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High School Preview: Alameda St. Joseph's--(November 24, 1997)

First year Head Coach Gordon ("Gordie") Johnson, the former Junior Varsity Head Coach for 15 years (who has won 11 JV League titles), and also Frank LaPorte's number one assistant, will now lead the talented St. Joseph Notre Dame Pilots this year. the team is potentially one of the best in the school's history, and that includes the seven year span of the "Calvin Byrd-Jason Kidd" eras (176-36 overall record, and 2 State Championships). The team is ranked by The Sporting News as the No. 2 team in the West, and the No 9 team in the entire country, 12th if you believe USA Today.

Losing only four games last year, and narrowly being defeated for the State Championship by a very talented Crenshaw team, the Pilots will return nine players, including the addition of two major transfers. The team features Ray Young (6'-5" Sr. G/F), who is rated as one of the top 10 players in the country by several magazines, and who will play for UCLA next year. Ray was California's Junior Player of the Year in 1996, after a tremendous season.

The Pilots also return All-League starters including 6'-1" Sr. off guard Rene Jacques, and 6'-3" Jr. forward Blandon Ferguson. They will be complemented by 5'-11 Sr. Point guard Nate Murase, 6'-11" Sr. center Hondre Brewer (USF) and 6'-0" Jr. point guard Jason McGlaston.

This Pilots will also have a very talented bench, with seniors Julian Kline, Edward McClendon, Raffy Pagilinan, juniors K.J. Rosales, Ryan Franklin, Grant Snell, and two additional junior transfers, 6'-9" Justin Davis and 6'-7" Geral Lowe.

Rather than try to get some off-the cuff stuff about the players from looking at them briefly or from simply interviewing Coach Gordie Johnson, here are the "official" bios from the school this year:

Young (6"-5" 200 Sr. Wing)--Ray, a four-year starter for the Pilots, was all EVERYTHING last year. Ray is rated as one of the top seniors in his position in the nation (All League,All Noahem California, Player of theYear Northern California, and Junior Player of the Year for California). Ray is the most explosive player to come out of St Joseph and Northern California since Jason Kidd. His first step and elevation are considered by many to be as good as any player in the country; and defensively, his court awareness has been one of his biggest assets. Ray led the high-scoring Pilots with 18 points per game. He also averaged 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals per game. This year should be breakout year for Ray. He had a great summer playing with the Bay Area Slam-n-Jam team, putting up some awesome numbers. He has matured both as a person and as a player. He has been working on his body strength by lifting weights, and on his game by playing against some local NBA players.

Rene Jacques (6'-1" 175 Sr. Guard) --Fundamentally, Rene is the best offensive player on the team. Rene, playing his fourth year on the varsity, was an All League performer last year and one of the best defenders in the league. He make great decisions with the ball and is a real leader to the younger players. The Pilots truly missed his presence last year in the playoffs, when he severely twisted his ankle during the game against Montgomery and never made it back to full strength before the State Championship game. Rene was one of the top performers on the team with 13 points, 3 assists, 3 steals and 4 rebounds per game average. Rene is also an exceptional student with a 385 GPA and 1200 SAT score. Rene was selected second team Best of the West and a CIF Scholar Athlete.

Nate Murase (5'11" 170 Sr. Guard) -- Nate, in his third year on the varsity was a versatile sixth man last year, playing both the off and point guard positions. Nate is an extremely adept ball handler with a deadly jumpshot. Nate was one of the essential ingredients that helped the team get to the finals last year, when he stepped in for the injured Rene Jacques. Nate is also a tenacious defender and the team's vocal leader. Nate's aggressive style of play is the key to getting the team's fastbreak started, which has been the trademark of the Pilots.

