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New year brings new hope
Underclassmen Ja'Quan Gardner, Jordan Sek, Diego Sanchez, Milton Uti and Jaron Dickson will bring athleticism and energy to Central Valley High School's varsity boys basketball team.

"They named themselves the Fast 5," Hawks head coach Darryl Dickson said. "They're motivated to be their best. They work hard. They're good kids."

Added Central Valley junior standout Miguel Rodriguez: "They'll help us a lot."

The Hawks struggled to an 11-16 record and last-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference standings (2-8) last winter.

Central Valley will be striving for improvement this year.

"We're going to do pretty well," Rodriguez said. "We got a lot more guards. We'll be faster. We just need to work hard, limit our mistakes and play as a team."

Hawk star forward/center David Griffin was lost to graduation. The WAC first-team pick averaged a team-leading 15.1 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Rodriguez (Jr.) and Camron Thornton (Sr.) will fill key roles.

Miguel, a 6-foot-3 forward, made three treys and converted all five of his foul shots while pouring in a career-high 25 points in Central Valley's 71-60 upset of second-place Livingston last season.

Thornton will start at point guard.

Newcomer Hawk Duarte (Jr.) will pose a threat from the outside on offense.

"He (Duarte) is our best shooter," coach Dickson said.

Cristian Chavez (Sr.), Edgar Urbieta (Sr.), Jaquel Pitts (Sr.), Salvador Venegas (Sr.), Amrit Chahal (Jr.) and Minder Singh (Jr.) are newcomers.

Coach Dickson will consider moving down Gardner (So.), Sek (So.), Sanchez (So.), Uti (So.) and Jaron Dickson (Fr.) to junior varsity before the start of the WAC season.

"I'm going to evaluate if they can handle the varsity level during the preseason," Darryl Dickson said. "It's going to benefit them. They'll develop playing against better competition."

Jaron made five treys on his way to tallying a team-high 17 points as the Hawks rallied for a 73-70 win over Escalon in summer-league play.

Ja'Quan rushed for a school-record 1,985 yards and 25 touchdowns while starring on Central Valley's varsity football team this past fall.

Central Valley and Patterson tied for last place with identical 3-7 records in the Western Athletic Conference standings last season.

Crosstown-rival Ceres High (8-2) won the league title.

Livingston (7-3), Los Banos (6-4) and Central Catholic (4-6) took second, third and fourth, respectively.

The Hawks have dropped four straight games to Ceres High, which was hit hard by graduation as four starters were lost.

"We're going to make mistakes because we don't have a lot of experience," Darryl Dickson said. "I'm confident we're going to be competitive. The issue is, can we finish games? We want to be successful."

Central Valley would like to duplicate Ceres High's past success by winning a league title and qualifying for the postseason in the near future.

"It would be nice if we could get to that level," coach Dickson said. "We're definitely optimistic."

Said Rodriguez: "We're hungrier."