There was once a time, when he served as a youth basketball coach, when Travis Taylor got to use the skills of his nephew, Connor Rubattino. More recently, though, he’s done everything in his power to try to shut him down.
Now the coach of the North Bay League champion Windsor Jaguars, Taylor has spent the past four years trying to find answers to what Rubattino, the All-Empire Player of the Year his junior season at Cardinal Newman, brings to the court.
Friday night the duo can set prep rivalries aside and work together for a win in the annual Schools Plus Senior All-Star Basketball Game.
The game marks not only the final prep hoops game for nearly 50 area seniors, it also marks Taylor’s and Rubattino’s basketball lives together coming full circle.
Instead of going head to head, the duo are part of the NBL all-star senior squad that will compete against a team of who’s who from the senior ranks of the Sonoma County League in the annual game. It’s a game where former rivals suit up on the same squad and give it one more go.
“Last week we had a lot of fun,” Taylor said of getting to know guys who he once drew up plays to stop. “These guys have a pretty good idea of how to play. We’ll play man to man and play hard.”
The annual event put on by the nonprofit Schools Plus will feature the girls game at 6 p.m., followed by the boys game at 7:30 p.m. at Elsie Allen. Schools Plus will charge for admission, but no athletes had to pay to play — sponsors have covered the costs, said Schools Plus president Jason Lea.
“This isn’t about the fundraising,” he said. “For Schools Plus it’s about recognizing kids and doing something for them and their families.”
“For some of them, it’s the last time they will play for their school,” he said.
For more than two decades, Schools Plus has raised funds to support arts and athletics at every middle and high school in Santa Rosa City Schools, Sonoma County’s largest school district.
And while it’s all in fun, everybody is going to go hard.
“I think both teams want to play as hard as they can and represent their league,” Taylor said.
On the girls’ side, they are mixing it up. Literally. There won’t be an NBL team or SCL team but rather a cross section of players from both leagues mixing it up and going at it.
Players from Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Analy, Ukiah and Maria Carrillo will suit up for one squad while players from Montgomery, Casa Grande and Sonoma will make up the other team.
“In the past, they did it so it was the SCL versus the NBL, but the NBL had higher skilled players,” said Jenny Eggers, Sonoma Valley senior and co-MVP of the SCL. “It was unfair because we’d lose every single year.”
Eggers, who has been keeping fit in the hope of playing for Santa Rosa Junior College next season, said the lure of playing with high school friends and competitors one more time was strong.