The summer sports landscape is full of baseball and softball games and tournaments, early-season preparation for the upcoming football and volleyball seasons, as well as the peak of the summer travel basketball season.
The two biggest showcase events for the club basketball scene take place in Las Vegas and Southern California over the next few weeks and there will certainly be a lot of hype and exposure for a tremendous amount of talented basketball players.
But if you’re looking for a sneak preview of the upcoming high school boys’ basketball season here on the Peninsula, you don’t have to go any further than Skyline College, as it hosts its 34th annual Skyline College High School Basketball Tournament, which began last weekend with pool play. Quarterfinal and semifinals games are scheduled Saturday and Sunday, with the championship game slated for Monday evening at 6.
The tournament can be a great barometer for a team’s success — or failure — for the upcoming season. It allows coaching staffs an early look at what the makeup of their team could be come Nov. 1 — the first day of fall basketball practice for the 2014-15 season.
“The Skyline tournament is the premiere (high school) summer tournament in the Bay Area,” said Terra Nova coach Kenny Milch, who has attended the tournament 11 times during his coaching career at Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova. “It gives the players and coaches a chance to know what the winner (specifically of the Peninsula Athletic League) is going to look like.”
It’s a general rule of thumb that a team’s performance in the Skyline tournament is a preview of what’s in store for the upcoming season.
Half Moon Bay coach Rich Forslund, who has been coming to this tournament since 1993, starting with Burlingame and Riordan before joining the Cougars, knew his 2013-14 squad was special and those feelings were validated as the Cougars advanced to the Skyline championship game. Half Moon Bay lost by six to Serra in the title game, but that proved to Forslund his team could compete with the best the Central Coast Section had to offer.
Of the 16 teams in the sweet 16, eight are from the PAL: Burlingame, Hillsdale, San Mateo, Sequoia, Menlo-Atherton and Mills from the PAL South, and Half Moon Bay and Terra Nova from the PAL North.
Sacred Heart Prep represents the West Bay Athletic League, while Serra and Riordan are the West Catholic Athletic League contingent. Lowell and Washington are holding it down for the San Francisco public schools, while East Bay stalwarts James Logan-Union City and California-San Ramon will be making the trek to San Bruno over the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.
Tamalpais-Mill Valley gives the tournament some North Bay flavor.
The Skyline tournament comes at the perfect time, just before the big summer showcase events, which should enable many teams to field close to full squad.
“Everybody loves that tournament and if they’re in town and not hurt, they’re going to play,” Milch said.
Both Forslund and Milch said it’s become harder and harder to compete for a kid’s time during the summer. Whether it’s club or work commitments, there are all kinds of distractions for athletes during the summer.
Milch said he doesn’t have to worry too much about his players missing time with the team because of the summer travel-ball scene.
“For other teams, that would be more prevalent but, with our situation, we haven’t had that battle.”
That doesn’t mean Milch doesn’t have to corral players.
“I think it gets increasingly difficult every year. There’s more options for the kids, whether it’s their specialty sport or summer vacations or work,” Milch said. “The kids that want to play and love the game are there as much as their schedule will allow them. It’s a matter of balancing all the different things kids do nowadays.”
Forslund, who will be going to Las Vegas with a travel team he coaches, doesn’t necessarily afford his high school players the same leeway.
“We would rather they play with [the Half Moon Bay team],” Forslund said. “[If] they go someplace new, I tell them to bring me back two new things that they’ve learned, that they can use in their game.
“I’m still waiting (for that to happen).”
Forslund believes the importance of beginning to build chemistry and camaraderie among the team is one of the most beneficial aspects of the Skyline tournament.
“The more they’re playing together, the better,” Forslund said.
It’s also a chance for coaches to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together when it comes to molding a team. The Skyline tournament affords coaches the opportunity to assess the progress of new players perhaps moving up from the frosh-soph team, or returning varsity players looking to expand their roles for the upcoming season.
“Getting them on the court, getting an idea of positions, see if they can adjust to the varsity level (can be accomplished),” Milch said. “You can also find those diamonds in the rough. You can find players with more versatility than you thought and can see them in different positions.
“In the summer, you have more flexibility (to experiment). It’s not all about winning and losing. Guys are about learning the system. There are numerous benefits (to the Skyline tournament).”
Half Moon Bay vs. Lowell, 9 a.m.
Sacred Heart Prep vs. SM, 10 a.m.
Riordan vs. Menlo-Atherton, 11 a.m.
Mills vs. Washington-SF, noon
Tamalpais vs. Hillsdale, 3 p.m.
James Logan-Union City vs. California-San Ramon, 4 p.m.
Serra vs. Sequoia, 5 p.m.
Burlingame vs. Terra Nova, 6 p.m.
Serra-Sequoia/Burlingame-Terra Nova winners, 10 a.m.
The Tamalpais-Hillsdale/Logan-Cal winners, 11 a.m.
Two winners from quarterfinal games will play in semifinal game at 2 p.m.
The Half Moon Bay-Lowell/Sacred Heart Prep-San Mateo winners, 3 p.m.
Riordan-Menlo-Atherton/Mills-Washington winners, 4 p.m.
Two winners from quarterfinal games will play in semfinal game at 7 p.m.
Championship game, 6 p.m.
Consolation final, 4 p.m.