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High School Team Preview:
Compton Dominguez High--(Oct. 15, 1998)

"I think this is could be a great team. Barring injuries,  and with a little good luck, we could win alot."-- Russell Otis

Russell Otis is the head varsity coach of the Compton Dominguez Dons, one of three high schools in the Compton Unified School District.  Dominguez has been the most successful in basketball in the last 10 years, winning two state championships and several more Southern Section CIF crowns.  The school has played in Division II-A for the last several years and in the San Gabriel Valley League, which they've won more times than he can remember,  but Russell says he's waiting to see what the enrollment figures are before deciding which Division in playoffs to play in this year. "Everyone is calling me, asking which Division we'll be in. Other teams may move up or down depending on where we go. I guess it's a compliment they don't want to play us," Otis told us. "We'll just wait and see."  

Otis is another of those coaches who has returned to his alma mater. He played basketball at Dominguez under coach Ernie Carr. After graduation, he attended Southern Utah University where he also played. In 1986, he graduated with degrees in P.E. and Criminal Justice, and he returned to Compton to begin coaching the sophomore team at Dominguez. In 1987, Russell assumed the head coaching position. In his second year as varsity head coach won his first CIF Southern Section title. Dominguez has won two State Division II Championships, in 1996 when the Dons beat Northgate from Walnut Creek 65-49, and in 1997 when the team featuring Tayshaun Prince, Walter Small, and Kenny Brunner defeated Shasta of Redding 85-52 at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.

Last season, Dominguez was the pre-season favorite to again take the State Championship, and they probably would have, notwithstanding Brunner's graduation, and Small's absence for most of the season due to a football injury sustained in the fall.  The team still had Prince, and they also had a 7-0" freshman sensation, Tyson Chandler.  There was also a very strong supporting cast in players who have since graduated like Willie Hurst (5'-8" PG),Mike Carson (6'-4" SG), James Boulton (6-5 SF/PF), and some rookies or relative newcomers like Keilon Fortune, Jafus Haley, Keith Kincade and  Keith Brooks.  But after winning the Southern Section Division II-A title again for the third year in a row, the Dons then went on in the Southern Regional playoffs of the State Championship and defeated San Diego Point Loma by 36 points, 86-50 even as Tayshaun Prince nursed a knee injury and did not play.

But then in the second round of the Southern Regionals, Compton High, led by David Hamilton, and DeAundre Moore,   avenged an earlier humiliating loss to Dominguez in the Artesia-Poly Winter Classic by defeating the Dons 67-54, and ending the dreams of any three-peat in the State Finals.  Of course, Compton went on to face Santa Margarita in the Southern Regional Final in Division II of the State Championship playoffs,  and they too lost, defeated for the second time by the team which had also taken the Southern Section Division II-AA  title from the Tarbabes, and which ultimately went on to win the State title  in Division II.   

But in the Dons final game last year, Prince's knee injury kept him out almost the entire game, and Hamilton, who is at Auburn this season as a freshman,  scored 14 points and had 13 rebounds, and DeAundre Moore, who is now at Vanderbilt, had 22 points.  Rusell said that Tay, who is at Kentucky, has finally done something this summer in 5 weeks he was unable to do while at Dominguez:  Put on some weight.  "When he left here, he was 6'-7" and weighed only 183 pounds.   I saw him last week, and Tayshaun now weighs 215, and has put on some really solid muscle," Otis told us. "That's what Tyson will have to do in order to play down in the low post in college, and we're working on that now with him."

This season, even though Prince, their single best player has graduated and gone on to Kentucky, Small has gone to USC (originally with the intent of playing football this season, but he's decided to redshirt for medical reasons), the Dons seem to be playing more team basketball and could be deeper and better.   "Barring injuries, and with a little bit of good luck, anything can happen," Russell Otis told us. "It's a lot more fun to win, and this year, I think we've got the guys again who can do it. We may get beaten, but nobody's going to roll over us. This is a really good team."  

Otis has kept his guys together during the summer, and they've played in events like the Slam-N-Jam NIT and the Long Beach Fall Hoops Classic. "I think it's good to keep the team together, but during the spring and summer they pretty much do what they want on the floor. Now it's time for us to put in a more structured offense.  Anyone can run a motion offense, but we're going to work on running a good zone offense, and a flex offense, which is very complicated. These guys will have to play smart to learn what I want them to do."

This is a very deep team, perhaps as deep if not deeper than some of the recent State Champion Dominguez teams:

Keilon Fortune (5'-10" So. PG)
Keith Brooks (6'-6" Jr. F)
Jafus Haley (5'-11" Sr. PG/SG)
Tyson Chandler (7'-0" So. C)
Keith Kincaide (6'-4" Sr. SG/SF)
James Jackson (5'-10" Sr. PG)
Micha McKinney (6'-2" Jr. SG)
Cedric Thompkins (6'-6" Jr. F)
Steve Moore (6'-3" Jr. SG/SF)
Larry Johnson (6'-6" Jr. SG/SF/PF)
Darius Sanders (6'-5" Fr. F)
Ronald Jackson (5'-8" Sr. PG)
Joey Arby (5'-10" So. G)
Bobby Jones (6'-3" Fr. SF)
Marcus Moore (6'-5" Sr. F)

