The bounty of longtime youth sports programs that roster Oakdale area child-athletes have one thing in common.
They don’t play basketball.
In a city where athleticism at prep and professional levels has put Oakdale on the map, aspiring basketball stars must leave town to experience a serious competitive atmosphere on the youth court.
Without Amateur Athletic Union programs or skilled travel-ball squads, Oakdale children won’t develop their skills on the hardwood and will enter Oakdale High without legitimate competitive experience.
It’s a fact.
It’s also a reason Oakdale High boys and girls have never appeared in a Sac-Joaquin Section title game, haven’t won a Valley Oak League title since 2006 (girls) and are a combined 10-53 in the VOL over the last three years.
“Six of the 13 girls on our freshmen basketball team had never played an organized basketball game before,” Oakdale varsity girls basketball coach Justin Schwitters said. “The reality is I am recruiting girls from eighth grade P.E. classes.”
It’s a tough task to take athletes of relatively no experience and mold them into a unit that can challenge conference programs notorious for hosting reputed travel-ball talent from the Manteca and Tracy areas. Even underclassmen with competitive basketball skills can gouge a scoreboard.
“Sierra, Weston Ranch, East Union and Kimball all have freshmen and sophomores at the varsity level who play year-round basketball and they will drop 18 to 20 points on us,” Schwitters said. “We are not even remotely close to that.
“In all honesty, we don’t have the skill offensively to compete with teams in the VOL.”
The lack of scoring has plagued Oakdale in four straight losses to open league play. The Lady Mustangs were bested 46-28 by East Union on Jan. 9, then allowed Weston Ranch to rally for a 67-29 win two days later. That’s an average of barely seven points for eight straight quarters for the Oakdale offense. Christina Cobarruvias and Mackenzie Ruthman had team-high marks with just six points.
“We work hard, we play organized and we watch film to make sure we do everything right,” Schwitters said. “We just can’t make shots on a consistent basis.”
Schwitters admitted Oakdale’s shortcomings on the court can be tied to the lack of basketball programs available for city youth. He said he would consider coaching his own AAU team, but high school coaches are not allowed to roster an AAU squad.
But hope is not abandoned. Both Schwitters and Oakdale boys coach Jeremy Fields have dedicated time to organize the Oakdale Mustangs Basketball Youth League. It’s a program for local youth in grades third through eighth that offers clinics on basketball fundamentals and a two-month Saturday league coached by OHS athletes.
It’s not the ideal feeder program, but if it promotes and builds the base of Oakdale youth basketball, then it’s a resounding success.
Since the SJS has proposed a realignment move for Oakdale into a re-designed Modesto Metro Conference, the impact of increased youth involvement may not play out in the VOL, but Oakdale basketballers will take success wherever they can get it.
“What’s crazy about the realignment is that we have four wins as a team, and three of them are against teams in the (proposed MMC),” Schwitters said. “Atwater, Downey and Johansen.”