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                                                           2004 - 2005

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Walberg's news from Fresno city college

Coach Vance Walberg's Fresno City hoops team again

 is ranked No. 1 in the state and undefeated.

Columbia College was shooting the lights out —

seven 3-pointers in the first half — but trailed by

15 points against Fresno City College last week at Oak Pavilion.

But Fresno City assistant Loren LeBeau wasn't worried that the

 Claim Jumpers would shoot themselves back into the game.

"Let's see if they can keep that up," said LeBeau, knowing full

well that few teams have maintained momentum in the face of

the Rams' relentless pressure defense.

Sure enough, Columbia's output fell to just two 3-pointers after

halftime and the Rams rolled to a 111-81 victory in their Central Valley

Conference opener.

Fresno City coach Vance Walberg's assessment of Columbia's second-half

shooting was succinct: "They hit a wall."

That wall is a familiar, unpleasant sight to Fresno City opponents,

who have managed to beat the Rams just five times in the Walberg

 era. In most of those wins, the Rams' press has beaten down the

opposition.

Yet despite sporting an 83-5 record 2 1/2years into his tenure at

Fresno City — after a stellar coaching career at ClovisWest High —

Walberg sometimes finds himself having to prove his run-and-press

 basketball system to skeptics.

He has heard the labels — "junk" and "phony." They come from coaches

and observers who don't understand the discipline it takes to play that

frenetic style of run-shoot-press basketball.

The skepticism began before Walberg's first season in 2002-03, when

some observers wondered if his style of play would translate from high

school to junior college. "People who saw us work out said we'd be a

 .500 team," he recalls.

 

The Rams went 38-2 that year and lost in the state championship

to Los Angeles City College.

Last year, with a team that included his son Jason Walberg and Tyrone

Jackson — two current NCAA Division I players who grew up playing in

Walberg's system — Fresno City finished 28-3. Still, the Rams felt like

underachievers after losing in the second round of the playoffs to American River.

This year, the skeptics said, "Let's see what he does when he doesn't have

Tyrone and Jason."

Hoover High coach Peter Sharkey, a supporter of Walberg's coaching, said,

"I think that question has been answered."

Indeed, after its 129-73 victory over Merced on Saturday, Fresno City is 17-0

 and ranked No. 1 in the state.

The Rams enter their first home game of the season Wednesday averaging

 105.9 points per game — more than 16 points better than the second-best

offensive team, Chaffey (89.5). Eight players are averaging eight or more

 points per game.

Walberg insists there's no magic to his formula, just hard work and a simple

ethic: attack on offense, attack on defense.

That means a 40-minute full-court press and an offense that runs the floor

 for layups or pulls back for 3-pointers — faster pace, more possessions,

defense creating offense: Run your opponent into the hardwood.

"Fresno grinds you down," Columbia coach Nate Rien said. "We played

well for 30 minutes, then fatigue became a factor."

Walberg started that fast-break, full-press system at Clovis West in the

 1997-98 season after continuously being blown out by taller, more

 athletic teams from Southern California.

Then, in 1999 and again in 2001, his Clovis West teams defeated

powerhouse Dominguez of Compton, which featured center Tyson

Chandler, now of the Chicago Bulls.

In the 2001 matchup, at a tournament in Los Angeles, his Golden

Eagles forced 31 turnovers. Walberg's teams have been doing that ever since.

And so have a lot of other teams, hoping to copy Walberg's success.

"Look at the teams that mirror his system," Clovis East High coach

 Tim Amundsen said. "Clovis, Central, myself, Hanford — we don't

do it as well but we've had some success."

Amundsen, who played for Walberg at Newark Memorial and

 assisted him at Clovis West, said Walberg's system is more

 complex than it seems at first glance.

"There's a lot to it," he said. "Some people think it's just the defense,

some think it's the offense. It is a combination of both, and the tempo.

"You play at a pace that takes teams out of what they want do, get them

 to play the way they're not used to playing.

"If I'm a player, I love to play his system. When you're open, you shoot

the dang thing. It's funner to play, funner to watch, funner to coach."

Pell-mell offense and intense, pressing defense are not new concepts

for basketball fans who recall Paul Westhead's fast-breaking Loyola

Marymount teams, Nolan Richardson's "40 minutes of hell" at Arkansas

 and the Kentucky Wildcats under Rick Pitino. In more recent years,

Alabama-Birmingham has given opponents fits with its frenetic style.

