The Modesto Christian High boys basketball team has been invited to play in one of the top showcases in the country.
Coach Brice Fantazia confirmed the news on Monday, which was tweeted days earlier by an assistant. Fantazia said the Crusaders were asked to play in the Dec. 7-8 event, which is hosted by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and broadcast by CBS Sports Network, based on their history, depth and returning talent.
Modesto Christian has won a record 18 Sac-Joaquin Section titles. No other team has more than nine titles. The Crusaders have also won two CIF State championships.
"They have to invite you based off your history and team you have coming back," Fantazia said in a text message to The Bee.
As of Monday, Fantazia wasn’t certain about the rest of the draw, but he’s banking on another all-star lineup from corners of the country. In December, Hoophall West featured Oak Hill Academy of Virginia, Arizona state champion Shadow Mountain, former CIF state champion Chino Hills, Sierra Canyon, and Trinity International of Las Vegas, among others.
Sierra Canyon is ranked No. 4 in Cal-Hi Sports’ state poll, while Trinity International took on former Manteca High star Kenny Wooten (now at Oregon) following the Buffaloes’ run to state title.
With one game left in the regular season, Modesto Christian (23-3) is No. 8 in the same state poll, and is expected to be just as strong next winter, too. The Crusaders graduate only three seniors — Cal Poly-bound guard Junior Ballard, Northwest Nazarene-bound center Gabe Murphy, and uncommitted guard Tyler Williams.
The rest are sophomores and juniors, including point guard Earvin Knox, who set a school record with 14 assists in a victory over Downey, forward Aaron Murphy, who recently committed to the Oakland Soldiers’ AAU program, and second-leading scorer Dathan Satchell, who holds an offer from Northern Colorado.
The other impact players with at least one more season in navy, red and white are: sophomores Michael Pearson, Baljot Sahi and Alex Merkviladze; and junior Tsotne Tsardsidse. Modesto Christian, which has won 10 straight, will play its final Modesto Metro Conference game Tuesday evening at Beyer. The game will tip at 7:15.
The Crusaders, who boast a national-best 183-game league winning streak, have been realigned into the Tri-City Athletic League, beginning next year. The TCAL is a Division I league and home to Lincoln, Tracy, St. Mary’s, West, Lodi and Tokay.