(Originally published Feb. 5; Updated Feb. 10)
VISALIA - First-year College of the Sequoias men's basketball coach Dallas Jensen and staff have assembled a roster of players from far and wide.
The Giants feature players from Northern California (Amil Fields of Hayward) and Southern California (Tiyon Martin of Pasadena and Dewayne Holmes of Riverside).
From the West Coast (Elihu Cobb of Santa Maria) to the East Coast (Carlos Allen of Atlanta).
From near the Gulf of Mexico (Garrett Shelton of Houston) to near the Gulf of Guinea (Ayo Aderoboye of Lagos, Nigeria).
And Aderoboye isn't the only international player on the team as Lamine Ndione hails from Dakar, Senegal.
But it's been four former Central Section standouts -- Ryan Johnson (Hanford), Savion Johnson (Hanford West), Milton Burnett (Bullard) and Tiveon Stroud (Selma) -- who have been driving forces behind a six-game winning streak COS carried into a crucial showdown with rival Fresno City last Wednesday that the Rams barely won, 8-10.
The state No. 9-ranked Giants (19-5, 8-2 ) trail the No. 4 Rams (21-3, 10-0) by two games in the Central Valley Conference standings. Fresno City beat COS 72-53 on Jan. 11 at Porter Field House during the first round of CVC play.
The Rams have won or shared 18 consecutive CVC titles. COS last won a conference championship in 2010, when it shared the title with Fresno City.
"They absolutely got us in round one," Jensen said. "I thought we did some good things on the floor that night. We handled their pressure well and played good defense, but unfortunately we did not shoot the ball well at all that night.
"They are still the team to beat, but we are playing well right now. I feel if we do what we're capable of, we can compete with them."
Ryan Johnson, Savion Johnson, Burnett and Stroud have all worked their way into the starting lineup since the loss to Fresno City and been major contributors as the Giants have played their best stretch of basketball this season.
"It goes to show you how talented this area really is," Jensen said. "There is a lot of good basketball throughout the Central Valley. Guys who can be really impactful."
Ryan Johnson, the former NCAA Division I-recruited quarterback before giving up football for basketball, has played like a conference MVP candidate over the past six games while averaging 16.6 points, 13 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2 steals and 1.5 blocks.