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Varsity Dawgs practice at Central Valley
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More than a dozen prospective Ceres High varsity boys basketball players, including Kevin Dupree, Matt Schwark, Joe Gallo, Brad Muniz, Ray Green, Andrew Chipponeri, Ricardo Castellanos, Adarsh Brar and Ryan Ketchum, worked out for two hours in the Central Valley High gymnasium earlier this month. They partook in conditioning, dribbling, passing and shooting drills. Absent from the Bulldogs practice was Ross Tate, Brett Sayad and Steven Downs, who had another priority, one more week of football.

Head coach Jason Martin held a team meeting at the end of practice. He talked about the importance of being a good teammate andstaying committed.

“We don't need you if you're not going to work hard,” he said.

Martin desperately wants to get his squad into the playoffs. He dedicated a large portion of the offseason to basketball. The Bulldogs had a productive run during the summer. They compiled a 20-14 record.

“It will be really devastating to me if we didn't make it,” Dupree said. “We have enough talent. We just have to practice hard. We have to get better.”

Dupree believes this year's team will contend for the Modesto Metro Conference championship. The 2004-05 Bulldogs placed fifth in league at 3-12 and compiled a 9-18 overall record.

Ceres' schedule includes 15 league games, including three against the Modesto High Panthers, Johansen Vikings, Davis Spartans, Beyer Patriots and Downey Knights.

The Bulldogs will also participate in the Modesto City Tournament, Liberty High Tournament and Surf N Slam Tourney (San Diego).

Ceres' first league game will be played at home against Modesto High on Jan. 4 at 7:15 p.m. The Panthers return a host of players from last year's team, which compiled a 22-8 overall record, finished first in the MMC at 13-2 and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title game.

“I think we're better than Modesto,” Dupree said. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier