The 6 County All-Star Basketball Games return to Modesto Junior College Friday with the most-accomplished roster in the event’s 22-year history.
Among the 52 players and coaches are two CIF State champions (Manteca High’s Tydus Verhoeven and Dwight Young), three two-time Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV champions (Central Catholic’s Jared Rice, Amrit Dhaliwal and Conor Fenton), and the only McDonald’s All-American (Manteca’s Loretta Kakala) the Stanislaus District has ever known.
And the greatest feat of them all: A boys coach that won a league championship despite ongoing treatments for stage IV pancreatic cancer.
“It’s great to have him back,” tournament director Bobby Cole said of Calaveras’ Kraig Clifton.
Sometimes, the talent in the area is under-appreciated, but these kids can really play.
Pete Peterson, Modesto High boys basketball coach, who will co-coach the Red in Friday’s 6 County All-Star Basketball Game
Historians might produce a more talented lineup of all-stars, but no year boasts a resume quite this prolific.
“It’s funny because Kraig and I were sitting on the sideline before the first practice the other day talking about that very thing,” said Modesto boys coach Pete Peterson, who partnered with Clifton to draft the Red.
“We were like, ‘How do you want to attack this? Do we want to get after them and try to install stuff? Or sit back and just let them play?’
“We let them play, and once we did, you just knew it. They were good. Sometimes, the talent in the area is under-appreciated, but these kids can really play.”
The evening will tip with the girls game at 6 o’clock.
The Blue will be coached by Dustin Curtiss of Pitman and Alison Murata Nichols of Central Catholic and feature Danielle Friedrich, the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer; Pitman’s Andrea Selkow, who recently signed with Austin College in Texas; and Davis shooter Bailee Haueter, among others.
The Red roster is headlined by Kakala, the Valley Oak League MVP and coveted Louisville recruit. In January, Kakala became the first player in district history to be named to the McDonald’s All-America team. She’ll be joined by teammate Syd’nee Fryer and coach Ryan Bono, who will share the bench with Big Valley Christian’s Jessica Eddings.
UC Merced-bound guard Zakiya Williams and two-time Southern League MVP Kirsten Dubberke of Mariposa will suit up for the Red.
Clifton was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December of 2015 and forced to step away from the Calaveras program while he sought treatment.
He’s vibrant and engaged, and still loving everything he’s doing. It’s been an honor for me to spend some time with him the last couple of days.
Pete Peterson, Modesto High boys basketball coach, on coaching alongside Calaveras’ Kraig Clifton in the 6 County All-Star game
Though the cancer is terminal with a five-year survival rate less than 20 percent, Clifton returned to basketball this winter. He led Calaveras to the Mother Lode League crown and a quarterfinal appearance in the D-IV tournament.
“He and I have had brief conversations about it. I asked how he was doing,” Peterson said. “To his humbleness, it’s not something he talks about or want to make a big deal.
“He’s vibrant and engaged, and still loving everything he’s doing. It’s been an honor for me to spend some time with him the last couple of days.”
Clifton has been put in charge of the right group, too.
An undersized guard from Sonora High, Clifton led Columbia College to its only state championship in 1993 and eventually finished his career at Cal State San Bernardino. His playing career was defined by will and skill, not overwhelming physical talent.
There are plenty of Clifton clones on the Red, including Rice and Dhaliwal of Central Catholic; Gyse Hulsebosch of East Union, the district’s leading scorer; and Sonora’s Nate Patterson.
“Our kids understand that we have to share the ball,” Peterson said. “We’ll be a lot smaller, but watching them share and shoot the ball, it’s been fun.”
The Blue have names to light up the marquee.
Verhoeven will pair with fellow All-District Large-School selections Darrian Grays of Modesto Christian and Brian Perry of Beyer.
Perry was named The Bee’s All-District Boys Basketball Player of the Year after guiding the Patriots to a Modesto Metro Conference title and Division II section final appearance.
On Thursday, the 52 players and coaches of the 22nd annual 6 County All-Star Basketball Game will be treated to a dinner banquet at the Redwood Cafe at 4342 Dale Road, beginning at 6 p.m. Each player and coach will be recognized for their accomplishment and asked to share their favorite basketball memory with the crowd.
Verhoeven has committed to Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, while Grays will attend Kilgore College in Texas. In 2015, Verhoeven and Young led the Buffaloes to the CIF State Division III crown.
The roster also features Aaron Paschini, who signed a letter of intent with the Humboldt State football program, and Beyer guard Jaden Cobb.
“It’s such an honor to be selected to any all-star game,” said Modesto Christian’s Brice Fantazia, who will coach the Blue alongside Merced’s Hector Nava. “Being that this is their local game, this is the last chance to play in front of family and friends.”
The boys game will tip at 8 p.m.
The evening will also feature a dunk contest and 3-point shootout. Longtime official Abe Rojas of Turlock will also be honored. Rojas has officiated games in the district for more than 60 years.
6 County All-Star Basketball Games
Friday at Modesto Junior College
Girls (6 p.m.)
Blue Team: Jaden Rodriguez, Patterson; Raelynn Blackwell, Merced; Danielle Friedrich, Central Catholic; Donwanae Anthony, Kimball; Andrea Selkow, Pitman; Deja Acosta, Downey; Jasmine Xiong, Atwater; Bailee Haueter, Davis; Alondra Ponce, Atwater; Payton Church, Orestimba; Samantha Dougherty, Patterson; Caitlyn Bowman, Tracy; Janelle Anderson, Escalon. Coaches: Dustin Curtiss, Pitman; Alison Murata Nichols, Central Catholic.
Red Team: Zakiya Williams, Enochs; Brookelyn Larkin, Calaveras; Syd’nee Fryer, Manteca; Jennifer Pedretti, Modesto; Loretta Kakala, Manteca; Ruby Daube, East Union; Brittney Meyers, Beyer; Blanca Espinoza, Central Valley; Shaw Glasgow Williams, Turlock; Dominique Lewis, Enochs; Emily Jasper, Calaveras; Brenna Reece, Big Valley Christian; Kirsten Dubberke, Mariposa. Coaches: Ryan Bono, Manteca; Jessica Eddings, Big Valley Christian.
Boys (8 p.m.)
Blue Team: Michael Moore, Patterson; Brian Perry, Beyer; Jared Pazin, Merced; Reggie Ricks, Atwater; Aaron Paschini, Ripon; Dwight Young, Manteca; Cole Stevens, Ripon; Jaden Cobb, Beyer; Silvestre Llamas, Golden Valley; Darrian Grays, Modesto Christian; James Sellers, El Capitan; Tydus Verhoeven, Manteca. Coaches: Brice Fantazia, Modesto Christian; Hector Nava, Merced.
Red Team: Conor Fenton, Central Catholic; Kole Gaglio, Hilmar; Gyce Hulsebosch, East Union; Harinder Sidhu, Central Valley; Jared Rice, Central Catholic; Caleb Hoag, Turlock Christian; Amrit Dhaliwal, Central Catholic; Zach Cortright, Ripon Christian; Jalen Valverde, Elliot Christian; Esteban Martin, Modesto; Nate Patterson, Sonora; Noah Hernandez, Ripon. Coaches: Pete Peterson, Modesto; Kraig Clifton, Calaveras.