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Leigh High School's Joe Giacchetti (5) during their game against Piedmont Hills High School in the second quarter at Leigh High School in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

SAN JOSE -- The Leigh boys basketball team has the Central Coast Section's best record, and its new starting guard has played a significant role in the sizzling run.

Joe Giacchetti arrived at Leigh last January after six months at a Utah boarding school. Before that, he attended high school in Bellevue, Wash., where he played two years of baseball and one year of basketball.

Unable to play basketball last season at Leigh because of a transfer ruling, Giacchetti has made the most of his senior season since getting the green light to officially join the team in October.

Blending seamlessly into a mix that already included standout guard Kyle Morrison and center Jared Williams, among others, Giacchetti has helped the Longhorns win 18 of their first 19 games.

The 6-foot-2 guard, whose father works at Santa Clara University, is averaging 17.8 per game. His 6.5 rebounds are second on the team behind Williams' 11.7.

Nice environment

The transition to new teammates has not been difficult, Giacchetti said, adding, "The guys here are really friendly, and they accepted me in. Usually when you come into a program that has had a lot of success, there are a lot of competitive guys. They see a new guy come in, they might see him as a threat or something. I didn't get that at all when I came here. We have a real family environment."

Giacchetti credits coach Patrick Judge for creating the environment, one in which the team works as hard on academics as it does winning games.


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Judge speaks admirably of his senior class, noting that several players have grade-point averages above 4.0, including Williams (4.6) and Morrison (4.2).

"The thing that I am really proud of this year is they really are great guys," said Judge, in his fifth season. "They like each other. They're great teammates. They're doing well."

Judge still finds ways to push the bar higher. He follows Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer's "Plus 2" philosophy, which essentially means give two more than is asked of you.

"I always tell the guys in practice there is 80, 100 and 120," Judge said. "We started calling 120 all day. That's kind of doing everything 120 percent, being a good teammate, family."

Helped to watch

Giacchetti got acclimated to the environment while sitting on the sideline last year. He practiced with his teammates but could not play in games.

"Not having Joe be able to play right away actually, as we look back on it now, was probably a good thing," Judge said, "because Joe was able to come in, practice. As the season came and went, Joe was already in at that point."

Morrison, a third-team All-Mercury News selection last season, said his new backcourt mate has fit in perfectly with the team's style of play.

"He can shoot, he can drive, he's been a huge asset," Morrison said. "Coach Pat has definitely made him part of the family."

Morrison and Giacchetti will also spend the spring together as teammates. Both play baseball.

On the diamond

Giacchetti noted that he'll probably play third base because Morrison plays shortstop. Giacchetti also pitches.

Palo Alto baseball coach Erick Raich said Giacchetti is good on the diamond, too. Giacchetti played for Raich's club team last summer. "Great athlete," Raich said. "He didn't get to play in the school season, so he was champing at the bit to play in summer.

"He was a nice, pleasant surprise for us. He was kind of a Mr. Utility. He would play every position on the field and was great for us on the mound, just pounded the strike zone."

Judge had similar praise about Giacchetti's basketball presence.

"I love coaching Joe," Judge said. "He plays Leigh basketball. He plays hard. He attacks. He's aggressive. But then he's also a great young man, which at the end of the day is more important to me than can he put 20 up a game."