When you’re on a winning team, it’s easy to maintain your competitive spirit.
Practices become more tolerable, gearing up for...
It'll be a reunion of sorts when the area's top high school basketball players come together for the fifth annual Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic Saturday.
Many of the players played with and competed against each other in youth ball, separating only when school allegiances dictated.
"I'm just excited to play and play with all those athletes and have fun playing basketball," said Chris Faust, a North Medford senior who is on the Siskiyou boys team. "I've played with most of those guys for a really long time and I've known them a really long time. I'm looking forward to being on the court with all those guys."
The boys and girls games were designed to bring together all-star players from all levels, classes 6A to 1A, for friendly competition and for a good cause. Proceeds benefit Kids Unlimited, a Medford youth-enrichment center.
The girls game is at 5:15 p.m. and the boys at 7. Tickets, good for both games, are $8 for adults, $4 for students and kids 12-and-under get in free. Tickets will be sold at the doors.
The games will be broadcast on the radio on KEZX (730-AM).
Starters for the four teams will be chosen by fans. Voting is under way at www.mailtribune.com/allstars and closes at noon Saturday.
As of Thursday evening, the leading vote-getters were Phoenix's Alex Young (Rogue boys), Ashland's Billy Hansen (Siskiyou boys), South Medford's Kylie Towry (Rogue girls) and North Medford's McKensey Peters (Siskiyou girls).
Faust, who will play in college for Oregon Tech — which on Tuesday captured the NAIA Division II national championship — has been teammates over the years with the Rogue's Matt Retzlaff and Jack Singler, both of South Medford, as well as Siskiyou teammates Hansen and Tyrone Holmes of Eagle Point.
He hasn't seen as much of the players from smaller schools, such as Rogue Valley Adventist, Butte Falls and Prospect.
"I've never really seen them play," said the 6-foot-2 senior wing, who hopes to score a few points and throw down a few dunks in a game that typically features entertaining, high-octane offense. "I'm interested in seeing them play, and I know they can."
Indeed, the Legend of Harley suggests so. Harley Casillas of Butte Falls was a popular choice as most valuable player in the boys game two years ago. His performance is still talked about in the community, said Ricardo Balero, a senior wing for the Loggers.
"Yeah, they do," he said. "All the time."
Balero will represent the Loggers this time around, playing for the Siskiyous.
"I'm very happy and excited to be going to it," he said. "I've never had an experience like that before. I want to show them what I've got and what I can do and show that small schools can have good players, too."
Balero will be reunited with Young, whose father, Will, ran camps in White City in which the two boys participated when they were in elementary school.
Balero expects to contribute strong defense and a bit of scoring, he said.
Kasidy Cobb, a senior guard from Crater, will be looking to set up her Rogue teammates in the girls game.
"I'm going to get the ball where it needs to be in order for us to win," said Cobb, who will be playing her final high school game. She plans to enter Southern Oregon University's nursing program following graduation.
Her last game was March 2 in a state-playoff loss to West Linn.
"I'm really excited to get back on the court again," she said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to play with kids I've played against. We've been around each other for years and never played with each other. I think it'll be really exciting. I have a lot of respect for players on other teams and it'll be nice to get to know them as well."
The priority for many players will be to have fun.
But, said Cobb, "Winning is always fun. Just having that competitive nature with everyone else will be exciting."
There has been one lineup change on the boys side, with Rogue Valley Adventist's Jesse Gilley, a 6-4 senior post, replacing Red Tail Hawks teammate Caleb Allen, who had a conflict.
Two girl all-stars are questionable. Grants Pass' Annie Edgar of the Rogues, the Southern Oregon Hybrid player of the year, is dealing with a foot injury, and Alli Ehrhardt of the Siskiyous — Rogue River's career scoring leader — has an illness.
Last year, the Siskiyou boys won, 86-81, as MVP Logan Winter of Eagle Point led four players in double figures with 18 points. The Siskiyou win evened the series at 2-2.
In the girls contest, the Rogues won for the fourth straight year, 76-68. South Medford's Yaremi Mejia, who will be a member of the Siskiyous this year, scored 19 points in the victory and was MVP.
Mejia just missed the individual scoring record for the All-Star series. South Medford's Brittney Newcomb scored 20 in 2009, and it was matched by Crater's Jen Noon a year later.
South Medford's Mitch Singler holds the boys scoring record of 27 points, established in 2009.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org