Hoover's Sharkey is among a growing crowd who believe Walberg could

 be effective at the four-year college level.

"Vance's system, I think, is successful because of him," the veteran

coach said. "He is a very thorough teacher and an excellent coach. He

believes in [the system] 100% and he gets players to believe 100%.

"People said it wouldn't work at the next level because guys are better

 ballhandlers and passers. But the guys he [recruits] are better shooters,

better defenders, bigger, faster, stronger, too."

Columbia's Rien said Walberg's teams do the little things that win games.

"Other teams might be more athletic," he said. "But they don't always

pay attention to details."

Former Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian also is a convert.

"Maybe another coach wouldn't make it work," he said. "But Vance

 believes in it and teaches it. I think it might work [at a four-year school];

 I'd like to see him get a shot somewhere.

"Players like playing that way. How could you not? You shoot the ball

 freely and even if you're the 14th guy, you get [playing time] and you're happy."

That's another key to Walberg's system — he regularly plays 13players,

sometimes 14, and five to seven guys will score in double figures during a game.

Against San Bernardino in the final of the San Jose Tournament, 13th-

man Alex Hansen created a key turnover in the final minute to help the

 Rams secure a 102-100 come-from-behind win.

"How many teams have their 13th player on the floor in the final minute

of a close game?" Walberg asks.

Everyone plays, everyone shoots, everyone presses. That balance

throws off opponents — especially this season, when the Rams don't

 have Jackson, Walberg and Adam Wall as a reliable top three.

"That's the difference," Jon Black said. "Last year, we had two or three

 go-to guys. This year we've got 10-12 guys every night. You don't

know who is going to contribute. You can't plan for us, because it's

 a different guy every night.

"I wouldn't know what to do if I was the opposition."

Walberg believes this year's team has more depth than last year's

 and even questions whether he relied too much on his son and Jackson last year.

As the Rams rolled to five tournament championships before this

conference season, Walberg was most proud that three different

Rams had earned tournament MVP honors and seven had made

all-tournament teams.

"Our bench scores as much as the starting team," said Jordan

 Farley, who came off the bench to earn MVP honors at the Chabot

 Tournament.

Running is the key to the Rams' success, and the players work

harder in practice than they ever have. The games, they said,

 are the easy part.

"If there is a negative to this system, it's that we ask the guys

 to work hard," Walberg said. "But if that is a negative to a kid,

 we don't want him."

Reggie Butler, who transferred to Fresno City after playing last

year for Fresno State's Ray Lopes, said Walberg sold him in the first week.

"Coach said, 'We're a running team, if you don't want to run, get

the hell out,'" Butler recalled with a smile. "How can you be mad

 at somebody that forward."

Some skeptics cite the difficulty of getting players — especially

 blue-chip collegians — to buy into pressing full time, or that the

 Rams give up several easy layups each game when teams beat

the press. Fresno City gives up 80.5points per game to rank 87th

out of 90 state junior colleges.

But the Rams' modus operandi is to convert opponents' turnovers

 into points more often than they get burned.

"If we don't score off our defense, we struggle," Walberg said.

"Some people say we don't play defense. But teams hate to play against our press."

The way to beat Fresno City is to have two guards who don't fall

apart under the constant pressure — as Sequoias' Ja'Vance

 Coleman and Teddy Fletcher showed last year — or catch the

Rams on a cold shooting night, as happened against American

 River last year and in the 2003 state final against Los Angeles City.

Such events are rarities, thus squelching the skeptics. But Walberg

is less interested in proving people wrong than simply proving his team is right.

"As a coach, you want to prove yourself every year," he said.

"I don't feel like I have to prove [anything] to other people.

 

"I just hate to lose, to be honest with you."

To reach title tilt,Fresno city college Rams go inside out

With 3-pointers limited, they drive and shoot 71%.

SAN DIEGO -- Coaches on the losing end of games

against the Fresno City College men's basketball

team -- and that includes everyone the Rams

have played this season -- frequently use the

same phrase to explain Fresno City's offensive versatility:

"Pick your poison."

Saturday's poison? Driving to the basket.

Fresno City drove, drove and drove some more for a 95-82

 victory over Saddleback in the semifinals of the California

Community Colleges Basketball Championships at the University

of San Diego's Jenny Craig Pavilion.

That sets up a state championship showdown at 1 p.m. today

 against San Bernardino Valley, which defeated San Joaquin

Delta 85-84 in overtime in the other semifinal. It's the second

title game for coach Vance Walberg in three seasons at Fresno

City. In 2003, the Rams finished runner-up to Los Angeles City, 90-82.

