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Nowhere to go but up
Central Valley High School's varsity boys basketball team has yet to experience a breakthrough season during its seven-year history.

The Hawks had a 10-17 overall mark and finished fourth in the Western Athletic Conference (4-8) last season.

Central Valley's amassed a 51-112 record under head coach Darryl Dickson's guidance.

"It's going to change this year," Hawks tri-captain Jaron Dickson said. "We've gotten a lot better defensively. We play a lot harder. That's our strength. I think we're good enough to make the playoffs. Anything less would be a disappointment."

Jaron (So.) will try to help fill the leadership void left by 2012 Central Valley graduate/standout point guard Camron Thornton and 6-foot-4 senior forward Miguel Rodriguez.

Thornton and Rodriguez were both named to the WAC Second Team last season.

Camron averaged 16.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest. He set a school record for points in an individual league game (33) versus Pacheco.

Miguel averaged 13.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and shot 33 percent from 3-point range.

Other Hawk returners expected to contribute this season include Diego Sanchez (Jr.), Jordan Sek (Jr.) and Ja'Quan Gardner (Jr.).

Dickson, a 5-foot-10 guard, earned honorable-mention recognition his freshman year.

He averaged 10.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.

Jaron made 39 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Dickson grew four inches over the summer.

"I don't care about stats," Jaron said. "I'll do whatever I have to do to help my team win. There's more pressure. I like being able to take charge."

Gardner starred at running back on Central Valley's varsity football team the past two seasons. Ja'Quan racked up 3,547 yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground.

Post players Parker Griffin (So.), Ryan Donnelly (Jr.), Jordan Thornton (Sr.), Abraham Navarro (Sr.), Amrit Chahal (Sr.) and Manuel Garcia (So.) are welcome additions to the team.

Abraham and Amrit share team-captain duties with Jaron.

Navarro, Central Valley's quarterback in football, missed last season with a knee injury.

Parker and Manuel starred on Central Valley's junior-varsity boys basketball squad in 2011-12.

Ryan, the younger brother of former Cal State Stanislaus women's and Ceres High girls basketball standout Shannon Donnelly, transferred from Pitman. He played for the JV Pride a year ago.

Jordan, Camron's sibling, will be counted upon heavily during his first season of organized basketball.

"He's going to help us quite a bit," Darryl said. "He's very athletic. He's very committed. He's learning fast."

Central Valley's biggest win of the 2011-12 WAC season came against second-place Patterson (19-7, 8-4).

Fourth-place Central Valley lost twice to crosstown-rival/third-place Ceres High, including 60-55 in overtime.

Central Catholic has the best player and team in the Western Athletic Conference.

Six-foot-9 senior center John Fenton led the Raiders (10-2) to a share of the WAC title last season.

Central Valley won just four of 12 games in conference play.

"Our chemistry is much better this year," Darryl said. "We have some depth. We got to play our best basketball to be competitive. If our young guys step up, we can fight for one of the top positions in league."

Added Jaron: "It would mean a lot. It would bring excitement to the school and fans."