Just how good is Modesto Christian's 2005-06 Basketball team? We'll find that out in March but in viewing the early season returns, few teams will be able to play with the Crusaders. Though they have a few early season losses, with three future Division I players, including Adrian Oliver, Michael Porter, and Luiz Toledo, Modesto Christian has the talent in place to rise through Northern California's talent pool.
Led by head coach Gary Porter, the Crusaders have long been a program short on motto's and high on dedication. With a consistent, hard-working approach "MC" has developed a number of Div. I college basketball prospects. At least three (and potentially four) are prepsters are headed to major Universities next year alone. And more players are on the way.
What's the secret?
"We really don't have a secret," said Coach Porter, whose dad Howard is a longtime assistant. "I think we pretty much just get after it. Our guys play hard. If there is anything we probably do a bit different it's that we run more. Anybody who has come to a practice can see that. We run all the time. We want these players to be able to learn the basics and then do them at a very high rate."
Another aspect of the school that has already produced recent NBA newcomer and former Kentucky star Chuck Hayes along with Cal senior shooting guard Richard Midgley is that they'll play anyone anywhere; a statement of belief that has been in place since Coach Porter took over in 1996-97. Up until 2002, the CIF inconsistently moved Modesto Christian from one division to another due to the fact that small Christian school on the north side of Modesto was blowing away Div. 1 schools - including a Div. 1 state final appearance just a few years back. Now a fixture in Div. 5, MC could care less what level they play.
"We want to play the best," Michael Porter said. "That's how you get better."
Coach Porter schedules the best teams in the state annually and has proven that no matter what level they have been pegged, they've consistently showed they could beat anyone. As he enters his 9th year, Porter has amassed over 270 wins against just a little over 30 losses. Totaling 8 seasons, Modesto Christian has been to four California State finals. The Crusaders have two CIF State championships to their names.
This years' Crusader club is led by the backcourt duo of Michael Porter and Adrian Oliver, both of whom have signed Letter-of-Intents with the University of Kentucky and the University of Washington, respectively. Ball boys in the early days of the program, Porter and Oliver have grown up in the MC tradition. They've carried it on as well. Some of their highlights involve starting back-to-back Div. V finals as freshmen and sophomores. Along with Michael's father Gary being the head coach, Adrian's uncle Allen has been an MC assistant since Porter took over. Michael's older brother Jeff was a big part of previous Crusader clubs while Adrian's cousin Bobby Cole, who now plays at Texas Southern, was his connection.
"This year, we just have a few goals," added Oliver. "We want to dominate, win every game, and win the State Championship."
6-foot-7 Brazilian born power forward Luiz Toledo, who signed with BYU, is also on board. After sitting out last season according to CIF limitations regarding foreign players who move to the California without their parents, de Toledo was forced to sit out his junior year. But after fighting for his eligibility and learning English at a rapid rate, Luiz is back and ready to show what he can do. Despite his limited game experience, the talented power forward has as a high a ceiling rate as any prospect in Northern California.
While those three players certainly stand out - Oliver one of the top slashers in prep basketball, Porter a physical point guard who grinds it out for 40 minutes, and de Toledo a jumping jack athlete - MC also has plenty of more talent to surround that group. Extremely underrated 6-foot-6 senior forward Todd Brown returns to the starting line-up while junior newcomer Geoffrey Harrison, a 6-foot-9 200 pound leaper will also be part of the starting five. Along with top reserve 6-foot-5 Devaun Evans, three-point specialist Eric Isaacson, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, will also provide support. And just when you think that next year the Crusaders will have lost 6 of their top 7 likely scorers, MC also has a number of talented underclassmen on the horizon. Go watch a Modesto Christian JV game and you'll notice the talent.
Modesto Christian is off to a 6-3 start but were winners of the famed Gridley Invitational. Oliver took home Tournament MVP honors while Porter and de Toledo were on the all-Tournament team. Modesto Christian won the championship in dominant fashion; an 86-60 lay-up drill against a quality San Leandro squad. While their entire schedule is extremely difficult, the feature every year for Modesto Christian is the post-Christmas hoops tournament that they host. This year, the 6th annual Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic tips off on December 27th and runs through December 30th. All games will be held at Warrior Arena on the campus of Cal-State Stanislaus. This will be the first time the event will be played at CSU-Stanislaus. The tournament features four games in four days for each team.
What's the line-up look like?
In what will be one of the most splendid high school tournaments in all of Northern California, the Hoops Holiday Tournament features top Los Angeles area high schools like Taft, Dorsey, Cleveland, Sylmar, Inglewood, and Campbell Hall. Along with Modesto Christian, Ripon will lead the best of the best in Northern California.
Currently, the bracket looks like this:
Game 1 Merced vs. Taft
Game 2 Laguna Creek vs. East Union
Game 3 East Bakersfield vs. Skyline
Game 4 Campbell Hall vs. Hercules
Game 5 Lionel Wilson vs. Dorsey
Game 6 Ripon vs. Sylmar
Game 7 Cleveland vs. Inglewood
Game 8 Bret Harte vs. Modesto Christian
All Northern California basketball fans are invited to come on out for the event. Just some of the 2006 class stars are Oliver, Porter, de Toledo, plus Ripon's Justin Graham, and Taft's Calvin Haynes. The 2007 class features Harrison and wing Justin Holiday from Campbell Hall, the CIF 2004-05 Div. IV champs. In the 2008 class, star shooting guard Jrue Holiday, who has never lost a high school game, leads the way. Taft's Larry Drew and Oscar Bellfield also bring one of the best 2008 backcourts though and are seeking revenge. The Toreadors lost to Modesto Christian a year in the finals of this tournament.
This is one event you will not want to miss!
A.W Prince is the senior writer and publisher of BearTerritory.net. He pens numerous recruiting features on some of the most talented and highly sought after student-athletes in the country. Along with his recruiting work, Prince has made radio appearances with Rivals Radio and Bay Area college basketball pre-game, halftime, and post-game in-season shows.