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NorCal Clash: Archbishop Riordan basketball set for big season with cousins Je’Lani Clark and Bryce Monroe

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Bryce Monroe (13) and Je’Lani Clark (middle), seen here at the NorCal Clash on Aug. 26, 2018 at Chabot College, will team with one another at Archbishop Riordan this winter. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

HAYWARD — When Bryce Monroe was considering where to transfer after his sophomore season at Sacred Heart Cathedral, there was one school that stuck out above the rest. Armed with a young second-year head coach in Joey Curtin, Archbishop Riordan was a natural fit, especially because he would be teaming with family.

“There were some problems up at SH, and Riordan just seemed like the most logical move, seeing as they had the best team, another good school, another Catholic school, so it was just the best choice,” Monroe said Sunday. “Also my cousin went there. It just made sense.”

Monroe’s cousin — fellow rising junior Je’Lani Clark — 15.2 points and 4.6 rebounds last season for the Crusaders last season, and on Sunday, he and Monroe teamed up for the 2020 team in the ninth annual NorCal Clash at Chabot College. Curtin and the rest of the Riordan team were in the stands.

“It meant a lot for my whole team to come out and support us, and it was just fun being able to play with my cousin in an All-Star game,” Monroe said.

The shifty 5-foot-9 guard scored 10 points in the first half for the 2020 stars, while Clark — the son of Monroe’s mother’s brother — scored a game-high 12 before the break. While Clark finished with 14, Monroe surged in the second half, finishing with a game-high 31, going 10-of-16 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range.

Clark, at 6-foot-2, is a dynamic wing who showed off explosive leaping ability in pregame dunk lines, hammering home several one-handed jams. His length is an asset on defense, and on the glass, where he pulled down six boards in a 116-107 losing effort.

“They’re dynamic,” said Curtin, in his 12th year overall with Riordan. “They’re fast. You’ll definitely enjoy coming to the games … I’m excited for a chance to really compete for championships. I think with this group, as coaches, sometimes you have high talent level, sometimes you don’t. This group is special, so we always look forward to these opportunities, and try to take advantage of them.”

The two cousins have teamed together since sixth grade, playing on the Oakland Rebels and now the Oakland Soldiers. After the game, they were embraced by their Riordan teammates, and held an impromptu team meeting at center court with Curtin, who guided the Crusaders to a 17-12 mark last season, good enough to get them to the second round of the Division II state playoffs.

“It’s something we’re trying to build,” Curtin said. “Our motto is ‘Strength in brotherhood,’ so we all have wristbands that say that. The whole team has them, and we wear them every day.”

Of course, for Monroe and Clark, that saying has a more literal meaning.

“That makes it a little stronger, right?” Curtin said. “Even without that, being an all-boys school, it just kind of works for us. It’s effective.”

Monroe — who averaged 24 points and eight boards as a sophomore — has offers from Washington State, Seattle, Cal Poly, St. John’s, San Francisco, Northern Illinois and Hampton (Virginia), and has gotten looks from Cal and Stanford.

Clark has offers from Idaho, Montana, San Francisco and Hampton. UC Santa Barbara is looking at both cousins. The two don’t know if they’ll stay home and both become Dons. It’s too early. For now, they’re both concentrating on the upcoming season.

“Growing as people and as hoopers, it’s going to be fun, and then going to college,” Clark said. “We’re probably going to [visit] Hawaii together, and Santa Barbara, and a few other colleges. We don’t know [when] yet.”

As for playing together this coming season, “It’s going to be fun,” Clark said.

“It just seemed right for me and him to play together,” Monroe said. “We’re family.”

*****

Two other San Francisco prep hoopsters participated in the NorCal Clash, as rising seniors Miles Amos (Stuart Hall) and Neal Begovich (St. Ignatius) played for the 2019 team.

Amos went 2-of-2 from the field and hit 2-of-4 from the free throw line for six points in 20 minutes, and pulled down four rebounds and dished out four assists.

The 6-foot-8 Begovich went 1-for-9 from the field, and 3-of-4 from the line for five points, and pulled down two defensive rebounds, adding one assist in 16 minutes.

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