On Saturday, Saddleback decided to "hug" the Rams on the

 perimeter, taking away the 3-point shot. It's the same strategy

 that failed for Ventura in Thursday's 114-103 loss to the Rams.

Both times, Walberg's team responded by attacking the basket.

Bubba Tolliver scored 29 points against Saddleback, mostly by

driving the lane. Anthony Esparza added 28, many coming on

 baseline drives. Geoffrey Clayton drove the key for 13 points.

The Gauchos were floored that the Rams shot 70.6% against

 their vaunted defense.

"They're an unbelievable team," Saddleback point guard D.J. Smedley

 said. "[Shooting 70.6%] has never been done against us. We hold

teams to 60 points." (The Gauchos yielded an average of 64.1 points

a game this season.)

Gauchos coach Bill Brummell admitted his strategy was to take away

the 3-pointer from the Rams' arsenal.

"We thought we'd do a better job individually [against] the drive," he

 said. "But we couldn't do it. You take away something and you give

something. Fresno took exactly what they needed. They read our

defense well."

That's the simple brilliance of Walberg's system.

"Whatever they give, we'll take," he said. "We've shot 50 3s

 a couple times this season."

The Rams did manage to hit 11 of 18 from 3-point range to

complement the damage they did inside.

The attitude was set early, when Rams assistant Loren LeBeau

 noticed the Gauchos had 6-foot-8 forward Derek Risper guarding the 6-1 Tolliver.

"Coach told me I should take it personally, that by putting a slower

 guy on me they were disrespecting me," Tolliver said. "I took advantage."

Tolliver shot 12 of 15 from the field, including 3 for 6 on 3-pointers.

Esparza was 9 for 11, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.

"All year we've used our size to our advantage," Smedley said.

"Fresno took the advantage with smaller, quicker guys."

Saddleback stayed even in a 45-45 first half behind 18 points

from Mikel Watson, who made 4 of 6 3-pointers. The Rams didn't

 guard Watson that closely after watching him shoot 1 of 11 Thursday

against West Valley.

Fresno City moved ahead after halftime, opening a 12-point lead at

69-57 with 10 minutes remaining. Saddleback never got closer

than six the rest of the way.

Watson finished with 25 points and forward Dominique Ricks

added 22 from inside.

Walberg now is 99-5 in three years at Fresno City, but a state

championship has eluded him. As the Rams have rolled to a 33-0

 record this season, their mantra has been anything short of a state

 title would be a disappointment.

"It's too deep in the season to take a loss," freshman forward

Jordan Farley said. "At this point, 33-1 would not be acceptable."

For Jon Black, one of two players returning from last season's

 team that failed to reach the state tournament, winning the

championship is the logical final step in an undefeated season.

"It's what we came here to do," he said

THE BEST GAME EVER FRESNO CITY COLLEGE

Fresno City caps 34-0 season with a victory in the state title game.

SAN DIEGO — "I don't know how to lose," Fresno City College's

 Geoffrey Clayton exulted after the Rams had just polished off

 an undefeated season by winning the men's title Sunday at the

 California Community Colleges Basketball Championships.

"Coach Walberg taught me how not to lose."

Fresno City — and coach Vance Walberg — left no doubt it was

California's best team with a convincing 83-68 victory over San

 Bernardino Valley at the University of San Diego's Jenny Craig

Pavilion, the culmination of a 34-0 season.

The Rams did it despite 36 points from San Bernardino's Aaron

 Nixon, who hit his first 11 shots after halftime and scored 28

 of his team's 41 second-half points.

But even that couldn't derail Fresno City, led by the irrepressible

Clayton and M'Jumbe Williams and the calmer (by comparison)

Anthony Esparza and Jordan Farley.

Clayton's bravado — as well as his funky dance moments after the

 game — can be explained, given what the Rams accomplished:

The first undefeated men's junior college state champion since

Compton in 1970 and just the third in history

(with Jerry Tarkanian's 1964 Riverside team).

Fresno City's third men's state championship, the first since

1963. The other was in 1955, so it's safe to say few of the fans

 who accompanied the Rams to San Diego had seen this happen before.

Walberg's first state championship, after losing with the Rams

to Los Angeles City in the 2003 title game and to De La Salle of

 Concord in the state high school title game in 2000 while he

was at Clovis West High. "This is weird," Rams guard Alex Hansen

said. "Not to lose a game for a whole year. I'm still in awe."

