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High School Team Preview:
Long Beach Jordan High School--(Oct.19, 1998)

"Anyone could win our league this year. I'm looking forward to trying to get another title, and seeing my guys do well both on the floor and in the classroom."--Ron Massey, head coach, Long Beach Jordan


Ron Massey is the varsity bb coach at Long Beach Jordan. He graduated from St. Paul Central in Minneapolis, where he played basketball and football for three years. After graduating high school, Ron then enrolled at a small black college, Bishop College, located in Dallas, Texas, where he played only football, giving up any pretense of being a basketball player.  Ron had dreams of playing in the NFL, but gave them up when he realized that getting hit in college was a lot tougher than getting hit in high school, and it seemed to him it was only going to get tougher at the next level.  Ron graduated from Bishop with a degree in P.E. and English, determined to be the best P.E. and English teacher around. Following his graduation from college, Ron became a teacher and basketball coach at Stevens Middle School, then went to Long Beach Poly where he was the J.V coach for three years. Ron has been the coach at Long Beach Jordan for the last 17 years.  He's married and has three sons, ages 26, 15, and 12. The 15 year old is a sophomore at Jordan but is sitting out this season after undergoing knee surgery on both knees; the youngest is attending Hughes Middle School where he's a player and at Slam-N-Jam as well.  Ron used to teach English, but now focuses exclusively on Physical Education, and he's also got the Athletic Director's job.

Long Beach Jordan plays in the Moore League, with teams like Compton, Lakewood, Millikan, Long Beach Poly, and Long Beach Wilson, and has won the league four times in this decade, and they've won the Southern Section CIF I-AA title three times in the 1990's. Their most recent title was in 1996. Last year, Jordan made it to the second round of the Southern Section I-AA playoffs, where they were defeated by Simi Valley, 77-70. Of Jordan's chances in league this year, coach Massey told us "You know, anything can happen. Compton has got to be one of the favorites, and if we can find a way to stop Tito, then maybe we can pull it off.  And it will be really interesting playing Poly this year for a lot of reasons. Who knows, anyone can win it."

In the intervening months since last year's season ended on February 24, 1998, the team has had some dramatic personnel changes, most noticeably, David Word (5'-9" Sr. PG), Jordan's leading candidate to start at point, has transferred out to Poly, and is currently playing football for the Jackrabbits, helping them defeat Jordan last week.  Also lost to graduation from last year's team are Marshone Long (6'-0" SG), Rashad Benjamin (6'-1" SG/SF), Dennis Blackwell (6'-4" SF/PF),  and Mike Newton (6'-2" SF)  A number of other players, in fact the majority of last year's team is also missing from the roster, at least as it stands currently: Gene Wolff (6-1 Sr. SG),  Tony Valdez (6'-0" Jr. SG) , Eric Gathrite (5'-10" Sr. PG), and Mike Matangi (5'-11" Sr. PG) were not mentioned by coach Massey when he gave us the tentative roster, and whether they are still enrolled there or have transferred is something we aren't certain about; it's equally possible that they will later be added to the roster. Coach Massey gave us the names of 10 players, and he said the team will carry 13, so it's possible they'll still show up. And one other thing to keep in mind is that  tryouts are still ongoing, and the final evaluations haven't been made so any one of them could still be in contention for a spot.

This season, only four returning players are back, so expect more than a few new faces. Here's the team roster as things presently stand. Remember, this is preliminary, and there will be at least three more players added once the season gets going.

