Modesto Christian has been billed as one of the top young basketball teams in the state.
Now it’s time to prove it.
The Crusaders will officially tip off the season evening at the inaugural Gary Porter Showcase against Bay Area power Saint Francis of Mountain View.
Tip is at 6.
Saint Francis reached the Central Coast Section Open Division semifinal last winter and advanced to the CIF State Northern California regional final, where it lost to eventual state runner-up Moreau Catholic.
In all, there are six games on tap at the Gary Porter Showcase, blending the best of boys and girls from across the region.
In boys’ action, West of Tracy will tangle with Christian Brothers at , followed by Fresno-Weston Ranch at . West is led by Michael Kelly, an explosive guard.
Lincoln of Stockton will battle Buchanan of Clovis at 3. Lincoln features Cal-bound post Andre Kelly. At , Northern California’s top team, Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, plays Capital Christian.
In the nightcap (), the Modesto Christian girls basketball team host Pitman in a meeting of Stanislaus District powers.
“We wanted big-time, playoff-caliber games,” Modesto Christian coach Brice Fantazia said. “We got some great matchups.”
The amount of talent speaks to the type of career Porter enjoyed at Modesto Christian. He won more than 500 games, 16 Sac-Joaquin Section championships and two CIF State Division V titles.
In 2001, the Crusaders reached the state Division I final. That team featured future University of Kentucky Hall of Famer and NBA journeyman Chuck Hayes, now a front-office official with the Denver Nuggets.
Modesto Christian lost to Mater Dei, 57-54.
“We’ve been to other showcases, so we were like, ‘Why not do our own?’ Plus, we wanted to do something to honor coach Porter,” Fantazia said. “He’s meant a lot to me. Playing for him in high school, I always thought he was a great coach, but he’s an even better leader of young men. This is about honoring more than just his coaching. It’s about the young lives he’s guided.”
Modesto Christian is ranked No. 6 in the state and No. 2 in Northern California in Cal-Hi Sports’ preseason polls.
Editor Ronnie Flores said the Crusaders, with their mixture of youth and experience, and overwhelming bench, were strongly considered for the FAB 50, a national ranking.
The Crusaders are anchored by two returning seniors, Northwest Nazarene-bound center Gabe Murphy and Tyler Williams, arguably Modesto Christian’s top player a season ago.
Michael Pearson is a returning all-conference player, but may be held out of contest with a broken thumb on his left hand. Fantazia said Pearson, rated among the best young guards in Northern California, is a game-time decision.
Modesto Christian also welcomes back juniors Aaron Murphy, who suffered a horrific knee injury last season, and Dathan Satchell, who was ineligible.
“They’re very excited. Those are two of our main guys,” Fantazia said. “The big thing is the real game is a lot different than AAU. There will be some cobwebs to shake off and they’ve got to get their feel for the game.
“They’ll be ready, though. They’re two of the best juniors in Northern California.”
They have no choice. The schedule won’t wait for the Crusaders, who also have highly touted transfers Junior Ballard (Cal Poly) and Earvin Know sitting out the first 30 days.
Modesto Christian follows up the Gary Porter Showcase with the Clovis West Nike Classic and its annual Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic.
“We don’t want to ease into it,” Fantazia said. “We have guys who didn’t play last year, guys who are key juniors. We want to jump right into the fire.”