Salesian’s head coach, Bill Mellis, has brought the Pride to the Gridley Invitational Basketball Tournament for eight of the 16 years he’s been coaching the Pride. For the past three years, Mellis’ Salesian basketball team has rolled over the challengers at the Gridley Invitational Basketball Tournament and brought the GIBT Crown back to Richmond.
Why shouldn’t they? They’re the No. 2 ranked team in the state, and the No. 8 ranked in the nation. Coach Mellis, ESPN’s Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year, has coached his team to two state titles in the last four years. Salesian has three players who have already committed to play at the next level: Jabari Bird (Cal), Mario Dunn (Montana), and Markel Leonard (Cal Poly). In fact, Jabari Bird is the No. 23 recruit in the nation according to Cal-Hi Sports.
A Salesian player has been named the GIBT MVP each of the three previous years: Desmond Simmons in 2009 and Dominic Artis in 2010. Markel Leonard, who returned to the GIBT this year, received GIBT MVP last season. They’ve also had a player named the top scorer of the GIBT in two of the last four tournaments (Jabari Brown with 66 points in 2008 and Jabari Bird with 56 points in 2010).
You get the point. I think most of us expected them to walk away with the GIBT for the fourth year in a row.
However, there was something a little bit different this year.
This year, a GIBT-newcomer made nearly a 250-mile trip to the small town of Gridley for what may be the biggest event for Nor Cal basketball every year.
The Bullard Knights, the Central Section Division 1 champs with a 32-4 record last season, are no stranger to top tier teams such as the Salesian Pride. Bullard made it all the way to the CIF Division I Regional Finals last season but lost 85-66.
Their opponent? The defending Division I state champions and one of the top ranked teams in the country—the Mater Dei Monarchs.
Bullard’s head coach, Tony Amundsen, a former Newark Memorial basketball player, is in his fifth year of coaching the Bullard Knights. In the past four years, he has coached the Knights to three league titles and two CIF Central Section crowns. He has a 92-35 record with the Knights.For the rest of this story please pick up a 12/12/12 edition of The Gridley Herald.