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Ex-CV boys hoops teammates reunite at MJC
Dickson, Thornton earn starting roles with Pirates
Jordan Thornton played organized basketball for the first time during his senior year at Central Valley. Thornton has since reunited with Hawk teammate Jaron Dickson at Modesto Junior College. Thornton and Dickson both start. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Jaron Dickson and Jordan Thornton played one season of varsity boys basketball together at Central Valley High School in 2012-13.

Dickson, a sharp-shooting guard, earned a partial scholarship to Cal State Monterey Bay.

Thornton, a do-everything forward, gave up hoops to focus on academics at UC Davis.

Dickson and Thornton have since reunited on the hardcourt at Modesto Junior College.

Both start for the men's team.

"I've known Jaron and his family for years," Jordan said. "It (teaming up in college) wasn't something we talked about when we were in high school. Everything just fell into place."

"I'm blessed to be able to play basketball with him again," Jaron said. "Jordan's one of my good friends."

Dickson averaged 11.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists through Modesto JC's first 18 games.

"I'm back on the court playing," Jaron said. "It feels great."

Jaron had a career-high 35 points, to go along with eight rebounds and three assists during Modesto Junior College's 95-90 win over Canada on Nov. 11. He made 7 of 10 3-pointers and all eight of his free throws.

"It felt like a couple of my high school games," said Jaron, who averaged 23.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game as Central Valley posted a 22-4 overall record, placed first in the Western Athletic Conference standings (12-0) for the first time and secured its second consecutive playoff berth his senior year. "Whatever I put up was going in."

Dickson didn't log any playing time while redshirting at Monterey.

"Initially, I was apprehensive of him coming back," said Darryl Dickson, Jaron's father and Central Valley's head coach. "It turned out to be the right decision. You can see it in the way he plays. He's happy now. Having played basketball myself, I understand the process. He just felt he wasn't a part of the program at Monterey. It was tough as a dad seeing my son hurting. The one thing he did was he never stopped working. He put in extra time. He stayed in the weight room and gym. He played in a league out there. It made the transition easy."

"It was difficult to watch," Jaron said "It was really humbling. The only benefit was I got next-level experience even though I didn't play. I was practicing against exceptional players every day. It really made me work harder on my game. I have a different understanding of the game now because of the experience at Monterey. It made me a much smarter basketball player."

Thornton, who last played organized basketball two years ago, earned a spot in Modesto JC's starting lineup after missing the first eight games of the season with an injury.

"I wasn't surprised he made the team," said Darryl Dickson, who coached Jordan in high school. "He's one of those kids coaches love. He does the grunt work. He has a motor that doesn't stop."

"I expected him to have the success," Jaron said. "He plays harder than anybody I've ever seen. That's all he knows."

"I play every game like it's my last," Thornton said. "I'm always going to give it 100 percent."

Thornton has averaged 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game for the Pirates.

He's been a starter during nine of Modesto JC's last 10 games.

"I'm not really surprised," Thornton said. "It's what I should be doing. Personally, I want to do better. There's always room to improve."

Jordan tallied a career-high 26 points and grabbed 13 boards in Modesto JC's 81-73 loss to Lassen on Dec. 16.

He pulled down a career-best 17 rebounds and totaled 14 points as the Pirates were beaten 68-60 by Cosumnes River on Jan. 3.

Thornton enjoyed a productive debut in Modesto JC's 79-48 setback versus West Hills Coalinga on Dec. 2. He contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

"I rebound," Thornton said. "I play defense. I do whatever I can to help my team win. I'm pretty beat up after every game. I play through it."

Modesto JC had a 4-14 overall record and sat in last place in the Big-8 standings (0-6) as of Jan. 24.

The Pirates have lost their last 12 games.

"We still have a chance to make playoffs," Jaron said. "League just started. Hopefully, we can run the table. It would be a good feeling to be a part of the team that turned the program around."

Jaron was a junior and Jordan a senior when Central Valley compiled a 6-6 record on its way to a fourth-place finish in the WAC standings.

Dickson and Thornton didn't expect to cross paths in college.

"I didn't think it would ever happen again," Jaron said. "It's pretty cool."

"Coach Dickson and his wife got me to play for the team," Thornton said. "They set the whole thing up. He (Darryl) talked to Modesto Junior College's head coach (Mike Girardi) about me playing there."

Dickson and Thornton both plan to return to Modesto JC for their sophomore years.

Hoops will continue to be a part of their lives after they wrap up their careers with the Pirates.

"I want to play basketball at the next level, whether it's Division I or II," Jaron said. "That's what my goal is."

"School always comes first," Jordan said. "If I get a basketball scholarship to a four-year school, I'd gladly take that."