Trayvon Bryant (6'-7" Jr. F/C)
Darren Peterson (6'-4" Sr. PG/SG)
Craig Calloway (6'-0" Sr. PG/SG)
Deryon Dale (6'-3" Sr. SG/SF)
Wilfred Lucas (6'-4" Jr. PF/C)
Ronald Banks (6'-1" So. SG/SF)
Greg Grant (6'-5" Sr. PF)
Nick Tamara (5'-11" Jr. PG)
Anthony Rucker (6'-1" Sr. PG/SG)

With the absence of Word this season, coach Massey has switched Darren from a forward position to the point/shooting guard position, a spot that the will share with Craig. Darren is a very powerful, strong 215 lb. guy, with a decent handle, and a very consistent jumper out to beyond the arc. He's currently being recruited by USF, CSUN, and Oregon, and has already achieved a qualifying score on his SAT.   Craig is a four year varsity player, who is probably the brightest and best student on the floor.  In fact Ron told us, "When you talk about Craig, the first thing to say about him is what an outstanding student he is; he's just very knowledgeable about the game, very smart, and a pleasure to coach." Craig is also an accomplished player, having attended Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis for the past two years; he's a great shooter, and his ability to be a team leader is unquestioned. He can run the floor, distribute the ball, penetrate and spot up as well as almost anyone in the league. He's also being recruited pretty hard by CSUN, USF, Oregon and Portland State. For now, Nick Tamara will be the backup at the one, and he's got a great handle, a good shot, and Ron will use this season to get him ready for next year to take over as the starting point. Anthony Rucker will also see some time at either the one or two spots; he's the kind of guy who just goes out and works really hard, runs through a wall if he's asked, and he'll be out on the floor grabbing loose balls, diving, setting screens and picks, and in general making things happen for others. And the best part is that he can also shoot a little too out to about 18'.

At the three wing position look for Deryon and Ronald Banks. They are both hardworking guys, and between them, Dale is probably more of a slashing player, able to rebound from the wing over guys much taller; Banks is also a slashing player and a good rebounder, who is still growing, but for now, Deryon has a couple of inches on him which could be critical against opponents like Compton.  Inside at the four position, look for Greg Grant and Wilfred Lucas, and Wilfred will also see some time relieving Trayvon at center. Wilfred probably has the better post moves of the two, and knows just what to do to move a man out of the paint, establish good position and get to the ball on the rebound or on the offensive move, where he's really effective playing with his back to the basket and he's got decent enough footwork for a nice drop-step to work now and then.  Greg was pretty much a bench player last year, but this season he will definitely see some quality time. He's a pretty wiry thin guy, and a lot of defenders just plain overlook him, allowing him to slip in and under or through holes in the defense that most other 4's might not even see. He's played all spring and summer in Slam-N-Jam and has steadily improved his game, and will definitely see a lot of time.

Finally, anchoring the offense and defense will be Trayvon, who is one of the top junior forward/centers on the west coast and in SoCal this year. He's got a very strong game, good inside moves, with a nice handle and good quickness, and he can also hit an outside jumper. On almost any other team with a bigger guy to play the post, you'd see Trayvon out on a wing or down at the four, and he's got very good mobility, and a good enough shot to even play the three in college. Trayvon is turning into the complete player: He can shoot, rebound, play the post, run the floor, and in short, there's very little he can't already do.

Jordan gets off to it's first start this year at the Reebok Compton Tip-Off Classic at Compton City College. The Reebok event will take place from November 30 through December 2, but for now it looks like Jordan will play it's first game against Riverside J.W. North on December 1, which should be just a great matchup.   Then two nights later on December 3 at LA Southwest City College, Jordan will face LA Washington High in another exhibition game.

From December 7-12, Jordan will be playing at Ocean View High School in the Tournament Of Champions, which will feature some great teams, like Fontana, Ayala, El Modena, Santa Barbara, Crenshaw, Pasadena, Long Beach Poly, Mater Dei, Corona Centennial, Huntington Beach Edison, Redondo, Morningside, Serra, LA Fremont, A.B. Miller, St. John Bosco, Compton, and San Diego Horizon.

Then from December 19-23, Long Beach Jordan will appear in Las Vegas in the Reebok Holiday Classic, and then from December 26 through 31 they'll be back in town for the Best of the West, hosted by Artesia.

Like last year the team is young, and like last year they will have their hands full against teams like Compton, Poly, and other I-AA potential opponents like Artesia, Simi, Glendora, Ayala, or any number of others. But it's going to be fun watching them try to win yet another league title. How well they do is something only time will tell.   


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