Blandon Ferguson (6'-3" 220 Jr. Wing) --Blandon, an All League power forward last year, will be playing his third year on the varsity. Blandon who has the uncanny ability to hang in the air, is considered by many to be the best player in Northern California at his position. Blandon's play in the post reason playoffs was such (averaging 20 points per game), that if the Pilots did not have him in the lineup, their run for the title might have ended sooner. Although Blandon, a natural small forward, will again be asked to anchor the post, he will at times slide outside and shoot his newly developed twenty foot jump-shot. This shot, along with his new attitude about defense should make Blandon one of the essential players for the Pilots.

Jason McGlaston (5'-11" 160 Jr. Guard)-- Jason will be playing his third year on the varsity. Jason is one of the quickest point guards in Northern California and was a main contributor in the Pilots' success last year. Jason's play early last year got the Pilots off to a good start and the team never looked back from that point on. Jason is an explosive offensive player being able to score from anywhere on the floor. Jason also handles the ball extremely well in the open court, and his quickness will trigger the Pilot's trademark fastbreak throughout the season.

K.J. Rosales (6'-1" 160 Junior Swing) --K.J. will be playing his second year on the varsity. K.J. is a versatile reserve player, who can play any one of three positions point guard, off guard, or small forward). K.J. was the Most Valuable player as a freshman on the junior varsity team before moving up to the varsity last season. K.J. has very long arms, is a is a solid defender with a a good mid-range jumpshot and has the ability to score inside

Ryan Franklin (5'-10" 150 Junior Guard) --Ryan, a first year year varsity player, was the starting point guard on the junior varsity last year. Ryan is a tenacious defender with great quickness, and he can push the ball on the offense. Ryan shoots the ball well from the mid-range area, and this summer worked on his ball handling and shooting to ready himself for the upcoming season. The team and coaching staff are looking for Ryan to be able to play some quality minutes in his first year with the varsity.

Hondre Brewer (6'-11" 225 Senior Center) --Now in his second year with the varsity, he was the inside presences that the Pilots needed last year. In several games, Hondre came in and provided the team with some key blocks and timely rebounds to help them get to the state Championship game. Hondre has been described by his teammates as tall and long because of his 7'-3" arm span and his 6'-11" height. Hondre is now becoming accustomed to his size, as he has grown seven inches between his sophomore and senior years. Hondre's progress on the floor has grown as rapidly as his height. Over the summer he participated in Pete Newell's Big Men Camp for College and Professional Players and held his own. The word on the street is the best of him is yet to come, and the Pilots are hoping that this year will be just the beginning for Hondre.

Julian Kline (6'-2" 165 Senior Fwd)-- This will be Julian's second year on the varsity. Last year he was a reserve small forward and did not get a chance show his skills. This year Julian will be a much bigger factor on the team because of the work that he put in on his game over the summer. Julian, who is a solid defender and one of the best post passers on the team, with a good mid-range jump-shot, should be able to give the Pilots some added depth in the small forward position.

Edward McClendon (6-'3" 170 Senior Post) --This will be Edward's second year on the varsity; he played both the power forward and center positions last year. Ed, playing behind Hondre and All League center Rashawn Fulcher last year, is hoping to be able to contribute more this year. Ed, who is a tenacious rebounder with solid post moves, is hoping that an ankle injury he suffered during the summer will not affect his final season as a Pilot.

Raffy Pangilinan (6'-3" 195 Senior Post) --Raffy, a first year varsity player who was the junior varsity's Most Outstanding Player last year,will play his first full season on the varsity, after being brought up for the playoffs last year. Raffy is a very strong and aggressive player around the basket and will not let larger players deny him the opportunity to contribute. He was the second leading scorer on the junior varsity team last year, with a 17 point per game average.

Grant Snell (6'-6" 240 Junior Post) --Grant is in his first year as a varsity player after playing most of the season on the junior varsity team last year before suffering a severe ankle injury. Before the injury, Grant was on his way to being the Most Valuable Player on the junior varsity. Grant has a soft touch around the basket and can score from inside or outside, which was evident with his 20 points per game average. Grant is also a very tough rebounder and defender. Grant should be able to help up front with the varsity this year.

