The Justin-Siena boys basketball program hasn’t had a winning season since Ray Particelli guided the Braves to three of them in the middle of a five-year tenure as head coach from 2009-14.
But under David Granucci, their fifth head coach since then, the Braves came close last season with a 12-14 overall record after finishing last in the new Vine Valley Athletic League with a 2-10 mark.
It was the first time the former Drake High, San Jose State and Italian professional player had coached a high school team, but he’d had plenty of college coaching experience.
Granucci was an assistant coach at City College of San Francisco for three seasons before spending seven winters on the College of Marin staff – three as head coach, the last of which saw the Mariners win the 2015 Bay Valley Conference title. He was an assistant at San Francisco State in 2015-16 before spending two seasons as associate head coach of the NCAA Division II program at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash.
For the second year in a row, he had his Justin-Siena boys stay sharp by playing in the Napa Valley College Summer League. The Braves played St. Helena, Sonoma Valley, Vintage, Vallejo, Archbishop Hanna, Rodriguez and Bethel in the league, which ran from June 25 through July 18. The games used running clocks and were less than an hour long, with 20-minute halves.
“It’s a better league this year,” Granucci said, “with more teams from our league and good competition.”
The Braves won two games, including one on July 16 over Rodriguez.
“This was the first time we’ve had multiple varsity guys here,” Granucci said after that game. “We’ve been playing most of the summer with guys who are going to be freshmen and sophomores. It was also the first time we’ve had (junior-to-be) Jadyn Satten and we had (sophomore-to-be) Robby Sangiacomo, who hit a few threes.”
Leading the team once again has been senior-to-be Liam McDevitt.
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“It’s been good,” Granucci said. “Our guys have been getting better. We’ve had a ton of guys in the gym all summer working hard, too. We’re just trying to get better individually.
“We had three different things we wanted to improve on: shooting, ball handling and footwork. It’s mostly offense. We don’t do too much defensive stuff in the summer. I just want these guys to get better.”
Not that the Braves were too shabby on the defense against Rodriguez, holding the Mustangs to 30 points.
“That’s from having guys who have been with us for a year playing, so they know what to do and how you do it,” Granucci said. “The new guys don’t know so much. You can run all the plays you want to run, but if guys can’t make a shot or can’t pass the basketball or can’t handle any pressure, it doesn’t matter, so that’s what we wanted our guys to be able to do – handle pressure with the pass and the bounce, be able to pass, catch, dribble and shoot, and fake, with solid footwork.”
Justin-Siena’s summer group ranged from incoming freshmen to seniors.
“We’re really hoping to have freshman, JV and varsity teams this year,” Granucci said.
The summer league is optional, but the Braves showed up in droves.
“We’ve had pretty good consistency as far as attendance throughout, which has been great,” the coach said. “Some guys are playing other sports and some guys have obligations with family, so you don’t want to hold that against them. But we haven’t had to force guys to come. They’ve wanted to come here.
“We don’t want to create an environment where we’re forcing you to be somewhere. We want it to be a place where you want to be and you want to get better in an environment that’s fun and competitive.”