Viking Classic is stacked again
For years, some of the premier high school hoop programs have made their way to the Sierra Nevada to play in the Viking Rotary Classic.
Division I prospects have graced the campus of South Tahoe High School throughout the history of the tournament.
Players like Tayshawn Prince, now with University of Kentucky, or Tyson Chandler, both of Dominquez High in Compton, have come to the annual event during the first weekend of December.
This year is no different. Even though there’s no No. 3 nationally ranked team like Dominquez, the teams coming to the South Shore this weekend are still loaded with talent.
The talent starts with Sheldon of Sacramento, which features one of the top small forwards on the West Coast in Maurice Miller and one of the best coaches in the Sacramento Valley in Scott Graydin.
“Sheldon is a superb team with Miller as one of the top juniors on the West Coast,” Viking coach Derek Allister said. “They have outstanding speed and have one of the best coaches and one of the great teachers of the game in Graydin.”
Also coming up from the the capital city is Hiram Johnson. An underrated team which scares Allister.
“From what I’ve heard is that they are just loaded,” the first-year coach said. “They’re one of the best in Sacramento.”
The other two teams entered in the tournament are Leland and Atwater, the Vikings’ first-round opponent.
“All we know about Atwater is that they’re a big football power, which means they’re probably big and strong,” Allister said.
For the first time in a long time, the Vikings are coming into the tournament with a lot of unknowns. Allister is going into his first classic with a group of unproven players.
“I’m excited to see how our guys react,” Allister said. “I can’t wait to be seated down there on the sidelines because I hear the people turn out for this tournament.”
Some of South Tahoe’s returning varsity players know all about what the tournament means to the South Shore. Even though seniors Matt Connelly and Erick Capellino didn’t see much playing time in previous classics, they are aware of the excitement it churns up.
“It’s always a big tournament,” Capellino said. “We haven’t lost it that often in the past.
Although there’s no Dominquez this year, this tournament is still going to put us in our place and show what our weaknesses and strengths are.”
Allister knows how tough the visiting teams will make it for his young squad.
“The combination of our inexperience, transition of coaching staffs and the loss of Chris (Ortiz, who is ineligible for the tournament), there are a lot of factors stacked against us,” he said. “I’d be surprised if we run through it like South Tahoe has done in the past.”
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