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SoCalHoops High School Preview

High School Team Preview:
LA Fremont High School--(Oct. 22, 1998)

"I don't just like it here, I love it. Fremont kids are just great, and if I have a chance to make a positive contribution that's enough for me."--Sam Sullivan, head varsity coach, Fremont High School

Sam Sullivan has been the head coach of LA Fremont High School for the last 20 years, and he's going into his 21st season. Sam is a graduate of Fremont High himself, class of 1969, and he played high school basketball under coach Gaston Green, Sr. at Fremont, winning the league championship several times and making it to the City Finals once (they lost). Sullivan then went to Eastern Montana University which is now called Montana State at Billings where he was a starter on the bb team for two years. He got his degree in P.E.  with a minor in Speech & Communications. Following graduation from E. Montana, he returned to Fremont to coach. His teams have won the City Championship three times, in 1989, 1991 and 1992 and made it to the State finals once in 1991, losing to an Alameda St. Joe's team coached by Frank La Porte which featured Jason Kidd, by a final score of 67-61. The Fremont team that year went 34-2,  and Sam says that was probably his best team overall ever. It featured Chris Ford, Todd Whitehead, Mike Tait and a few others.  He's had several offers to coach at the JC level, but has turned them all down. "I really do love the high school basketball level; it's what I know and feel comfortable with, and at the time the offers were made, the timing was just not right."  Sam is married, with two children, a 6 year old boy and an 8 year old girl.

Fremont plays in City 4A, a designation which won't have much meaning after this year, when the whole City Section will be releagued. They play in the Southeaster Conference against teams like Bell, Garfield, Huntington Park, Jefferson, Jordan, Locke, Roosevelt, and South Gate who are all in the conference. The Southeast Conference is sort of unique in City Section in that it's one of only two conferences where there is no "league", i.e., no further subdividing of the conference into 3A or 4A divisions. Hence, each team plays other conference members twice (in other conferences, teams play non-league opponents once, and league opponents twice.)  None of that will matter though at the end of this season when the new playoff system will be implemented. "I'm going to be on the seeding committee, and it will be very difficult. 32 City Section teams (about half the teams) will make the playoffs. Only the top 16 will be competing for a City title; the other 16 will compete for a "Division" title. I understand why the 3A and 4A designations were rejected, but I still think the teams from 17-32 will be upset with their placement into the brackets. It's just something we'll have to live with this year," Sullivan said.

Over the years Fremont has had some great teams and they've beaten some big-time programs, for example, defeating Compton Dominguez in 1995 when the Dons had Brunner, Jason Thomas, James Jones, and Tayshaun Prince, and Fremont featured Dony Wilcher, Danny Walker, Ron Jenkins, Raymond Simms, Jermel Jones and Matthew Holyfield.  For the last two years, Fremont has had the services of Ronnell Mingo (6'-8" Sr. PF) who graduated in June. "The kind of team I'm used to coaching is a running, fast-breaking team, with small players, and good outside shooting," said Sam. "The last two years were somewhat unusual because we also had the services of a really big man and that gave us some additional options. We could always throw it into the big man if we had to."

But this year will be a little different. "This year, we're back to being the kind of team I'm more used to coaching. Quick, small, perimeter shooting, with no one over 6'-5"," said Sullivan. "You know, our team that made it to the State Finals didn't have anyone over 6'-6" on it. While height is nice to have, you can succeed without really tall men under the right circumstances."   Fremont is going to have to be really fast and really quick and have excellent outside shooting to succeed against the likes of some of their league opponents, and some of the teams they're likely to see once the City Playoffs begin. "Westchester, Manual Arts, Crenshaw, all of those teams will be loaded and difficult to beat, but we'll do our best. Hopefully we'll catch some people sleeping."

