In the most literal sense, Brice Fantazia wouldn’t be the head coach of the Modesto Christian High boys basketball team without Gary Porter’s influence.
For starters, Porter created the job opening when he retired from that post in 2014, paving the way for former coach Richard Midgley, now a scout with the Atlanta Hawks, and Fantazia.
But more appropriately, Porter helped shape Fantazia’s future with his lessons and guidance off the court. Fantazia played for Porter at Modesto Christian in 2004, when the two helped lead the small private school to a CIF State championship.
He’s better at developing young men for the future than coaching basketball. That was his strong point.
Brice Fantazia, Modesto Christian boys basketball coach, on former coach Gary Porter
“He molded me into the man I am today,” said Fantazia, who begins his second season at the helm with this weekend’s Clovis tournament. “He’s better at developing young men for the future than coaching basketball. That was his strong point.”
Fantazia has found a way to say thank you, organizing The Gary Porter Showcase on Dec. 2, an event that has attracted many of the top high school programs in Northern and Central California.
The showcase is co-sponsored by NorCal SportsTV, which will broadcast the games.
“He’s the figure head of Modesto Christian basketball,” Fantazia said of Porter, who retired with 510 wins, 16 section titles in 18 seasons, and two state crowns. “People everywhere, especially around Northern California, they all know him. He’s a symbol of excellence.”
In turn, the showcase settles for no less.
Fantazia said The Gary Porter Showcase will feature as many as eight teams, including: host Modesto Christian, Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, Saint Francis of Mountain View, Buchanan of Clovis, Fresno, Lincoln of Stockton, West of Tracy and Christian Brothers.
Bishop O’Dowd reached a 2016 Northern California final with a roster chock-full of underclassmen. All that talent returns for another run at a CIF State title. The Dragons are led by guards Elijah Hardy and Naseem Gaskin, and 6-foot-8 forward Raymond Hawkins.
Saint Francis features Logan Johnson, a highly-touted Division I prospect and the younger brother of the Miami Heat’s Tyler Johnson, while Buchanan checks in with Jonah Crumpton-Murray and Spencer Heimerdinger.
The Central Valley will swing back with Modesto Christian, a team one year removed from back-to-back CIF Northern California Open Division finals appearances, and Tri-City Athletic League heavies Lincoln and West.
The Crusaders return All-District selection Tyler Williams, and all-Modesto Metro Conference picks Gabe Murphy and Michael Pearson. Juniors Dathan Satchell (ineligible) and Aaron Murphy (knee), rising prospects on the AAU circuit, may also start after sitting out last season.
“We get asked all the time, being one of the premier programs in Northern California, why don’t we have a showcase?” Fantazia said. “The answer has always been, ‘Because we have the Holiday Hoop Classic.’ I decided to go ahead and have the showcase, too. I wanted to do something to honor coach Porter, and we were able to draw some top teams.”
Match-ups haven’t been set, because, as Fantazia explains, the field could expand. There are a few other high-profile programs mulling entry.
“In Year One, we didn’t expect to get a Bishop O’Dowd or Saint Francis. Those teams will be loaded,” Fantazia said. “Lincoln, with Andre Kelly back, that might be one of their best teams they’ve ever had. The match-ups should be pretty elite.”
The showcase serves as a precursor to the Holiday Hoop Classic Dec. 27-30. Fantazia has received commitments from San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno, St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda, Campolindo and Clovis West, among others.