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Playoffs or Bust
CV varsity boys hoops team expects to contend for league title, make postseason
Cal State Stanislaus commit Ryan Donnelly will play a key role while trying to lead Central Valley High Schools varsity boys basketball team to its first-ever playoff appearance this season. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Central Valley High School's varsity boys basketball program started preparing for the 2013-14 season in March.

The Hawks placed in eight of 10 AAU tournaments, finishing first and second three times, and third twice. Central Valley's schedule featured more than 50 games.

"I really like the chemistry," Hawks head coach Darryl Dickson said.

Central Valley will look to qualify for the playoffs for the first time this year.

The Hawks will rely heavily on their talented duo of senior forward Ryan Donnelly and junior guard Jaron Dickson.

Donnelly and Dickson are stepbrothers.

"No one has worked harder than them," Darryl said. "They've put in a great deal of time. They're the top combination in the league."

Ryan, a 6-foot-6 210-pound forward, was selected to the Western Athletic Conference First Team his junior year.

Donnelly led the Hawks in scoring (16.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 ppg).

He'll continue his hoops career at Cal State Stanislaus next winter.

"He didn't play organized basketball until his sophomore year," Darryl said. "Within that time, he did enough to impress Stanislaus State. I'm happy for him. He deserves it. He's going to continue to get better."

Jaron, a third-year varsity player, earned WAC honorable-mention recognition as a sophomore. He missed WAC Second Team by one vote.

Dickson averaged 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game.

He shattered two school records during Central Valley's 84-81 season-opening win against host Tracy on Nov. 29.
Jaron poured in 43 points.

He made nine 3-pointers.

"He's come a long way," Darryl said. "His offense, understanding of the game and defense is excellent. He's got a lot of heart. He's not afraid to step up and take the last shot. He wants to win. He does not like to lose."

Senior Kendel Johnson will be Central Valley's top defender.

Johnson racked up 1,897 yards and 20 touchdowns while starring at quarterback on Central Valley's history-making varsity football team. The Hawks secured their first-ever playoff berth.

Hawk teammates Ja'Quan Gardner (Sr.), Juan Manriquez (Sr.), Diego Sanchez (Sr.), Miko Uti (Sr.), Daevon Brown (Jr.), Andres Calderon (Jr.), Edward Calderon (Jr.), Nimrat Chahal (Jr.), Manuel Garcia (Jr.), Parker Griffin (Jr.), Robert Preciado (Jr.), Inayat Sahota (Jr.), Alexis Villa (Jr.) and Joshua Villegas (Jr.) will contribute on the hardcourt as well.

Brown transferred from Modesto Christian.

Daevon, Ryan, Jaron, Juan, Diego, Andres, Edward, Nimrat, Parker and Robert suited up for CV's AAU squad.

"We're real talented," Jaron said. "We have a strong starting five. We have a deep bench. This is the best team that Central Valley has ever had. I'd consider it a big-time failure if we don't make playoffs this year."

Central Valley compiled a 6-6 record en route to a fourth-place finish in the 2012-13 WAC standings.

The top three teams in conference play this year will be awarded playoff berths.

The WAC features seven teams: Central Valley, Ceres High, Central Catholic, Patterson, Livingston, Los Banos and Pacheco.

"There's a lot of excitement," Darryl said. "We have really high expectations. All the guys are rooting for each other. They're all focused. We're headed in the right direction."