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SoCalHoops High School News

High School Team Preview:
Clovis West (Fresno)--(Nov. 8, 1999)

"My record as a head coach?  Who knows.  I really don't like that sort of thing, and I really have no idea.  Honestly. No idea. I love coaching and helping my players get better, but keeping track of wins and losses is not something I do."  Vance Wallberg, Clovis West Head Coach.

Clovis West is one of the top teams in the Central Section of CIF, a perennial final four finisher in the D-I playoffs virtually every year.   Clovis West is a school located in Clovis, CA (near Fresno, for those unfamiliar with the Central Valley area of California).  The Central Section is not really geographically located in "SoCal" but for purposes of dividing the State into SoCal and NorCal regionals for the State Championship Tournament, the California Interscholastic Federation has placed the Central Section in the Southern California region.  So as far as were concerned, Clovis is in SoCal, and geography be damned.  

Vance Wallberg is the head varsity coach at Clovis West.   He's been at it there for 11 years as the Golden Eagles coach. He seriously has no idea what his overall record is as a coach. "I generally don't like that stuff, so I don't keep track of it," he told us. But from what we've been able to learn about the program and Clovis, he's been winning a whole lot more than he's been losing.   "Coaching is something I've always like.  I liked football, and basketball is something that just happened.  I've been doing it for 22 years total now, so it's kind of stuck with me."

Wallberg got his start at Mt. View up in the Bay Area from 78-80.  He then spent two years at Los Altos, then moved over to James Logan and then finally Newark Memorial before joining the Clovis West team. He heard about and was recommended for the job by Steve Cleveland the prior coach who is now at BYU.  Vance is 43 years old, and has been a coach for most of his adult life, and he enjoys it. 

Clovis West competes in the Tri Rivers Athletic Conference, which is one of the toughest conferences in the Yosemite Division of Central Section.   Clovis West competes against other teams in the TRAC league including Buchannan, Central (Fresno), Clovis, Clovis East, and Madera.  "I hope we're able to take our league again this year, because we always like to make it out of the section to play with the big boys down south," Wallberg said only half-jokingly.  Clovis West has been to the California State Championship Southern Regional for the last 5 of 7 years.   The Golden Eagles' best finish was four years ago, when they went 28-3 overall and beat Fontana (which had Corey Benjamin).  "But then we got crushed by Mater Dei in the Southern Regional Finals.  It's as close as we've come to making the State Championship game, but we had a great team that year."

Speaking of playing with the boys down South, it's also pretty much common knowledge that a couple of Vance's players have played with the QBL (Quality Basketball League) team, which for all intents and purposes is the Artesia squad during the summer months.  This past year, QBL had Chris Hernandez (6'-1" Jr. PG) and Charlie Rodriguez (6'-7" So. PF) for most of the summer and there was a lot of speculation that the two might transfer to Artesia, especially considering that Hernandez is also from the same country as two other Artesia players, Jack Martinez (6'-8" Jr. PF/SF) and Amaury Fernandez (6'-9" Jr. PF), who are both from the Dominican Republic. "There was no truth to that at all.  I'm friends with Wayne Merino, and those two boys are two of the best we've ever had here and they wanted to play in some very big exposure events, and frankly while we are good, there's no way I can generate the same attention for them alone that they'll get during the summer playing with QBL," Vance told us.  "But they were never even thinking of transferring.   Chris is one of the most well-respected young men on campus; he's a great player, a great student, and his family is not moving.  Charlie has been adopted by a family here in the Clovis area, so he's not moving either. He loves it here and his family really loves him too."

