 21 points, five boards and three assists per game.

Manteca junior Anand Hundal (left) nearly had triple-doubles twice in VOL's opening week. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MANTECA BULLETIN)

4. MANTECA (3) 12-5, 4-1 VOL

The Buffaloes will be able to compete with the length and scoring ability of Verhoeven, the dominance in the paint of 6-8 junior Anand Hundal and the energy from scorer and all-around talent Marcus Montano: who hit a game-winning layup against Central Catholic in overtime recently.

But the Buffaloes will need to learn how to sift through different zone defenses, as coach Brett Lewis admitted Tuesday. Because as a big-man focused team, they will surely see more and more of it.

Weston Ranch's Jaelen Ragsdale (center) goes up for a shot against Sierra during his sophomore year. (CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD)

5. WESTON RANCH (5) 11-6, 4-1 VOL

The Cougars responded from a frustrating, early VOL loss to Manteca by winning three straight to improve to 4-1 in league.

Weston Ranch is still in the hunt for its first VOL championship since 2010-11, when it went 14-0.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • Lincoln Trojans
  • Tokay Tigers
  • Tracy Bulldogs

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

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Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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Gameday Preview: Manteca-Sierra VOL Rivalry

Senior guard Devin Nunez (center) and Sierra host arch rival Manteca tonight in a Valley Oak League showdown. (MANTECA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

High school basketball is getting serious.

League play is well into its slate already, but now, rivalries are popping up. In tonight’s case, it’s a rivalry that could ultimately decide the Valley Oak League boys basketball champion.

Sierra (15-2, 4-0 VOL) entertains in-town arch rival Manteca (12-4, 4-0 VOL) at 7 p.m. The Timberwolves have only lost in overtime to Bear Creek, and to perennial NorCal power Modesto Christian, where they only mustered five second-half points.

Manteca quietly had a solid preseason, and made a statement with a double-digit win over Weston Ranch a couple weeks ago.

Here’s a look at Players to Watch and probable starting lineups.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

JESS SPIVEY (Sierra F, Jr.)

Spivey has been clutch of late for the Timberwolves, a versatile complement to fellow forwards Joshua Patton and Hunter Johnson.

He can flummox defenses by hitting 3-pointers, soon after being a viable threat in the paint. Sierra needs him against the length of Manteca’s Anand Hundal and Tydus Verhoeven.

TYDUS VERHOEVEN (Manteca G, So.)

Verhoeven is in the vein of Penny Hardaway, who was an All-Star point guard for the Orlando Magic in the 1990s, but at 6-foot-7. The sophomore Verhoeven is the same height, and his scoring and length could create matchup problems for Sierra.

POTENTIAL STARTING LINEUPS

MANTECA (12-4, 4-0 VOL)

F – Anand Hundal (6-8, Jr.)

F – Tyler Graves-Kelso (5-10, Jr.)

G – Tydus Verhoeven (6-7, So.)

G – Angel Perez (5-10, Jr.)

G – Marcus Montano (5-11, Sr.)

Head coach: Brett Lewis

SIERRA (15-2, 4-0 VOL)

F – Joshua Patton (6-7, Sr.)

F – Jess Spivey (6-4, Jr.)

F – Hunter Johnson (6-4, Sr.)

G – Devin Nunez (5-11, Sr.)

G – Daniel Wyatt (5-10, Jr.)

Head coach: Scott Thomason

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

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Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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Boys Basketball Weekly MVP: Robin Hong

Lincoln senior Robin Hong is my latest Boys Basketball Weekly MVP. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FACEBOOK)

“Senior guard Robin Hong arrives at 6:30 a.m. daily to the Lincoln gym in solitude to practice his perimeter shooting, believing the extra work some day might make a difference.”

A great passage from Kevin Niendorf, one of The Record’s sports correspondents, on Lincoln boys basketball senior Robin Hong and his daily ritual.

And, if last week was any indication, Hong’s sleep sacrifice is paying off.

Hong posted 21 points and six boards in a close win over Lodi, and 18 more points with three assists in a double-digit win over West.

That’s why Hong is my second-ever Boys Basketball Weekly MVP, following Manteca junior Anand Hundal from a week ago.

Hong, a 5-foot-10 guard, is averaging 13 points. Lincoln and St. Mary’s are tied at 2-0 atop the Tri-City Athletic League entering this week. The two play at Lincoln Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Congratulations, Robin. And as always, thanks for reading, everybody.

BOYS BASKETBALL WEEKLY MVPs

Jan. 12-17: Anand Hundal (Manteca, Jr.)

Jan. 19-24: Robin Hong (Lincoln, Sr.)

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

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    Bob Highfill has worked in The Record's sports department since 1990. He has covered a variety of sports, including high schools, Pacific and professional sports. In 2006, he was named sports editor. Bob is a graduate of Lincoln High and the ... Read Full

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