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Newark Memorial Boys Basketball Team Taking Charge

Coach Craig Ashmore enters 21st season with seven players returning to a team seeking a 10th straight MVAL title.

Craig Ashmore thinks his Newark Memorial High boys basketball team may have won 10 straight Mission Valley Athletic League titles. The coach also thinks James Logan High might have been the last team other than his Cougars to win the league crown, but he is not quite sure.

It's actually nine straight titles for Newark Memorial, and it was Logan High in 2002 that captured the crown, the only time in the past 13 years Newark Memorial has not reigned in MVAL boys basketball.

Besides forgetting about failures, Ashmore also said “not remembering successes” is just as important to a team remaining strong.

“We always take it year to year,” the Newark Memorial coach said. The goal is always “to compete with the other teams in the league.”

Newark’s rivals around the MVAL, the North Coast Section, Northern California and the state sometimes wish they could forget about the Cougars’ history of success.

With four starters and seven players returning from last year’s 22-7 team that reached the NCS Division I semifinals, Newark may again a formidable foe in the playoffs.

But that’s well down the road. Newark is 4-2 after losing 60-40 to defending Division II state champion Archbishop Mitty of San Jose on Friday night and then edging Jesse Bethel of Vallejo 64-61 the next night.

The Cougars had a third-place place finish in the Gridley Invitational Tournament the previous weekend. The Cougars lost to 7-1 Jesuit of Carmichael 50-49 in the semifinals before topping St. Francis 54-47 for third place.

Leading the Newark team so far has been senior guard Casey Norris, a 6-foot-2 all-league performer who has been the Cougars’ leading scorer early on.

“He’s just doing great a great job,” Ashmore said. “He just got all-tournament at Gridley.”

The coach added, “We’ve had three sophomores who are playing really well.”

One, 6-6 forward Damien Banford, was also all-tournament at Gridley. The other two sophs are starting point guard Joey Frenchwood and 6-foot-8 Matthew Thomas, who comes off the bench.

Paramvir Singh, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, also starts as does senior Kenneth Jones, a second-year starter who is the third guard.

Singh was player of the game in the season-opening Tip Off Classic, a 74-58 win over Deer Valley in which Singh scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

Ashmore is in his 21st season as Newark’s coach and the Cougars are known for flustering foes with a full-court press. The coach goes nine-to-10 players deep in his rotation.

“This time of the year, especially with the style we play, you have to play a lot of people,” the Cougars coach said.

Senior Yusuf Farouqi is a good spot-up shooter and was the leading scorer in one of Newark’s early games with 15 points, hitting five 3-pointers.

“He defends, and he’s a tough kid,” Ashmore said. “He took three charges in the game against Jesuit.”

Taking charges holds a valued place in the veteran coach’s heart. In Ashmore's “plus-points” system of evaluating players, taking a charge earns a player three points, diving for a ball two points.

Otherwise a player receives one point for each shot made (including free throws), rebound, assist and steal with a point taken away for each missed shot, turnover or foul. A player’s game with more than four plus points is considered exceptional.

The one starter from the 2010-11 team who graduated, forward Kendall Andrews, averaged 10.2 plus-points a game, more than twice as many as any teammate. He was the Cougars' leading scorer (17.4 ppg) and rebounder (9.0 rpg), so he will be missed.

Two juniors, 5-11 Sultan Siddiq and 6-2 DeVaun Turner, also come off the bench to help the Cougars come at opponents in waves.

A former point guard, Ashmore came out of San Jose’s Independence High in the 1980s and went to Cal State Hayward where he was a part of an Elite Eight NCAA Division II team that went 32-2. He began coaching while still in school and got his opportunity as a head coach at Newark within a couple of years of graduating.

The 2009-10 and 1999-2000 teams are especially memorable to Ashmore, both winning Northern California championships to reach the state championship game.

Khion Sankey was the leader of the 32-1 2009-10 team. Marquin Chandler, who is still playing professionally overseas after playing at George Washington University and San Jose State, was a leading player on the 1999-2000 team.

That team was in Division II. Newark has been in Division I since, but the 2,200-student school returns to Division II this year.

Mona Taplin December 20, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Hooray for Newark! Great teamwork led by a great coach! I keep hearing that the reason we have so many gang problems in Newark is because we don't have enough for the kids to do to keep busy after school. They really need to take a look at all the things that are available. Basketball, football, soccer, music, cheerleading, scouting, drama, activities at the Silliman Center just to name a few. Part of the problem is that all these "free" activities cost money, and most everyone wants "somebody else" to come up with the funds.
Nick December 20, 2011 at 05:37 PM
I think the Silliman Center can be used much more effectively to support the NUSD. Why not turn the facility into an after school center. Have tutors (HS students) and mentors (HS students) for the elementary and junior high kids available there. Allow the kids to come in to use the gym or pools. Alameda is the top East Bay city to raise kids and the major source of that has been the Boys and Girls Club there. Funding comes from private entities, funding is solicited. There is no reason why Newark cannot have it's own "Club" at the Silliman Center. The City and District always throw on their platform, we must work closely together....isn't this a perfect opportunity, the City provides a facility, the District provides the kids. Funding would come from private donors...Toy's R. Us, Safeway, Raleys, Dave Smith, the guy down the street.
Amy Davis December 20, 2011 at 05:47 PM
The Silliman Teen Area currently offers tutoring during our Power Hour program on Tuesdays & Thursday from 4-5pm. In fact this past week students made models of the solar system for fun which are now in the Teen Area office. The 2 staff members who work in the Teen Area have graduated from college and have worked with school age kids/teens for years. I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about the Silliman Teen Area programs to look at the City's website www.newark.org
Mona Taplin December 20, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Thank you Amy. There are also other sources in Newark for help with homework, etc. Yes we do need new sources for funding as I pointed out long ago so more students can take advantage of the Silliman Center and it's many advantages. We also should be making more use of our schools evenings and weekends for student activity. Many of the businesses in this area have given generously to all sorts of programs for the needy and children from low income families. So have our civic leaders, past and present, given generously. What we need are new sources of funding instead of just trying again to tap the pockets of those who have given over and over again. Amatuer performances at one of the schools? Ball games with teams of teachers from schools? Many events volunteers could sponsor with spectators paying a fee to watch with funding going to specific projects.
Michael Barboza December 20, 2011 at 10:07 PM
mens basketball scheduale

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