Clovis could again be one of the odds-on favorites to make it out of the Central Section to again contend for a State title in D-I (Central Section is not further broken down like the Southern Section into sub-groupings of D-IA and D-IAA, etc., and like the rest of the State, when it comes time for the State Tournament, after the Sectionals are all finished, everyone reverts to the single division (I, II, III, IV and V) anyway.  Clovis may have a very good shot of getting there again.  Here's the roster for the 1999-2000 season: 

Greg Warren 5'-9" Jr. PG/SG
Anthony Aiello 6'-3" Sr. SG/SF
Chris Hernandez 6'-2" Jr. PG
Eric Norcorss 6'-4" Sr. SG
Charlie Rodriguez 6'-7" So. PF
Danny Parker 5'-8" Jr. PG/SG
Mike Endler 6'-2" Jr. SF
Ryan Lucchesi 6'-5" Sr. F
Nick Debban 6'-3" So. SG/SF
Matt Avedikian 6'-2" Sr. SF
Tyrone Jackson 6'-1" Jr. G
Jason Wallberg 5'-10" Jr. SG
Andrew Awad 6'-4" Sr. G/F
Nick Cazier 6'-7" Sr. PF
Steve Myles 5'-11" Sr. G
Chris Bates 6'-0" Jr. G

The backcourt leads off with one of the truly great players in this year's junior class at point guard, Chris Hernandez. "He's the toughest kid I've ever coached in 22 years.  He gives everything, works hard all the time, weighs 175 lbs, but can bench press 290, is a 4.0 student and is one of the most well-liked and well thought of kids in the community," Vance told us.  And from a basketball point of view, there are few other really true point guards as good as Chris.  He's tough, aggressive, an excellent ball handler who is not flashy, but just solid on the floor. He's got good speed, an excellent first step and can score on the break or off the pull up jumper in the lane. With him and Andre Hazel at the one this summer for QBL, they made it to the finals of the Best of Summer, and figured prominently in several other big college exposure tournaments this summer.  Danny Parker, last year's jv point guard is likely to get the job backing up Chris, and he's got an excellent handle but is thus far untested at the one.  Greg Warren, a speedy lefty who loves to go to the hole may also get some significant time if he's healthy, which right now is a big question mark;   Greg is also an excellent soccer player and he's been out with an injury suffered in that other sport, so whether he'll be a full strength when the season opens is something that's just not known right now.

At the two, we'd look for any number of guys, including Tyrone Jackson, Eric Norcross or maybe even Jason Wallberg (yes, there's a family connection with Jason. . . ).  Tyrone Jackson is a good shooter, another lefty who played last year with Clovis West at the Best in the West, and he will be a starter this season most likely, and a "pivotal player" according to coach Wallberg. "He may even backup at point every now and then. He's a very good defender and definitely has the potential to go on to play in college," Wallberg told us. Eric Norcross is another guy who could be a college player, most likely at the D-II or NAIA level. "He was 5'-6" as a freshman, and now he's  6'-4" as a senior, and I think he will keep growing," Wallberg said.  Eric is one of the team's better defenders, and we'd look for him to actually be the toughest defender on the opponent's point guards.

Out on the wing, Jason Wallberg is probably the best shooter against a zone. "He'll be our designated zone buster, and he's a dead-on shooter. He still needs to work on his defense, but he's a really good shooter," coach Wallberg said.  There are a couple of others at the guard positions, some of whom will see varying degrees of game time, including Andrew Awad, Steve Myles and Chris Bates.   Awad also doubles as a small forward, and he's a very athletic guy. "He gives us a different look than most teams who play us are used to seeing. He's very tough, and if he can stay out of trouble, he should be a big defensive plus for us this year."   Myles and Bates will likely play backup roles this year. Myles is in his first year of varsity, and likewise Bates is up from the jv's; both are hard working guys who may see some action.

At the wing there will likely be a variety of options to choose from although we'd look for a three guard rotation for the most part. Still, among guys who are considered "wings" or small forwards, there are several who will be called on for big contributions:  Anthony Aiello, Nick Debban, Mike Endler and Matt Avedikian.   Aiello is more of a true small forward type with decent post moves, but he can also come in and rebound from out on the wings, run the floor or push defenders around.  Mike Endler is a very tough team player, a smart kid with a 4.5 GPA who will probably be more of a role player on this team.  Nick Debban has a chance to become a starter and be a significant factor by the time February and playoffs roll around. He's a slasher, and seems to just find a way to get to the hole. "He's a really crafty, sneaky player who just finds a way to get to the ball or to the rack," Wallberg said.   Matt Avedikian is another very strong inside player, another guy who can bench press a lot of weight and who will do a lot of the dirty work, setting picks and screens, diving for loose balls, and so on.

