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High School Team Preview:
Redondo Union High--(Oct. 15, 1998)

"I'm not the guy some people think I am. I'm that other  Jim Nielsen, who played four years at Washington State under Marv Harshman, Judd Heathcote, and Dale Brown."--Jim Nielsen

Jim Nielsen, the head coach at Redondo Union High, is often mistaken for the other Jim Nielsen, the guy who played for three years under John Wooden at UCLA with Lew Alcindor on the 1967 and 1968 NCAA championship teams.  But Redondo's Jim Nielsen played at Washington State, where he was the Captain of the team, and voted Most Inspirational Player his senior year.   Actually they just missed playing against each other by two years (freshmen weren't eligible back in those days, and UCLA's Nielsen graduated when Redondo's Nielsen left high school).   Redondo's Jim Nielsen has been the head guy at Redondo for the last 7 years. Prior to that he had Glenn Marx' job at Mira Costa, and prior to that he coached "around at other places."  Jim attended North Torrance High and graduated in 1968. He was a two time All-CIF Player and two time All-Bay League MVP while at North Torrance when it was a D-I recruiting goldmine.  Jim then attended Washington State on a four year basketball scholarship, where he played for Harshman, Heathcote and Dale Brown, followed up by a one year graduate assistant's job under George Raveling who had taken over as head coach.  He's had some tremendous successes in coaching,  and Redondo has had four twenty win seasons in six years, with the highest win percentage in school history. He clearly enjoys what he's doing. He's married, and plans on staying at Redondo for the foreseeable future.

This year's team has lots of talent, but a lot of it is young and untested.  Like other schools at this time of year, the rosters aren't completely set, and it's possible that some kids could move up or down to the JV, depending upon where they sit on the bubble.  But there are some great returning players, genuine D-I prospects as well who will lead this team out of the wilderness.   Jim was actually blind-sided this fall when one of their star players, Marcus Moore (6'-5" Sr. PG/SG) transferred out to Dominguez.  "I was really hit hard by that one. We've filed a protest with the CIF over the transfer. I really can't talk about it now. I'd love to, really, but I just can't for now. Maybe when the dust is all settled and the CIF rules. But for now, let's just say we're going to be really young at Moore's position," Nielsen told us.

Redondo plays in the revamped Bay League, with teams like Hawthorne, Leuzinger, North Torrance, Peninsula, Santa Monica, Torrance, and West Torrance, and Inglewood. Redondo last year played at the Division II-A level in Southern Section playoffs, and this year, they'll probably be there too. In the Southern Section title game, Dominguez defeated Redondo 80-69, and then Redondo advanced to the State Tournament, where they defeated Tulare 74-60 in the first round, and ultimately lost by 8 points, 68-60 to State Champion Santa Margarita in the semi-finals of the Southern Regional.  Redondo Union has never won a State Championship; last year they came close, but this year, Redondo is hoping to do  better, even if they are without the services of Moore, a definite D-I prospect.  Also gone from last year are Ryan Kittel (6'-0" SG),  Mike Nazerian (6'-0" SG), Brian Morris (6'-0" SG), Tyler Hoffman (6'-2" SG), and Levi Stauffer (6'-3" SF). 

Here's the roster:

Andrew Zahn (6'-9' Jr. C/F)
Walter White (6'-5" Jr. F)
Dijon Thompson (6'-5" So. PG)
Titus Hunt (6'-3" Sr. F)
Dylan Mathis (6'-5" Jr. SG)
Keith Ellison (5'-9" Fr. PG)
Joe Buck (6'-5" Sr. C)
Randy Evans (6'-0" Sr. G)
Sam Chance (5'-10" Jr. G)
Andrew Morris (5'-10" Jr. G)
Andre Jones (6'-3" Jr. F)

In addition to these guys, Redondo has three other freshman who may see some time at some of the tournaments in December or the "extravaganza" events, but who may very well play JV:  Paul Meyman (6'-9" Fr. C), Adam Zahn (6'-6" Fr. F), and Brent Behan (5'-9" Fr. PG), and together with Ellison, they form the nucleus of the future of Redondo basketball for the next four years. 