Justin Davis (6'-8" 220 Junior Post) --Justin, a transfer from Berkeley High School, will be a pleasant addition to the Pilots. Justin who was the Most Valuable Player in the East Bay Athletic League (EBAL), will bring his 19 points per game average and tenacious rebounding to the already loaded Pilots. Justin, considered by many to be one of the top juniors in the country, can score from anywhere on the floor. Justin is blessed with a smooth jumpshot for his size and with the ability to get to the basket against any player. Justin's biggest transition this year will be how well he adjusts to the trapping, pressing and running that is the Pilots tradition.

Geral Lowe (6'-7" 250 Junior Post) --Geral, a transfer fiom Oakland Technical High School, will be that much-needed inside presence for the Pilots. Geral is a powerful left-handed player, excellent around the basket with a soft touch from around fifteen feet. Geral, like Justin, will have to adjust to the Pilots' aggressive up-tempo style of play which is similar to the style played in the Oakland Athletic League (OAL). He will also have to adjust to the caliber of players the Pilots see throughout the preseason.

St. Joe's will play in several pre-season tournaments this year, including the Island Classic, which they will host, the Iolani Classic in Hawaii, and the Slam Dunk to the Beach, where they will be one of the top-billed teams along with Compton's Dominguez High.

For those of you who may be in the Bay Area, or visiting there soon and who just have to know when and where this team is playing, here's the schedule. By the way, the game's of note in the league will be the El Cerrito games, whom Gordie thinks will be the toughest competition in league play.

Day Date Opponent Place Time
Sat Nov. 22 Northgate (scrimmage) Home 10:00 a.m.
Wed Nov. 26 Intrasquad Home 7:00 p.m.
Sat Nov. 29 Alumni Home 8:00 p.m.
Tues. Dec. 2 Hayward (scrimmage) Away 3:30 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 5 Merced (Island Classic) Home 8:30 p.m
Sat. Dec. 6 Live Oak (Island Classic) Home 8:30 p.m.
Thurs-Sat. Dec. 11-13 Spartan Classic DLS TBA
Mon Dec. 15 Moreau Home 7:00 p.m
Tues. Dec. 16 Thurgood Marshall Home 7:00 p.m.
Wed-Tues Dec 17-23 Iolani Classic Hawaii TBA
Fri-Wed Dec 26-31 Slam Dunk to the Beach Delaware TBA
    League Play    
Fri Jan 9 Piedmont Away 7:00 p.m
Wed Jan 14 El Cerrito Home 7:00 p.m.
Fri Jan 16 Kennedy Home 7:00 p.m.
Tues Jan 20 Bye    
Fri Jan 23 Alameda    
Sat Jan 24 St. Mary's (Stockton)-Non League Away 4:00 p.m.
Tues Jan 27 St. Elizabeth Home 7:00 p.m.
Fri Jan 30 Albany Away 7:00 p.m.
Tues Feb 3 De Anza Home 7:00 p.m
Fri Feb 6 Encinal Away 7:00 p.m.
Tues Feb 10 Bye    
Fri Feb 13 Salesian Away 7:00 p.m.
Tues Feb 17 St. Mary's Away 7:00 p.m.
Fri Feb 20 Richmond Home 7:00 p.m.
Tues-Sat Feb 24-28 ACCAL Playoffs TBA TBA
Tues-Sat Mar 3-7 NCS Playoffs TBA TBA
Tues-Sat Mar 12-14 Nor Cal Playoffs TBA TBA
Fri, Sat Mar 20, 21 State Championships TBA TBA

Well, that's it for now. The school is located at 1011 Chestnut Street, Alameda, California and can be reached at (510) 523-1526.

As their season progresses we'll have more on this team, and on their likely competitors in the State Finals, including Crenshaw, Westchester and the rest of the Division I challengers.

The Swish Award

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