Excel Academy of Stockton is a 140-student college-preparatory charter school, grades 7 through 12, that hasn’t yet become affiliated with any league, and because of its size would most likely join the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division VI.
Excel Academy coach Eddie Menzel said that his team, at 6-6 on the season, came into the tournament expecting to make a good impression, and started off doing just that.
The Pumas played Golden Valley of Merced, defending Central California Conference champion and a finalist in this week’s tournament, in the first round.
It was a 70-68 win for Golden Valley, but Menzel said it was a respectable effort for a team with eight players, with no seniors, on its roster.
“We’re small, but we’re doing alright,” Menzel said. “We’re playing hard. That’s all you can ask for.”
Junior Nick Obazuaye of Manteca is one of the more experienced players. He was the Pumas’ leading scorer through the first few rounds.
“We’re just trying to outplay teams using our speed,” Obazuaye said. “Right now we’re a new program and don’t have much size, so we’re basically trying to play hard and be a more aggressive team.”
He and teammates Nilo Yuson and Mykhail Redman have played with the Tracy Outlaws AAU basketball club, so they also bring some team camaraderie to the new squad.
“We have a familiar playing style. I’m used to playing with these guys for the past three or four years.”
Menzel said the team hopes to be voted into a league next year. It would most likely play in SJS Division VI because of its small size, but Menzel hopes his team could move up one or two divisions.
He said the tournament is the team’s chance to show that it’s capable of playing at that level.
“We’re hoping we can hang with the big boys and get the guys some competition and see how we do,” Menzel said.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.