Andrew, the center and admitted star of this team,  looks like he weighs about the same as last year (about 220), but he's maintained his agility and strength over the summer. He was voted first team All-CIF last year and MVP of the Ocean League, and has been a two-time participant at the Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis. He's very mobile, excellent jumping ability and a great game around the basket. Tremendously good footwork, Zahn is every coach's dream player: Height, size, agility, the ability to score and finish, and he's smart.  He finished first team All-League, and this year should be All-CIF.   Zahn's backup, Joe Buck, will probably not see a lot of playing time, but he's ready just in case the call comes. Zahn will be joined in the front court by returning players Walter White and Titus Hunt.  White is a true power inside, and has some really excellent post moves; he can drive or shot from either inside or outside, and we'd expect to see Nielsen run a double post type of offense this year with these two guys powering the middle.  Walter made the top 10 at the Nike shoot-out in San Diego last spring and is a definite Division 1 player. Hunt will play the wing/power forward spot, and he average about 12 points per game last season. He's got a great shot, out to three point range, and was the best defender on the team last season. He's got good vision and very quick hands too. We believe that he'll be a JC player next year, probably at Utah Valley JC.  We'd also look for Andre to be doing some time at the forward spot along with Hunt and Walter this season, and he's been one of the hardest working guys in the program.

At the two spot, look for Dylan Mathis, a quick, athletic player, who is a good defender, and who goes out and does a lot of the dirty work for others, like setting screens, picks and in general going after the loose balls and being everywhere on the floor.  And, he can shoot too. Dylan will probably be backed up by Andrew Morris, who may just be the best pure shooter on the team, and we'd look for Randy Evans to maybe get a little pt as well at the two spot, and Chance, a lefty with a very quick release who needs to develop better control might also see some significant playing time as well either at the one or the two spot, but most likely at the two.

Running the show in Moore's absence will be Dijon Thompson, another 6'-5" point guard, who is quick, athletic, and "plays like Jamal Wilkes," says coach Nielsen. "Really, I think he could be better than Moore was last season, and he's a definite Division I prospect."  He's got the whole package, good height, which will allow him to play over small point guards who might not be able to defend him, and he is also very quick, with blazing speed like the smaller guys.  He's a very good passer, with excellent vision and a real sense for the game, and he's also an excellent three point shooter.  In short, he's the real deal.   Backing up Thompson will be Keith Ellison, one of the most talented freshmen on the west coast this year.  Nielsen describes him as a "real surprise, a pleasant surprise."  Ellison's older brother plays football at BYU and so he comes from an athletic background. He's very heady, smart, and knows the game.  "He's a real coach's player," says Nielsen. "He'll go out and do amazing things, but runs the offense capably."

Redondo suffered a bit last season by not getting the publicity that many thought they deserved.  This year, they certainly won't lack for publicity as they'll be appearing in some pretty high exposure events.  "I probably over-scheduled us, but then I didn't think that we'd be as young as we've turned out to be. But we're going to get some valuable experience, and with the group of freshmen that we have, we'll be really solid not only this year with our returning guys, but for years to come," Nielsen told us.   "But how well we'll do in some of these events, remains to be seen."

First in December, Redondo will play in it's own tournament, the  Pacific Shores Tournament, which is co-hosted by Mira Costa.   Then they'll appear at the Ocean View Tournament of Champions, which each year gets some of the best teams in the SoCal area, and finally they will play in the Slam Dunk to the Beach, one of the premiere events on the east Coast, which will be held December 26, 27, 28, 29 & 30, 1998 Cape Henlopen High School, Lewes, Delaware, and which will feature some of the top teams in the country.

Finally after the season is underway, Redondo and Inglewood High will do something most teams would have to think twice about doing: They'll play back-to-back league games within two days:  On Saturday, January 16, 1999 they'll appear at Cal State Dominguez Hills in the 4:30 p.m. game of the 1999 MLK adidas Hoops Festival; then on Monday, January 19, 1999, they'll appear at Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, where the two teams will go at it once again.

This will be an exciting young team which will not be lacking for publicity.  They'll have some tough opponents to contend with and their league will be especially difficult this season. But we'll be watching and keep you informed about how they're doing.  Better yet, go check out their games for yourself.   See you there.

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