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High School Team Preview:
Riverside J.W. North High--(Oct. 22, 1998)

"If I can get this team to play together, we should be allright." --Mike Bartee

That quote has got to be the understatement of the year. This could be one of the best teams ever to come out of J.W. North. Ever.  When we spoke with Mike this afternoon, he told us that the team is "young, inexperienced, deep, and talented."  They like to run a motion and a flex offense.  For those who know anything about flex, it's a very complicated offense, and everyone has to know exactly what to do and where to be at all times. It requires smart players, talented players, and quick players. But if it's executed properly, it'll generally fool the defense 9 times out of 10.  And looking at this team and the players on it, it's the perfect offense for them to run.  This is a smart team, a talented team, and a quick team.  And were pretty certain that they'll be playing all together when it counts.

Mike Bartee is in his 17th year of coaching at J.W. North. Prior to North, he was the varsity coach at Perris High for one year, and an assistant there for one year as well, when Perris won the CIF in 1977. He coached Perris varsity for one additional year in 1980-81, and then returned to North, which was sort of like a homecoming for him.  Mike had been in the second ever graduating class at North, graduating in 1967.  He played ball there, and after graduating, played for two years at Riverside City College and at Cal Baptist College where he got his degree.  He then earned his Masters in Education and Administration from Cal State San Bernardino. He is currently single and the father of two young daughters.

"Our goal is to have our players be better people, get them into college, and keep the game in perspective. Likewise, we want to let them use one of  tools we can give them, athletics, to help them earn a college degree.  We just want them to be the best they can be," Mike told us.  And so far he's done a pretty good job of helping his players be the best they can. Last season, JW North, which plays in CIF Division I-A and in the recently re-configured Ivy League in Riverside with teams like Arlington, Canyon Springs, Riverside Poly, Moreno Valley, and Rubidoux, made it all the way to the semifinals of the Southern Section Dvision I-A playoffs before losing to Glendora and Casey Jacobsen by 20 points 77-57.  Last year's team was really an enigma; either they were very good, or very bad, and most times you never knew which team would show up.  They had a frontline which went 6'-9", 6'-7" 6'-8" and yet they lost to Canyon Springs, a team which was not considered particularly strong last year (hard playing, but not especially strong), and they also beat Crenshaw.  The team finished with a record of 17-11, and almost everyone graduated, so Mike was looking toward a rebuilding year.

And this team has really rebuilt and reloaded.  Here's the roster:

Raji Burnett (5'-9" Jr. PG)
Billy Jones (5'-9" Jr. PG/SG)
Kamron Leonard (6'-8" Sr. C)
Jaqay Carlyle (6'-7" Sr. SF/PF)
Derek Mgbeke (6'-3" Sr. SG/SF)
Lionel Dixon (6'-4" Jr. PF)
Claudel Walters (6'-3" Sr. SF)
Damien Gilchrist (6'-0" Jr. G)
Chris Evers (6'-10"  Sr. C)
Anthony Gosserand (6'-4" Jr. SF/PF)
Paul Johnson (5'-10" So. SG)
Tremaine McCloud (6'-1" Jr. G/F)

You've probably seen a few of these guys tearing it up this summer, playing for IEBP All Stars, or at the Pump West Coast All Stars, Rim Rattler, at the Big Time in Vegas or at the Pump Fall Discovery Shootout or the Long Beach Fall Hoops Classic.  And if you have then you are familiar with at least some of them.  But if you're not, here's what you should know.

Raji will handle the starting job at point most often and will be backed up by Billy. Raji is an excellent passer, with good court vision and a decent handle, nice speed and quickness and is a good defender as well. He's probably not as good a shooter as Billy, who started a bit last year at the point, and you'll probably see them both in together at times depending on the situation. Billy is very quick, and an excellent defender with good lateral quickness.  Either of them can break down a defender, and they both push the ball well, but Billy is probably better at finishing off the break.   Both have decent pull up j's and good shooting range.

At the wing/shooting positions you won't find a more exciting player than Derek Mgbeke (pronounced like "MegBeck"). Derek is an amazingly good shooter, and he is equally good out on the perimeter or around the basket. We've seen him hit 7 three-pointers in a single game for the IEBP All Stars team. Derek is a transfer this year from La Sierra High, where he only played in about 3 games last season before encountering some difficulties and he didn't play the rest of the season. Bartee doesn't forsee any problems at all. "He's really one of the best players on the team, and a great kid. I expect him to play hard every time out."  He has great shooting touch, a nice handle and plays solid defense. He can slash to the hole or pull up and stick the j. In short, he's got a pretty complete game.

