As this week's Thanksgivings gives way to sports, high school basketball kicks off in Northern California with a seven game event on Saturday in Newark. The Nor Cal Tip Off Classic will feature nine of the NCP preseason boys basketball Top 20 teams while the feature game will have Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee of Deer Valley against a talented Sacramento High team. Here is a synopsis of the seven games and what to watch for.
Game 1: 11:00 am - Dublin vs. Freedom (Oakley)
The day kicks off with a Dublin squad that has two prolific scorers in Jojo Mcglaston and Jamir Andrews. Dublin lost only one senior from last year's squad and returns a very seasoned and senior laden team. Freedom has a talented junior in forward Elliott Smith, a scorer in James O'Neal, and a glue guy in small forward Tim Jordan. Expect the senior leadership of Dublin to prevail in a close one.
Game 2: 12:30 pm - Heritage (Brentwood) vs. McNair (Stockton)
Heritage has a good inside-outside thing going with point guard George Johnson, wing Pierre Carter, and forward Shon Briggs. The team will be looking to build on a 17 win campaign from last year. McNair had an impressive 22 win season last year but their two top scorers, Thomas Wallace and Eric Duncan, transferred. Expect Heritage to win easily as McNair tries to figure out their rotation in the season opener.
Game 3: 2:15 pm - St. Patrick's-St. Vincent's (Vallejo) vs. Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove)
Both teams had 20 plus wins from last season. Both teams have good guard and post play. Both teams have a good bench and depth. St. Pat's key playmakers will be guard Jason Webster who is a versatile scorer, junior guard Jose Flores, and post player Jalen Canty who can dominate the paint. Pleasant Grove has a good set of senior guards featuring Malik Thames who can take over on offense in addition to Matt Hayes and Cole Nordquist. Expect this to be a back and forth battle with Pleasant Grove coming out ahead at the end.
Game 4: 3:45 pm - El Cerrito vs. Miramonte (Orinda)
El Cerrito should be one of the better teams when the season is over but the team will start the season without footballers Marcellus Pippins, and twins Keith and Keilan Benjamin. The team still has plenty of depth with explosive senior guard Rae Jackson and sophomores Tyrell Alcorn and Devon Eisley. Miramonte has a good foundation with Kiran Shastri and Joey Goodreault who both can put up 20 points easily. Shastri committed to Chaminade who just stunned Texas this past week in the Maui Invitational. Expect Miramonte to win a close game but the shock effect is not as great as the Chaminade victory.
Game 5: 5:30 pm - McClymonds (Oakland) vs. Antelope
McClymonds lost a good deal of their productivity from last year's team but will return senior post prospect Dalvin Guy and a plethora of quick, serviceable guards. Antelope is coming off a 30 win season and returns their two key players in seniors Gabe Bealer and Isaiah Ellis. Expect Antelope to dominate the interior to take the win here.
Game 6: 7:00 pm - Newark Memorial (Newark) vs. Castro Valley
Host Newark Memorial has talent throughout the roster. The team will feature a trio of juniors in guard Joey Frenchwood and post players Damien Banford and Matt Thomas. By all accounts, Castro Valley overachieved last season with current juniors Jalen McFerren and Derrick Clayton. The team also breaks in a new coach this season. Expect host Newark to fend off a scrappy Castro Valley squad.
Game 7: 8:30 pm - Deer Valley (Antioch) vs. Sacramento
Deer Valley features Kentucky-bound Marcus Lee who averaged a near triple double last season in points, rebounds, and blocks while point guard Kendall Smith will provide balance on the perimeter. Sacramento returns a deep and experienced team with six seniors led by guards Aaron Cameron and De'Von Boyd (Chaminade commit) and forwards James Hadnot and Joe Barnes. The Dragons also have a trio of very promising freshman led by post man Devin Young who is on the rise. Expect Sacramento to come out ahead if they can get Lee in foul trouble early. If Lee or Smith is in full gear, then it is anybody's ball game.