Former San Ramon Valley High star Joey Fuca found a little slice of basketball heaven in soccer-crazed Germany.

Fuca, a 24-year-old point guard out of The Master's College in Santa Clarita, was dubbed a "coach on the floor" in one publication after leading Vilsbiburg, Germany to a fourth-place finish in the 2012-13 season.

Fuca averaged 23 points and four assists a game in the Regional South-East League -- becoming a celebrity in Vilsbiburg, a village located about an hour from Munich.

"It's crazy. I'm not even kidding," Fuca said of his popularity. "After the last game I was signing autographs for families for about an hour. Kids were coming up to me, left and right. It was a surreal experience."

Each German team can have one paid player from the United States or Canada along with a European professional, Fuca said.

Fuca is among three former teammates from San Ramon Valley's heralded 2005 North Coast Section Division II championship team playing overseas. The others are former Saint Mary's College center Omar Samhan, who's with ratiopharm Ulm in the German top league, and Brandon Adams, who's with the Willetton Tigers in the Australian-State League.

Fuca said he didn't get much interest after high school from college programs. He wound up at Master's, an NAIA school, and did well. He signed with an Italian agent who couldn't get him a job, which put Fuca in a time pinch with most European seasons starting in August.


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"I was sitting at my house in the middle of September without a job," Fuca said. "I signed with this German agent, literally in the last second. He got me a job, and I was out on a flight to Germany the next morning. From then on, I had a great season. I killed it. I got voted Player of the Year for my league, and it was an unreal experience -- a great time."

Fuca, who coaches his younger brother Christian the East Bay-based under-16 Lakeshow AAU squad, had his career shaped playing for coach John Raynor at San Ramon Valley.

"He's a great basketball coach, but he also teaches you the values about life, in terms of hard work and determination and stuff," Fuca said of Raynor. "He's been there forever. He's a very wise guy, and he's got a couple of good assistants who have been there awhile, who helped me with my skills individually."

A natural leader, Fuca was a sophomore on the 2005 Wolves team before making all-East Bay Athletic League his junior and senior years. Raynor describes Fuca as a "great kid and a great competitor who is highly motivated."

Raynor marvels at how Fuca would not quit on his dream after failing to land with a D-League team.

"I have fond memories of him. He's an outstanding young man with character," Raynor said. "He was a humble leader, off and on the court, and a pleasure to coach. His father (Joe) is very involved in the AAU circuit."

Raynor has special memories of the 2005 squad. Two seniors on the team, Ben Shrewsbury and Eric Schembri, are on Raynor's current coaching staff. The 2005 Wolves lost 63-62 to Oak Ridge in the NorCal championship game. Oak Ridge featured current NBA player Ryan Anderson, who starred at Cal.

In Germany, dribbling with your hands is not as important as dribbling with your feet. But Fuca sees basketball making strides.

"I was actually coaching a youth team over there as well, and the kids love basketball, but the problem is their parents all believe 'It's soccer.' Fuca said. "They're born and raised in soccer, so obviously, the popularity level is not even close for basketball. But (Dallas star) Dirk Nowitzki has started a big trend over in Germany. The kids want to learn basketball, and they're pretty raw. It's tough because they can barely dribble with their left hand."

Basketball is No. 1 in Fuca's heart, no doubt. His new German fans, and those in the East Bay, will attest to that.

Contact Matt Schwab at mschwab@bayareanewsgroup.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/schwab_matt.

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