Local basketball fans are being spoiled.
Thanks to the UC Davis men serving notice that they’re Big West tourney contenders (wasn’t last night exciting?) and Davis High’s girls winning a league crown and a first-round playoff game while the Blue Devil boys also earned a postseason bid, there has been plenty of fun court time to go around.
Meanwhile, away from the bright lights of ESPN and newspaper coverage, Davis has a basketball training ground that continues to grow.
We’ve talked about AAU programs like the Wildcats and Hot Shots. Each week in The Enterprise, junior varsity and freshman teams at DHS have their adventures recapped. Even the junior highs play a brisk schedule.
But there’s even more basketball in town …
As some know, Davis Waldorf School just finished its season with a 10-1 mark, including a dramatic title run in the recent Microwave Classic in Sacramento.
The Classic featured schools from as far away as Mountain View, Santa Cruz and San Francisco.
After losing its first game of the year, 26-24 to Sacramento Waldorf, the local eighth-graders went on to win their next 10 straight — including a little payback in topping Sacramento in the rematch.
Coach Brian Wolfe’s crew beat Live Oak, 34-25, in that championship game and had three players — Davis residents Max Koehler (MVP) and Max Thompson and Sam Shea Lichter of Winters — earn all-tournament recognition.
The Microwave gathering was loaded with drama.
After waltzing through their first two playoff games by a combined 100-14 score, the Wolfe Pack had to survive a 28-24 overtime decision against Alice Birney (Sacramento). Then it took a late three-pointer by Ionatan Soule and two free throws by Koehler to take down Live Oak for the trophy.
It was a rematch of a 17-14 Davis win during league play.
Coaches at the next level love to get a peek at AAU games, junior high contests and camps. Now they have another venue into which to venture. Davis Waldorf had a roster full of kids who know their basketball.
In addition to the aforementioned, Wolfe Pack players included Collin Bradshaw, Simon Ford, Preston Clarke, Timo Shearer, Matt Kirby and Galen Plotkin.
And, yes, there’s ever more basketball …
The city of Davis has a brilliant program for kids, and this year almost 400 youngsters were involved.
But this season is bittersweet. Coordinator Lori Conrad — who for 27 years has been a sports mainstay for Davis and has built the basketball program to what is one of the best experiences on the planet for little kids — is getting a new assignment.
Check with current and former Blue Devils — boys and girls. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts each has been through Conrad’s terrific Saturday morning leagues.
Over the years, Conrad has done a terrific job in supplying UCD and DHS students an opportunity to coach, supervise and officiate. Sure, the money’s nice, but it’s the real-world experience — the first jobs for many of these “kids” — that counts. Conrad has been a great mentor to so many.
Conrad tells me more than 50 college and high school youths were employed this winter.
Personally, this program has helped keep me young. And the contributing personalities have been many.
Lexi White, Lauren Blackwell, some kid named Nick Gallaudet and Brandon Hassid are just a few of the people Conrad pointed to as integral parts of keeping the program running like a Swiss clock.
I enjoyed almost 20 years as a volunteer coach and, like Conrad and south gym supervisor Robbie Robinson, am also stepping away. (Thanks go to our Chávez I team for a memorable coaching finale.)
But there will be plenty to miss: Lori’s support, Hassid’s (and his associates’) brilliant officiating and the echo of Robinson’s friendly voice — “Bruce, your kids can’t have water on the court.”
Thanks, everybody. If you think Davis is a basketball town, thank Conrad and her pals.
While I Have You Here: After Thursday night’s heart-stopping 77-76 win over UCD, Long Beach State will be the favorite to represent the Big West in March Madness. If the 49ers make win the conference tournament, it will be their ninth trip to The Dance.
But does anyone remember who put Long Beach on the basketball map? And when?
In 1968, coach Jerry Tarkanian revolutionized the college game when he came to the Southern California beach town.
Employing an unheard of 1-2-2 zone defense, Tark the Shark then started raiding junior colleges for seasoned but previously rejected talent. From 1970 through 1973, Long Beach State made the NCAA tournament with future NBAers like Ed Ratleff, Leonard Gray, Bob Lynn and George Trapp.
Always the prince, never the king, Tarkanian got knocked out three straight years by eventual champion UCLA (twice after making the Elite Eight).
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for the Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.