Sports stories are rife with David and Goliath matchups, but not quite like the one with Pacifica Christian High and Crossroads tonight, Friday at 6 p.m.
In this upcoming battle of a small, private Division 4A basketball versus a top tier Division 1 high school basketball program, coach Kevin Kelsey will face not only a well-regarded and well-coached team but two of his former pupils in Crossroads’ basketball coach, Anthony Davis and assistant coach Amani Daanish.
Kelsey, a co-founder of Pacifica Christian High, was a coach of Davis and Daanish in their younger days at Pacifica. The school is small with just around 250 students, which Kelsey says allows a more personal connection, one he still holds with both players.
“For me, for my players, we stay close,” Coach Kelsey said in a phone call with the Daily Press. “I try to be loyal to my former players and seeing their journey, seeing their success, I’m proud. It’s fun to see… But once the game starts, it’s 32 mins of basketball and we’re prepared to be locked in for task at hand.”
Crossroads’ Davis is indeed still close with Kelsey, noting he and his former coach still talk and help each other out from time to time. The least he can do, he says, after Kelsey carved a sizeable impact into the young Davis’ life. And, you know, had some choice words for him.
“I guess I was those things,” Davis said with a laugh, upon hearing his former coach called him hard-headed and stubborn, but a hard worker with an unbelievable work ethic. “He shaped who I am in a lot of ways. From where I got my nickname [Kelsey would scream “Damn it, AD!” to Davis so often his friends would mimic the interaction and still do] to what he instilled in me. I try to instill some of those lessons into my own players: Work hard, never give up, and carry yourself with pride.”
Santa Monica being small, players from both schools know each other. School pride is on the line, sure, but Kelsey says he and his team would relish the opportunity to take down “one of the big fish” in the high school basketball world.
While the team’s records may be a bit deceiving on a surface level — Crossroads is 12-11 but plays highly ranked teams while Pacifica is 17-6 and plays smaller, but still talented schools like themselves — talent disparity or program prestige isn’t something Kelsey even thinks about. To Kelsey and his team, it’s just another game.
“We’ve been playing good teams all year, it’s the same thing every time, same goal: We want get the win,” Pacifica center, senior Kenny Minchin said. “It’s Samo versus Samo on Senior Night, so the hype helps and gets us more jacked. We’re not feeling scared. Just doing our thing.”
For Davis, the game is a full circle meeting of two friends, mentor and mentee, meeting again in life to compete in what brought them together: basketball.
“I never pictured myself coaching let alone anyone coaching me when I was in high school,” Davis said. “So, this night means a lot to me. I know it means a lot to him, too.”