When Ripon High’s Justin Graham was named a coach for the 24th annual 6 County Senior All-Star Game, the past came rushing back.
The feelings. The memories. The game. And of course, the names.
In 2006, Graham starred in one of the the region’s longest-running all-star events before playing collegiately at San Jose State and professionally around the globe. But of all the places he's ever been -- Europe and New Zealand, to name a few -- the 6 County Senior All-Star Game remains dear to his heart.
It was his proving ground.
“To play in the 6 County All-Star Game sort of solidified you as one of the better players in the area. In high school I was always trying to achieve that; trying to prove my worth,” said Graham, a Trans-Valley League MVP and Sac-Joaquin Section finalist during his four years at Ripon. “To be selected for it was a big accomplishment for me.”
In a full-circle moment, he’s back.
Graham earned his all-star selection after leading Ripon to its third consecutive Trans-Valley League title in his first season as head coach.
"We just love when we get those types of situations, when they start coming back," said Bobby Cole, event coordinator. "To have a star like him, who had great college career and played pro, it gives us a little clout and makes us feel good. It's an outstanding situation for the 6 County program."
The 6 County Senior All-Star Game will be played Friday, May 10 at Modesto Junior College. The girls’ game will tip off at 6 p.m. The boys’ game will follow at 8 o’clock.
Graham will coach the boys’ Blue team alongside Gregori’s Ryan Green. His team will consist of: Domonick Victor of Manteca; Dasani Tate of Los Banos; Jaedon Malone of Sierra; Gilberto Jimenez of Riverbank; Michael Costa Jr. of Bret Harte; McKay Bundy of Beyer; Cameron Sherwood of Turlock; Jaquille Ingram of Modesto; Jamin Crenshaw of Gregori; and Nephrey Donasco of Enochs.
“I’m just looking forward to being out there,” Graham said, “and seeing some of our area’s best upperclassmen play. … If you’re from the 209, this is the one (all-star game) you got to get into.”
Blue will be opposed by Red, coached by Orestimba’s Brent Azevedo and Sonora’s Lloyd Longeway, the architect of the Wildcats’ Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship run.
The Red roster features: Malachi Butler of Downey; Baz Cheema of Ripon; Marcus McCutchen of El Capitan; Jacob Dominguez of Orestimba; Joseph Perez of Modesto; Jorge Cedano of Manteca; Justin Traina of Central Catholic; Jacob Padilla of Big Valley Christian; Midas Calindas of Sonora; and Mitchell Prevost of Summerville.
The girls will kick off the night with a sister-versus-sister storyline. The Valencia twins, Kelsey and Lexi, guided Atwater to a historic season. The Falcons captured their first league title since 1988.
American Chevrolet Girls Basketball Player of the Year and Central California Conference MVP Kelsey Valencia will lead the Red, which will be coached by El Capitan’s Tyler Rogers and Hughson’s Tim May. Joining Valencia are: Alicia Jones of Beyer; Sofia Andres of Turlock; Jasmine Kelly of Central Catholic; Olivia Long of Calaveras; Emily Counter of Enochs; Marissa Martinez of Atwater; Milea Appling of Mariposa; Gracie Alves of Pitman; Olivia Murray of Enochs; Alexa Gomez of Escalon; and Jessica Congleton of Magic (home-schooled).
For the first time in their careers, Kelsey will be opposed by her twin sister, Lexi Valencia, who will be coached on the Blue by Turlock’s John Williams and Escalon’s Joe Dalpogetti.
The Blue will also feature: Amaya Ervin of El Capitan; Jaydon Williams of Turlock; Melissa Brady of Enochs; Shanece Garrett of Sonora; Annie Winton of Livingston; Jessica Reyes of Atwater; Abena Appiah of Patterson; Kinsey Langley of Hughson; Serena Schoenover of Gregori; Madison Price of Downey; and Jessena Pardo of Enochs.
Follow James Burns on Twitter @jburns1980, or email him at email@example.com.