GALT GRAD SET­TLING IN WITH KINGS

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Front Page - By Mike Bush

GALT — Phil Ricci has been hav­ing one of the best times of his life in Las Ve­gas.

But the for­mer Galt High boys bas­ket­ball coach is in the Ne­vada city for work that he em­braces with a pas­sion, which he had when he played bas­ket­ball for the War­riors in the mid-late 1990s, through Delta Col­lege and Ore­gon State.

Last week, the Sacra­mento Kings added Ricci as an as­sis­tant player de­vel­op­ment coach to head coach Dave Jo­erger’s staff. This week, the Kings’ rook­ies se­lected in last month’s NBA Draft and first year play­ers were in Las Ve­gas com­pet­ing in the NBA Sum­mer League. The Phoenix Suns knocked off the Kings 66-61 in the dou­ble-elim­i­na­tion por­tion of the league’s play­off bracket on Fri­day night.

“It’s been great,” said Ricci on Thurs­day night af­ter the Kings lost to the Dal­las Mav­er­icks 83-76. “It’s a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at this level. A lot of time in the film room. A lot of time with in­di­vid­ual play­ers.”

Ricci and the Kings were ex­pected to re­turn home this week­end from Ne­vada. Go­ing into the start of next week, Ricci will be­come a com­mon fix­ture at the Golden 1 Cen­ter’s prac­tice fa­cil­ity, lo­cated un­der­neath the down­town arena in Sacra­mento. He’ll be work­ing with rook­ies, first year play­ers and any Kings player who is on the ros­ter.

“I’ll be at the fa­cil­ity ev­ery day, no mat­ter who is in town,” Ricci said. “Watch­ing film, learn­ing the of­fense.”

The 6-foot-7 Ricci will con­tinue his coach­ing du­ties that will in­clude work­ing with play­ers on the Kings’ ros­ter and the Reno Bighorns, the Kings’ de­vel­op­ment league af­fil­i­ate, for the 2017-18 sea­son.

Be­ing a pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball has been a part of Ricci’s life for

more than a decade. Af­ter the Kings cut him prior to the start of the 200304 sea­son, Ricci spent a decade play­ing pro ball abroad in Spain, Ja­pan, Ko­rea, France, Is­rael and the Czech Repub­lic, where he guided Nym­burk to an ap­pear­ance in the 2010 Euro­pean Cup for the first time in club his­tory.

“I’ve been in­volved with play­er­coaches a lot,” Ricci said. “I give them a lot of re­spect be­cause it is a chal­leng­ing job.”

At this time last year, Ricci had con­cluded a sum­mer bas­ket­ball camp at Galt High. Be­ing a part of a pre-teen to teenager’s life on the bas­ket­ball court is some­thing Ricci will miss, as he be­gins his NBA coach­ing ca­reer.

“In high school, it’s try to de­velop, es­pe­cially with my sit­u­a­tion at Galt High, was work with a lot of young play­ers,” Ricci said. “The kids are, even­tu­ally, go­ing to de­velop.”

Ricci admitted to miss­ing the pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball life.

“But I’ve been use to this, from the pro­fes­sional side,” Ricci said. “Now I’m deal­ing with guys al­ready de­vel­oped. I can teach the younger play­ers.”

Ricci has been work­ing with the Kings’ draft picks from last month’s draft that in­cludes guard De’Aaron Fox out of Ken­tucky, who was se­lected as the No. 5 over­all se­lec­tion. The Kings also drafted Justin Jack­son,

Harry Giles and Frank Ma­son III. Part of Ricci’s coach­ing role is mold­ing them to the fast-pace NBA speed away from the col­lege bas­ket­ball sys­tem.

“They’re young, very green, but they are will­ing to work,” Ricci said. “They love bas­ket­ball.”

The early tran­si­tion of play­ing in the NBA is pro­gress­ing nicely for Fox and com­pany, Ricci points out.

“How they sep­a­rate them­selves from other peo­ple and other point guards from around the na­tion,” said Ricci of the rook­ies’ speed on the court. “They’re picked that high for a rea­son. It’s some­thing you don’t see ev­ery­day. There’s a hand­ful of plays that th­ese guys run be­cause it’s sum­mer league. They have a week of putting in their sets.”

Ricci has spent his coach­ing time with Kings coach Ja­son March, who has been head coach for the Kings’ rookie and first year play­ers in sum­mer league. March has been an as­sis­tant coach to head coach Dave Jo­erger for the last nine sea­sons that goes back to when Jo­erger was with the Mem­phis Griz­zlies.

“His prepa­ra­tion, he’s on top of it,” said Ricci of March. “He’s on top of ev­ery sin­gle play that th­ese guys are run­ning. His work ethic, and all that he puts into the game. He’s got a lot of knowl­edge. Learn­ing the con­cepts is what I’ve been get­ting out of it.”

Lib­erty Ranch High boys bas­ket­ball coach Josh Wil­liams is one of many Galt peo­ple who will be root­ing for

Ricci to have a suc­cess­ful run as an NBA coach. Wil­liams was a guard, and Ricci han­dling the cen­ter post on the 1997-98 Galt High boys bas­ket­ball team that won the Sierra Val­ley Con­fer­ence ti­tle and had a deep run in the SacJoaquin Sec­tion Di­vi­sion II and NorCal play­offs, has had con­ver­sa­tions with his child­hood friend since Ricci was added to the Kings’ coach­ing staff.

“When I first heard about it, it was very ex­cit­ing to hear,” Wil­liams said. “I told him I was so proud of him ... a friend and a Galt per­son get­ting a job in the NBA.”

Wil­liams has been busy with his off­sea­son work­outs for his Hawks. But he’s taken time this week to view pho­tos of Ricci on so­cial me­dia Web­sites and video clips of Ricci on Sacra­mento area and ESPN TV sta­tions.

“This re­in­forces the idea that he’s do­ing great,” said Wil­liams of Ricci. “This was some­thing you kind of see was com­ing. He ob­vi­ously has a lot of knowl­edge and skills in bas­ket­ball. I think the Kings were smart by putting him to work. He’s ex­tremely mo­ti­vated.”

In the past week, the Kings, who have gone 11 con­sec­u­tive sea­sons with­out an NBA play­off berth, signed vet­eran play­ers Ge­orge Hill, Zach Ran­dolph and Vince Carter, who will be en­ter­ing his 21st sea­son in the NBA when the reg­u­lar sea­son starts in Oc­to­ber.

Con­tact re­porter Mike Bush at mikeb@lodinews.com. Fol­low on Twit­ter: @MBushLodiS­ports.

COUR­TESY PHOTO BY KINGS.COM

Galt grad­u­ate Phil Ricci on the bench dur­ing a Sacra­mento Kings sum­mer league game on Wed­nes­day.

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