Fresno City saved its best for last, playing tough defense, shooting

 51% and turning Southern California Player of the Year Kevin

 Henderson into a non-factor.

Henderson — a point guard who scored 33 points, including the

 two winning free throws in overtime, in Saturday's 85-84

 semifinal win over San Joaquin Delta — had five points Sunday

 and committed 13 turnovers against Fresno City's pressure defense.

That left Nixon as San Bernardino's main threat. No other Wolverine

scored more than seven points.

The Rams countered with a balanced attack led by Williams' 18 points,

 16 each from Esparza and Farley and 13 from Clayton.

Fresno City took a 40-27 halftime lead, weathered Nixon's second-half

 run and coasted to the 15-point win.

The finish set off a wild celebration, with a few of the Rams jumping

 over the scorer's table to embrace fans. The award ceremony was

 a raucous affair, with Clayton video-taping as he, Williams and Bubba

Tolliver made the all-tournament team and Esparza was named MVP.

The Fresno contingent — about a couple dozen — cheered as Walberg

held up the state championship trophy.

"We've worked so hard," said Esparza, who also was named

All-Northern California. "This was our goal from the very beginning:

 a state title. Being undefeated and everything else is just the icing."

San Bernardino coach Phil Matthews praised the Rams:

"They shot the ball extremely well and took us out of our game.

 They come at you in waves."

Nixon said he and his teammates were outmanned and outhustled.

San Bernardino, ranked No. 2 in the state behind Fresno City, finished its season 27-5.

"They have more firepower than we do," he said. "Their 12 [players]

wanted it more than our seven did."

Fresno City guard Jon Black said the championship came down to

desire and confidence.

"This was our goal from the beginning, but at first it was a far-off goal,

" he said. "Then, as the season progressed, we became believers."

Belief and hustle are a potent combination. The Rams players and

coaches agreed that the key to winning 34 straight games was

working and playing harder than anyone else.

So it was fitting that in their last gathering, in the courtyard outside the

 arena before heading home, the Rams huddled one final time and paid

tribute with one final chant:

"One, two, three. Hustle!"

FCC's Williams makes his points in title game

SAN DIEGO — When the basketball season began, coach Vance

 Walberg said his Fresno City College Rams would go as far as

their point guards would carry them.

In Sunday's state championship game, the performance of both

 teams' point guards were the key to the Rams' 83-68 men's victory

 over San Bernardino Valley that capped a 34-0 season.

Fresno City clamped down on San Bernardino's Kevin Henderson.

 The Southern California Player of the Year scored five points and

committed 13 turnovers before fouling out.

Fresno City point guard M'Jumbe Williams led the Rams with 18 points,

including four 3-pointers, and generally hustled his way to an all-tournament berth.

He had a great tournament for us," Walberg said. "He carried us at

stretches." Williams, a transfer from Fresno State, said Saturday

he had felt the pressure of the state championship and knowing

there were college scouts in the audience.

"Yesterday I put a lot of pressure on myself and I struggled like

heck," he said of his effort in the Rams' semifinal win over Saddleback,

 when he shot 2 of 7 and had seven turnovers.

"I was trying to thread the needle [with passes], trying to overdo it."

On Sunday he turned over the ball once and shot 7 of 13, including 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.

On a roll

Sunday's victory left Walberg at 100-5 in three years as coach of the Rams.

Former Fresno State coach Jerry Tarkanian, a Walberg supporter, was

impressed.

"I was 98-8 [at Riverside in the 1960s]," Tarkanian said.

Walberg still has a ways to go to better Tarkanian's record of four straight

 state titles, from 1964-67.

"More and more people are realizing what a really great coach Vance is,"

said Tarkanian, sitting courtside.

2004-05 Fresno City College Men’s Basketball

Game-by-Game Log (32)

Day Date Opponent Location Result

Fri 11/12 ^ Contra Costa College San Jose W, 129-61 (1-0)

Sat 11/13 ^ San Jose City Coll. San Jose W, 91-81 (2-0)

Sun 11/14 ^ San Bernardino Vall. Coll. San Jose W, 102-100 (3-0)

Thur 12/2 # Sacramento City College Sacramento W, 121-99 (4-0)

Fri 12/3 # West Valley College Sacramento W, 88-78 (5-0)

Sat 12/4 # Shasta College Sacramento W, 101-81 (6-0)

Thu 12/9 + El Camino College Los Angeles W, 105-85 (7-0)

