The Merced College women’s basketball team is no stranger to providing joy.

Allen Huddleston’s squad has routinely produced some of the top basketball in the state during his tenure, providing fans an entertaining viewing experience.

Talented as the team is on the court, the holiday season affords the opportunity to cultivate joy in a different manner. With donations from the players and coaching staff, the basketball team collaborates with the Merced College CalWORKs office each December to adopt a family in need of a little holiday pick me up.

Jason Cincotta and his two sons were the beneficiaries of the good will this year, receiving an abundance of gifts from the women’s basketball team on Friday morning.

“(CalWORKs Student Support Coordinator) LaDenta Smith told me that we’ve been doing this since 2004,” Huddleston said. “I was shocked. I knew we’d been doing it for at least 10 years, but was surprised to hear it had been that long.

“CalWORKs goes through and randomly chooses a family that might need some help during the holidays. The girls have been great. We all chip in, including the coaches, and just try to make sure that we bless someone’s Christmas.”

The gesture was greatly appreciated by Cincotta and his boys.

“I thought it was pretty awesome,” Cincotta said. “You’ve got to understand, I’m a 51-year-old single father of two, who five years ago was in prison. I’m out here trying to do the college thing and be a good dad.

“It’s nice that someone recognized that and wanted to do something nice for us. To care that much about a person, you don’t see that a lot anymore.”

Sophomore Shea Williams said the experience is powerful.

“I’m usually crying during the whole thing,” Williams said. “I was really fighting to hold back tears this time. We split up the family, so the coaches took care of the dad and half the team had each son.

“Everybody gets into it. Then when you give them the presents and see how much it means to them, it’s really emotional. This community does so much to support us, it’s an awesome feeling to be able to give back a little bit.”