If Chris Hernandez is one of the truly excellent point guards in the junior class on the West Coast, then Charlie Rodriguez is certainly one of the best power forwards among the sophomore class, perhaps only comparable in pure talent and potential to Evan Burns (6'-7" So. PF) who is at Fairfax, and if both of these teams make it to the D-I State Regionals, that's going to be quite a matchup. . .   Rodriguez has great footwork, excellent size and strength, and has great positioning on the court, making him one of the truly great rebounders in the class.   He's got good speed, is one of the hardest working players on the team, and has big-time potential. "He's working his butt off," said Wallberg. "He's very happy here. The family situation he's in is tremendous and they are very supportive. I've seen a lot of guys who say they want to be college players, but most don't understand how hard they have to work to get there.  Charlie understands it and is going to get there."  Backing up Rodriguez will most likely be Ryan Lucchesi, a guy who does all the dirty work that a lot of others tend to avoid; he's in his first year of varsity play but will be counted on for a lot of inside scoring.  Also backing up will be Nick Cazier, a guy who played sparingly on varsity last year who has a great attitude, works hard and gives everything he can to the team.

This is the kind of team that Wallberg enjoys coaching. "I really do like coaching, and it's teams like this, with really good kids on it that make it fun. I take it a year at a time,  but this is one of those years that I feel lucky to be coaching, especially at this school.  I'm very proud of what we've done with these players and I think I'll be even more proud at the end of the season."

Clovis West will lead off with a scrimmage on November 27 against Hoover (Fresno), and then from Dec. 1-4, they'll participate/host the BCW Tournament at Clovis West with cross-town rival Buchannan. Participants will include at least three state Champions, Oakland Fremont, Dominguez, Calvary Temple, Ayala, LA Fremont, Crossroads, Oakridge (Sacramento), Chatsworth, and lots of great teams from both SoCal and NorCal.  From December 15-18, the varsity will participate in the Bakersfield Holiday Invitational Tournament, which will again feature a lot of local rivals, as well as Oakland Fremont, Washington Union, Bakersfield, and several other Central Section teams.

From December 27-30, the Golden Eagles will play in the Artesia-hosted "Best in the West" tournament at Long Beach State, where they'll play Long Beach Millikan in the first round matchup.  They'll return home for some additional pre-season games, against Bullard on January 7 at Bullard, and against Hoover on January 11 at Clovis West in a 7:30 p.m. matchup. From there, here's the league season:

Day Date Opponent Location Time
Fri Jan 14 Madera CW 7:30 p.m.
Sat Jan 15 BCW Classic v. Fremont Buc 8:00 p.m.
Fri Jan 21 Sanger Sanger 7:30 p.m
Sat Jan 22 Washington Union CW 7:30 p.m.
Wed Jan 26 Buchannan Buc 7:30 p.m.
Fri Jan 28 Central CW 7:30 p.m
Wed Feb 2 Clovis CW 7:30 p.m
Fri Feb 4 Madera Madera 7:30 p.m
Wed Feb 9 Sanger CW 7:30 p.m
Fri Feb11 Buchanan CW 7:30 p.m
Wed Feb 16 Central Central 7:30 p.m
Fri Feb 18 Clovis Clovis 7:30 p.m

Playoffs in the Central Section will get started just a bit later than in the Southern Section, actually almost two weeks later on February 23, with the finals on March 1 and 3, 2000.  Whether Clovis will still be there playing when the CIF State Regionals start is something that only time will tell, but they've got as good a shot as any team in their division to advance this year.  We'll be watching.

 The Swish Award
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