Fri 12/10 + Mt. San Antonio College Los Angeles W, 122-117 (8-0)

Sat 12/11 + L.A. Southwest College Los Angeles W, 83-72 (9-0)

Tue 12/21 & De Anza College Hayward W, 118-80 (10-0)

Wed 12/22 & Gavilan College Hayward W, 106-60 (11-0)

Thur 12/23 & Chabot College Hayward W, 100-81 (12-0)

Tue 12/28 % Irvine Valley College Santa Maria W, 90-72 (13-0)

Wed 12/29 % Santa Barbara City Coll. Santa Maria W, 83-70 (14-0)

Thur 12/30 % Cuesta College Santa Maria W, 123-78 (15-0)

Wed 1/5 * Columbia College Sonora W, 111-81 (16-0, 1-0)

Sat 1/8 * Merced College Merced W, 129-73 (17-0, 2-0)

WED 1/12 * MODESTO JR. COLL. FRESNO W, 111-63 (18-0, 3-0)

SAT 1/15 * REEDLEY COLLEGE FRESNO W, 123-82 (19-0, 4-0)

Wed 1/19 * Porterville College Porterville W, 94-74 (20-0, 5-0)

SAT 1/22 * WEST HILLS COLL. FRESNO W, 117-96 (21-0, 6-0)

WED 1/26 * COLL. of the SEQUOIAS FRESNO W, 97-65 (22-0, 7-0)

SAT 1/29 * COLUMBIA COLLEGE FRESNO W, 118-70 (23-0, 8-0)

WED 2/2 * MERCED COLLEGE FRESNO W, 125-75 (24-0, 9-0)

Sat 2/5 * Modesto Jr. College Modesto W, 101-85 (25-0, 10-0)

Wed 2/9 * Reedley College Reedley W, 104-79 (26-0, 11-0)

SAT 2/12 * PORTERVILLE COLL. FRESNO W, 82-67 (27-0, 12-0)

Wed 2/16 * West Hills College Coalinga W, 99-83 (28-0, 13-0)

Sat 2/19 * Coll. of the Sequoias Visalia W, 110-88 (29-0, 14-0)

SAT 2/26 $ AMERICAN RIVER FRESNO W, 112-76 (30-0)

SAT 3/5 $ CABRILLO COLL. FRESNO W, 76-57 (31-0)

Thur 3/10 $$ Ventura San Diego W,114-103(32-0)

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP ALL - TOURNAMENT TEAM

                         2004 / 2005

COA Championships games from San Diego

Men's Pairings

Jenny Craig Pavilion, University of San Diego

Thursday, March 10
#1S San Bernardino 78, #4N Siskiyous 65
#1N Fresno 114, #4S Ventura 103 — 
#2S Saddleback 80, #3N West Valley 76, OT
#2N San Joaquin Delta 74, #3S Desert 62

Saturday, March 12
#1S
San Bernardino 85, #2N San Joaquin Delta 84, OT
#1N Fresno 95, #2S Saddleback 82

Sunday, March 13
Championship game,
1 p.m.

#1N
Fresno 83, #1S San Bernardino 68

                                     FCC Men's Basketball Roster

                                                             2004-2005 Season

 

No.

Player

Pos

Ht

Wt

Yr

Hometown/High School

1

Reggie Butler

F

6-6

193

So

Long Beach (Poly)

3

McClenon Tolliver

G

6-1

190

So

Portland, Ore. (Jefferson)

5

Alex Hansen

G

6-0

180

Fr

Madera (Madera)

10

Adrian Sanchez

G

6-4

175

Fr

Merced (Le Grand)

11

Jon Black

G

6-1

190

So

Clovis (Clovis)

12

Geoffrey Clayton

G

6-3

197

So

Los Angeles (Fremont)

20

Anthony Zuniga

G

5-10

155

Fr

Fresno (Clovis West)

21

Heath Colvin

G

6-3

185

Fr

Riverdale (Riverdale)

22

Roy Armstrong

G

6-1

180

Fr

Bakersfield (Bakersfield)

23

M’Jumbe Williams

G

6-0

175

So

Los Angeles (Crenshaw)

30

Anthony Esparza

F

6-5

190

So

Bakersfield (Garces)

31

David Lange

F

6-6

220

So

Clovis (Clovis)

33

Cedrick Kalombo

F

6-9

205

Fr

South Africa (Wits Tutorial)

34

Jordan Farley

F

6-5

195

Fr

Clovis (Buchanan)