Some or all of these guys may play this season, and tryouts are still going on and there are evaluations, but the roster is pretty much set.  Not all of these guys will get significant playing time, but most will remain by the time the season gets underway.  And the team begins with "The Franchise,"   Tyson Chandler.  There has not been a more publicized young man in high school basketball in recent memory. From the 60 Minutes piece last season, to all of the press reports and media coverage last season, which got so ridiculous that some papers even reported after last season that Tyson would forego his senior year of high school to jump straight to the NBA.  In our view, he won't be ready for that until he gets some more seasoning and starts to fill out his frame, but at the high school level, Tyson is starting to blossom into the star everyone projected he'd be.  Most recently at the Long Beach Fall Hoops Classic, against some pretty good centers, he showed that he's maturing, getting physically stronger, and developing a bit of that attitude of toughness he'll need to continue to win.  Tyson is a great player already. He can dunk virtually at will, has tremendous agility and can run the floor better than any seven-footer at the high school level in the country, and he's got great court vision.   "I told Tyson that this is the year he'll need to live up to his reputation," Otis said. "No one can say he doesn't have potential. But it's up to him to make it happen. I believe he will."

After Tyson, this is still a team that is just loaded with talent.  Senior Keith Kincaide is a high-major D-I prospect this season, and he'll be taking visits with 5 schools, and those on the list of candidates include West Virginia, Cinncinati, Oregon, Washington, San Jose State and New Mexico.  In addition to being a tremendously talented shooter, slasher to the hole, and decent defender, Kincaide is also an excellent student, with a 3.5 GPA. He just took the SAT and told coach Otis that he felt "really good about it." 

Joining Keith in the backcourt is just a wealth of talent, almost an embarrassment of riches at the guard spots.  Keilon Fortune, Tyson's buddy from his SCA days, is one of the quickest, most talented floor generals around, but he'll have to learn to play consistently solid defense all the time. Keilon is lightning quick, has great court vision, and pushes the break as well as any senior point guard around. . . and he's only a sophomore.  Joining Keilon will be James Jackson, who can play either the one or the two; he's very quick and tough, a tenacious defender, and according to Otis is " improving every day." Micha McKinney is a shooter, very athletic, who will probably be a situational player on defense and in certain offensive settings, as will Joey Arby who also happens to be the son of one of the assistant coaches on the team.   Ronald Jackson will also be vying for time at the point, while players like Steve Moore, who is also an excellent baseball player and very gifted athletically will vie for time at the two spot.  Jafus Haley will also see some time at the one or the two possibly, and he's the kind of guy who can come in and start hitting three's and spark the team; he's also a football player so he will not join the team full time until after the football season ends.

Also at the point guard/shooting guard spot is a player who created more than a little controversy this fall when he transferred from Dominguez' Division II-A rival Redondo Union, and we're talking about Marcus Moore.  Marcus is tall and wiry, although he's filled out a bit, and has great lateral quickness and speed, with the ability to go to the hole, finish, drive, dish or pull up with the j. He runs the break and can destroy defenses with his good court vision and quickness, and best of all, he's a great defender and we would expect that if the CIF upholds his transfer (Redondo is currently protesting, claiming undue influence which could possibly affect his eligibility if the protest is upheld) he and Keilon will see the most time running the show.

In the forward spots, Dominguez is also incredibly deep with talent. Keith Brooks is tough, strong, and can be a dominant player, who is starting to adjust to some of the new talent coming in. Keith is a very large, wide-body guy, who is incredibly strong, and a great rebounder, who does a lot of the dirty work, setting picks and screens. He's also a decent handler and passer, and has vastly improved that part of his game in the last year.  Cedric Thompkins has also vastly improved his game over the last year, and he's developed some great post moves and has a good touch around the basket. Otis also describes him as "a sponge, he just absorbs everything we teach, and he's one of the smartest players on the floor."  Also at the forward spot will be Bobby Jones, a young freshman who was the teams' best defensive player at the Long Beach Fall Hoops Classic this year, and who Russell describes as a guy who "leaves it all out on the floor." Freshman Darius Sanders, who was rumored to have been attending any number of schools (Tustin, Canyon Anaheim, Mater Dei, Compton, Crenshaw) ended up at Dominguez, and he'll have an adjustment period as he learns the system, but expect him to step in and get some big minutes in the paint. Darius is a big-bodied tough kid who has four years to develop into a top Division I player.

Dominguez will get off to an early start this year in the 2nd Annual Reebok Compton Tip-Off Classic which will be held November 30 through December 3, and Dominguez is tentatively slated to play Santa Monica Crossroads at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1.  Dominguez will then travel to Las Vegas for the Reebok Holiday Classic where they'll meet such traditional powers as Mt. Zion and others, from December 19 through 23.  Finally, the Dons will travel to San Diego at the end of December for the Nike San Diego Holiday Classic which will also feature Crenshaw, St. Anthony's, Capistrano Valley, and legendary coach Morgan Wooten's DeMatha team, featuring Keith Bogans and Joe Forte.

During the season, specifically on January 19, 1999, Dominguez will host the "Dream Classic" which was formerly called the MLK,Jr., Challenge. It will still be at Pauley Pavilion, and will feature some great matchups that we've already described at length, including Long Beach Jordan v. Verbum Dei, Redondo v. Inglewood (yes, they will play back to back league games against Inglewood in both the Pump/adidas MLK Hoops Festival on Saturday the 16th  and on Monday the 19th at the Dream), Long Beach Poly v. Manual Arts, Glendora v. Capo, Compton v. Crenshaw, and Dominguez v. Mater Dei.  Dominguez will also play at the Nike Extravaganza, Mater Dei's event in early February down in Orange County as a tune-up for the playoffs.

As we said, this is a very deep team, with tons of talent. How well they'll do this year, is something only time will tell, but it's going to be great fun to watch them try to gain another State title. 

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