Julio Marquez and his family made the six-plus-hour drive from Southern California to Ceres this past week to visit longtime friends Shawna Nunes, Phil de la Porte and Linda Cooper.
The former Ceres High School boys basketball and baseball coach, his wife Bernadette, and their sons Lionel and Leonardo, returned home to Temecula on Monday.
“It was great spending time with everybody,” said Marquez, 39. “We missed Ceres. We come up a few times a year.”
When Marquez moved his family from Ceres to Temecula three years ago, he knew it would be a big lifestyle change for everyone.
“It’s a new chapter raising our kids down there,” he said. “We’re enjoying life. It’s been great.”
The Marquezes live five minutes away from the Pechanga Indian Reservation.
Julio, who is a member of the Luiseño Tribe, wants to make sure Lionel and Leonardo learn about their Native-American heritage. Lionel and Leonardo turn 4 and 1, respectively, this October.
“Before my grandfather (Raymond) passed, he’d always tell me to raise my children around it,” Marquez said. “He was a big advocate of teaching our history and customs he learned from people before him. Our kids are learning the traditional language and dances. They’re more involved in reservation events.”
Marquez has also reconnected with his mother and three older siblings.
“It’s been different,” he said. “I’m closer to my family. My kids get to hang out with their cousins.”
Marquez has been a member of the Pechanga Tribal Committee for 10 years. The committee is responsible for amending the tribe's constitution and bylaws.
“It’s been rewarding and enjoyable doing something for my tribe,” he said. “We’ve been talking about opening up a bigger school. When I was up here coaching, I’d drive down there on Mondays to attend meetings.”
Marquez will help coach junior-varsity boys basketball at Great Oak High School, which is located a short drive from the Pechanga Reservation, for the fourth straight year.
The season was moved to the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m glad they didn’t cancel it altogether,” he said.
Great Oak has claimed two Temecula Valley League titles and finished second once during Marquez’s tenure as an assistant coach.
“I always knew I wanted to go back down there and coach in that area,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It (JV) is not as demanding as varsity. I get to spend more time with my kids. It’s been a blessing in disguise to be able to coach at this level.”
Marquez had to put his plans of substitute teaching at Pechanga Chámmakilawish School on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve never subbed at the elementary-school level,” he said. “I was looking forward to it.”
Marquez is looking forward to returning to Ceres in the not too distant future.
Julio, his wife and their two kids will have Sunday night dinner with Nunes, de la Porte, Cooper and other loved ones.
“I’ve known them for half my life,” he said. “We’re not related by blood but they’re family.”
Marquez graduated from Ceres High in 1998.
He earned five varsity letters, including two in both baseball and basketball, and one in football.
Marquez pitched and majored in Native American Studies at UC Davis.
He served as head coach of Ceres High’s varsity boys basketball program for four seasons.
The Bulldogs amassed a 53-51 overall record and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs three times.
Ceres High had a .600 winning percentage (27-18) in conference play.
The Bulldogs won a playoff game for the first time in 13 years in Marquez’s second year.
Marquez was an assistant coach on best friend Brian de la Porte’s staff for four seasons.
Ceres High won its first league title in 17 years, had a 17-9 overall record and qualified for the playoffs in 2010-11.
Marquez was an assistant baseball coach at his alma mater for three seasons (2009-11).