Tryouts are still ongoing, and the team will carry twelve or thirteen players. There are about 10 players still vying for the remaining four or five positions. Sam was really reluctant to give us the names of the additional 10 players, so the roster below is incomplete and will be supplemented in about two weeks when tryouts are concluded and the final evaluations have been made.  But for now, there are some players who are pretty well certain; a couple of the guys listed below might not make it after the final cuts are made, but most will be there at the start of the season.   Here's what we know about so far:

Jeffrey Roberson (5'-9" Sr. PG)
Donte Limbrick (6'-1" Sr. SG)
Devin Houston (6'-1" Sr. SG/SF)
Moreley Covan (6'-3" Sr. SF/PF)
La Jay Godbolt (6'-5" Sr. PF/C)
Willie Dunn (6'-4" So. PG/SG/SF)
Marcus Carnules (6'-0" Sr. SG)
Ryan Fizenger (6'-1" Sr. SG/SF)

As Sam said, this is a team which is going to have to depend on speed, quickness and outside shooting to get things done.  It all starts with the two backcourt players, Jeffrey and Donte.  Roberson is a solid outside shooter, and an extremely quick and tenacious defender. He started most of last year and brings back some good senior leadership. This summer Roberson attended the Superstars Camp in San Diego and made the top 50 players list, and he also had a great summer, helping Fremont win the East LA Tournament and the Hollywood Tournament. Of course the team wasn't so luck in the Washington Tournament this summer and they lost to Manual Arts in the semi-finals, but Roberson brings all of that experience to the table with him which is crucial for this team. "We're really looking to him to be a team leader, and with his defensive skills, he'll do the job," said coach Sullivan.  Donte also started last year and he could just be the best pure athlete in the whole school. He plays football, basketball, and runs track and he's a D-I prospect in football and being recruited by some big name schools.  Donte is the kind of player who can go out and get it done on either end. He's very fast, smart and has a decent shot, fills the lane and gets to the rebound after all the big guys have missed it. He's also a very smart and tenacious defender. "He's the type of player who will score 14 or 16 points and no one will even notice, his offense because he's so tenacious on defense" said Sullivan.

Devin Houston is a returning player as well, and last year he was a backup 2/3 man and this year he'll be expected to carry a lot of the weight at the wing. He's also a football player currently, a wide-receiver and he's very athletic and runs the court well. He has a decent handle, and a good perimeter shot and will share the wing forward on occasion with Moreley Covan when Moreley isn't down on the block at the 4 position. Moreley was also a backup player last year, and for his size he's a very good rebounder, and with his leaping ability can actually out-rebound players much bigger. He's a slashing type of player, but he also has a couple of good post moves.  At the center spot, look for LaJay, who is also the starting quarterback on the football team. He's quick, powerful and an excellent defender for his size, and will score around the basket when needed, but his role this year on a perimeter oriented team will be mostly as a defensive stopper and rebounder.

Willie Dunn is a very versatile young player who Sullivan thinks can play either the one, two or three spots. "He's a gangly, thin kid, who can run the floor extremely well, has a great handle and can shoot very well from the perimeter or slash to the basket off the dribble," said Sullivan. "He's really best though as a spot up shooter. He'll only get better in the next two years."   Marcus is probably the teams most effective outside shooter. "We call him our zone-buster, and we'll use him when we need to bring a team out of the zone. Marcus is a great outside shooter, probably the best on the team," Sullivan told us.   Finally, Ryan Fizenger is a transfer from Texas, and Sullivan doesn't know a great deal about him except that he'll be an excellent outside shooter.

Again there will be four or five additions to the team once tryouts are completed, and we'll amend this profile at that time. Stay tuned.

Fremont will be seeing some great competition this December.   First, from December 7-12, they'll be at the Ocean View Tournament Of Champions, at Ocean View and at one other site to be determined. This tournament has expanded to 20 teams this year, and some of the top teams in SoCal will be in attendance. Teams participating are Fontana, Ayala, El Modena, Santa Barbara, Crenshaw, Pasadena, Long Beach Poly, Mater Dei, Corona Centennial, Long Beach Jordan, Edison Huntington Beach, Redondo, Morningside, Serra, A.B. Miller, St. John Bosco, Compton, San Diego Horizon, and there's a possibility that others might also be pulled in if the event expands.

Then from December 19-23, they'll be in Las Vegas for the Reebok Holiday Classic.  We'll be getting the list of teams and the brackets for that one soon. Then they'll be appearing at the Nike San Diego Tournament (the Torrey Pines Tournament) from December 26-31.

Fremont is going to be a very good, defensive, pressing and scrambling team, with scrappy athletic guys, the kind of team Sullivan is used to coaching and loves to coach. Whether they'll have the outside shooting and quickness to take on Crenshaw, Westchester, or Manual, or some of the Southern Section and San Diego Section teams they'll be facing in December, only time will tell.  But one thing is certain, whether they win or lose: Coach Sullivan will be loving every minute of it.

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