Backing up at the guard spots, we'd look for a combination of Tremaine McCloud, Paul Johnson, and Damien Golchrisht. Tremaine is a transfer from Riverside Poly, athletic, quick and can play either the 2, 3 or 4. He's about 200 lbs., and can really set some picks and screens, is very athletic, but is still getting used to the "system" at North. Johnson, is a shooter, a three-point and perimeter specialist, and he'll see some time against zones and in special situations where the game needs to be opened up.   Damien was a bench player last season, but will see significant time this year, and he's one of the hardest working guys on the team. He's a strong, left-handed shooter who will provide good support on offense and defense in tight situations.

Also at the wing, one player who coach Bartee definitely considers a "complete player" is Jaqay, whom he considers the most fundamentally sound player from a skills perspective. "While Derek may be the most exciting, Jaqay is probably more knowledgeable about the game and he's just such a smart player."   Jaqay can shoot, rebound, jump well and take it to the hole and finish from the wing, and he's a decent defender and can mix it up with bigger players and still come away with the ball more often than not. He's an excellent student, scored about 1200 on the SAT and carries a 3.0+ gpa, and is getting some attention from some of the smaller D-I's, like William & Mary, some of the Ivy League schools, and a few in the Patriot League. We'd also expect some of the WAC and WCC schools to begin to show some interest as well, and he can certainly play at that level. 

At the power forward spot, look for Lionel Dixon, an agile, 220 lb. guy, who has a great inside-outside game. He's a real wide-body, who jumps well, runs the floor and can score from out to about 15' with a nice set shot, or inside with a dunk around the rim. Also at the forward spot, we'd look to see Anthony Gosserand, Nick's younger brother, getting some playing time as well. He's a sort of 3/4, so he might also go out on the wing. Anthony is one of the best pure athletes on the team, but he needs to get some experience at the varsity level. He didn't play much this summer, because he had to work, and the biggest thing he needs to work on right now is his consistency. When he's hot, he's an excellent shooter and rebounder. But when he's not, he pretty much can miss everything, according to Bartee. Hopefully by the time the season rolls around the bugs will be worked out, and he'll have the reliability needed and required to see significant minutes. Look for Claudel to provide some defensive support at the forward spot too. He's a very physical player, with a decent handle, a strong first step and a good drive to the basket. Claudell is the kind of guy who will get there on offense or defense first, and he'll be a great stopper of the opponent's break.

At center, look for Kamron Leonard, a very strong, big wide-body guy who weighs about 250 lbs. now. At the Long Beach Fall Hoops Classic this year, he gave Dominguez' Tyson Chandler (7'-0" So. C) all kinds of trouble, and he's a really big power type of player: Physical, tough, almost to the point of provoking his opponents to fighting. He was so tenacious and strong in the post that he had Tyson swinging and shoving just to get position, and at times the refs had to separate them.  Kamron runs very well for someone so large, and he's deceptively strong. He doesn't look as heavy, say as Tony Champion (6'-9" Sr. C) from Bishop O'Dowd, but he runs better and is probably just as strong if not stronger.  And the most amazing thing about Kamron is that he didn't play last year at all.  He's a transfer from Ramona, and like Mgbeke and McCould is just getting used to Bartee's system.

And how's this for a backup at center: Chris Evers is 6'-10", a lefty, and can help out altering shots or blocking, or using his developing turnaround jumper.   Chris runs the floor really well, but his only drawback right now is that he is incredibly thin and almost fragile looking, and only weighs about 185.  But he gets inside and gets the job done and once he gets some weight on him, he may even attract some attention at the lower D-I levels, or higher if he can redshirt for a year.

JW North will first make it's debut this season at the Reebok Compton Tip-Off Classic on November 30 where they will play in the second game of the evening at 6:00 p.m. (just after the Ayala v. Serra game at 4:30) against Long Beach Jordan, and this should provide some excellent matchups.

Then from December 2-5, JW North will be hosting its own tournament, which will feature such teams as Rowland (Julius Barnes--committed to Stanford), Pomona, Berkeley (as in from the Bay Area Berkeley), Strathcona High (a team from Edmonton, Alberta--every year these teams trade off going to Canada or coming to the US; it's their turn to come here), Valley View, Perris and Etiwanda.

Then from December 7-12, JW North will be playing at the Apple Valley Tournament out at Apple Valley High. We have no idea who else is coming for that one, but it's a tournament that North plays in every other year and they are looking forward to winning it again this year.

Between the 13th and the 24th, North will be playing some single games against Fontana, Eisenhower and San Bernardino, and then on the 26th they'll travel to San Diego for the Nike Holiday Classic (formerly the Torrey Pines tournament) which will feature 60 teams and be played at the Cox Arena for the finals.

This is a very deep and talented team, and it's also one that is fairly inexperienced, at least with Bartee's system and type of offense.  But if even half these guys play as well as they have during the summer and fall tournaments, then Bartee will have nothing to worry about.  Teams like Glendora, Mater Dei, Pacific, Valencia, Arlington, Garey and whoever else makes it to the Division I-A playoffs will have a lot to worry about though. 

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