SALIDA While playing at Beyer High, Chris Teevan wanted a shot at playing in the Modesto Christian Holiday Tournament.
Upon continuing his playing career at Modesto Junior College and CSU Stanislaus, Teevan made it a point to sneak over for an evening or two of the four-day event that has become one of Northern California's top 16-team prep tournaments.
Later, as an assistant coach at MJC, he would come back in an official capacity, trying to find players to fit in with the Pirates.
Wednesday morning, Teevan finally gets his chance to be an official part of the tournament.
The first-year head coach at Weston Ranch High near Stockton will lead his Cougars into MC's gym at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to play Ripon in the opening game of the 13th annual event.
"Usually, all 16 teams in this tournament are quality, and it's really hard to find that in any tournament," Teevan said. "It's an honor for me to be in the tournament as a coach because I've seen the kind of teams that play in it. I can't tell you how many times I've gone there with my dad to watch, and I know I always wanted to play in it."
The days immediately after Christmas always are heavy with basketball tournaments, some of which offer teams their final taste of non-league play.
The annual eight-team tournaments at Columbia College and Oakdale High are scheduled to run Thursday-Saturday. Both feature fields heavy with local teams that seldom accept the challenge offered at MC.
Beyer played in the MC Tournament in 2008, three seasons after Teevan's senior year. The Patriots lost their opener 89-40 to eventual champion Taft of Woodland Hills and went on to go 0-4 in the event, including losses to Ripon and Turlock.
No other current Modesto Metro Conference member ever has played in the tourney. They have their reasons, including schedules that have them in other tournaments this time of year.
"I'm loyal to Oakdale's tournament and we've been going there for 18 years," said Davis High Dan Pacheco, whose teams have won three straight MMC titles. "I feel part of that tournament and its history, and that's the reason we're not in Modesto Christian's tournament."
There also is the elephant in the room that won't go away. MMC basketball teams avoid contact with Modesto Christian because of the Crusaders' perceived advantage that comes with being a school without enrollment boundaries.
"I'm happy with what we do at Davis, and we're very much a public school that plays with the players that come to our school," Pacheco said. "When you get the chance to pick your own players, life's pretty good. Look at what Central Catholic did in the city tournament."
Central Catholic, despite having nearly all its guards still playing football, won the Modesto City Tournament earlier this month. The Raiders will be playing in the Columbia Tournament, opening Thursday against Summerville.
This year, Turlock joins Weston Ranch, Ripon and the host Crusaders to form the local contingent in the MC field, with Ripon appearing for the 11th straight year.
Of the 16 teams in the field, four are private: Modesto Christian, Horizon (San Diego,) Alemany (Mission Hills) and University (San Francisco.)
Teevan, who inherited the berth in the MC Tournament from previous Weston Ranch coach Ryan Bono, would like to see more MMC schools in the Crusaders' event.
"I think Modesto schools don't do a good enough job when they do have good teams of challenging themselves in this kind of tournament," Teevan said.
"I do think the schools hold a grudge because of what they think is recruiting, but that's not valid. MC's success in basketball is what (draws) kids there to play basketball."
The Crusaders have won their own tournament three times, but not since 2005, when they won their second straight title behind two-time tourney MVP Adrian Oliver.
"We're capable of winning it," said MC coach Gary Porter, whose Crusaders claimed the consolation bracket title in the inaugural Tarkanian Classic last weekend in Las Vegas.
"We're very guard-heavy, but we still have good size. This is a team capable of doing a lot of damage and we played and did well against a lot of good teams over the summer."
The Crusaders are far from the only team in the running to win the tourney. Defending champion Alemany will be a favorite, along with El Camino Real of Woodland Hills, Central of Fresno and Sacramento-Burbank.
"We have a couple good first-round matchups, but the second round is when the muscles will start flexing," Porter said.
Weston Ranch, which enters with a 4-3 record, is gunning for a possible second-round game against Central.
"You have to marvel at the quality of and consistency of the teams Coach Porter brings in, as well with the quality of his own teams," Teevan said.
"Between this and the MJC Tournament, Modesto is privileged to have two of the best tournaments around."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2150. Follow him at twitter.com/modestobeek.