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High School Team Preview:
Fresno Washington Union High--(Oct. 16, 1998)

"I tell my players they need to get the mentality of a player. It's about playing all-out, all the time, offense and defense, as hard as they can play.."--Vonn Webb

Vonn Webb is the boys' varsity coach at Fresno Washington Union High.  Now you might ask, "why is SoCalHoops writing about a team in the Central Section of CIF?"  And if you did ask, we'd tell you it's because (a) This team will probably play against one of the top teams in Southern Section in the State Regional Tournament (Central, San Diego, Southern and LA City all play in the Southern Regional), (b) it's a team which has some of our favorite players who perenially spend a good deal of the summer here in Southern California, and (c) because we want to.  

We got our first real taste of Washington Union, and players like Richard Jeffries (who is now at Arkansas, and who may very well start there), DeShawn Stevenson, Shammell Stallworth,  and Carvel Wafer (great name, isn't it) when we saw them in Las Vegas last winter at the Reebok Holiday Classic, and had it not been for the team from Pleasure Ridge, they might have played in the finals against Mt. Zion.

Vonn is a coach who clearly enjoys what he's doing, and he spends incredible amounts of time coaching and just thinking about his players and his team.  He called us at about 11:00 p.m. from Fresno, and we talked for about an hour, on his nickel.  This is clearly a guy who is devoted to his players.  Last year, we bumped into Vonn and one of his assistants on the way into last year's MLK Challenge at Pauley Pavilion, at 8:30 a.m. when we were about the only three people in Pauley Pavilion. Vonn had driven all the way from Fresno and had made it there that early, so he must have left at about 3:00 a.m..  His team wasn't even playing that day,  but he and his assistant had just come out to watch.   And because we were getting in with a press pass, we felt compelled to help him get in without paying (yes, they were going to charge him admission at the door), so he became an official ex-officio member of SoCalHoops' staff that day, and got in to Pauley gratis.   Either he owes us one, or we owe him one;  we're quite not sure. Either way, he's had some great teams over the 4 years he's been at Fresno Washington Union, and this year he'll be in LA with another great team, and no one will even try to charge him admission at the adidas MLK Hoops Festival. 

Washington Union of course is no stranger to high profile basketball. In 1988 they won the first Division IV State Championship game under coach Al Biancalana, defeating Terra Linda from San Rafael 76-55. Then in 1996, they won again in Division IV under Vonn Webb, defeating Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa 56-42 with Richard Jeffries as a sophomore  and DeShawn Stevenson as a freshman.  Vonn has won the State Division 3 Central Sectional in 1997, and again last season.  And he'll try to do it again this year.

Von Webb played basketball at Neosho Community College and Kansas State, and then transferred to Western New Mexico University. Following graduation, he went to work, but started coaching in youth leagues, and finally decided he wanted to coach and teach, so he earned a degree in education and went to work a t a junior high in Fresno, then began coaching for two years at Clovis West. He's now in his 5th year at Washington Union, and enjoying every minute of it. "I just want to get my guys to play within the structure of a team and to play the best defense they possibly can," Vonn told us last night when we spoke on the phone. "I believe that defense is the most important quality in a player, and my guys will play great defense. It's just what we do."

The team this year looks pretty much like it did last year with the exception of Jeffries who is at Arkansas, and Richard Millsap who is at Alabama State.  Here's the roster, which, as with most teams at this time of the year, could undergo some minor tweaking and adjustments:

Archie DePree Copeland (5'-9" So. PG)
Coupe Taylor (6'-0" Sr. PG)
Shamell Stallworth (6'-5" Sr. SF/PF)
Carvell Wafer (6'-5" Sr. PF/C)
DeShawn Stevenson (6'-6" Jr. PG/SG/SF)
DeShawn Anderson (6'-2" Jr. SG)
Maruice Moore (6'-1" Sr. PG)
Adam Fain (6'-4" Jr. SF/PF)
Jordan Brice (6'-0" Jr. SG)
Aaron Johnson (6'-4" Jr. SG/SF)
Keith Sconiers (6'-7" So. C)
Marvin Carraway (5'-9" Fr. PG/SG)

DeShawn Stevenson has been the player with most of the headlines on this team, and some people have him rated as the best player in his class at his position in the country.  Just what is his position?   Well, he's got a good enough handle and good enough vision, and in a school team setting, the right degree of unselfishness (that's right, forget what you all saw at the camps and tournaments, this guy is very unselfish on a team, trust us about this) to play the point;  he's got a good enough perimeter shot that he could be a two; he can slash to the hole, drive, rebound, dunk, and do all kinds of acrobatics to satisfy anyone who wants him to play the three or the four; about the only thing we haven't seen him do is play center, and we're willing to bet that with a little practice and patience, he could.  DeShawn is one of the most athletic players in the country, and he really turned a lot of heads this last year. And the scary thing about him is that he's just a junior and has two more full seasons in high school. He's been called a human highlight film and it's true. A major D-I talent. To hear Vonn tell it, he thinks that DeShawn plays "two or three steps above everyone else here in Fresno.  He really can do it all, but I don't want him to put that much pressure on himself.  On our team he really is very unselfish, and he'll do whatever it takes to win."

That same attitude is shared by Shammel and Coupe.  Shammell has grown an inch or two, and has also improved his game, if that's possible, from last season, and this summer he and DeShawn played for EBO, where Shammell continued his deadly shooting and rebounding. On this team he'll play the four spot. He's a good perimeter shooter, quick, smooth and a scoring machine when he's hot.  Last season Shammell, who's a slort of sleder inside outside guy, averaged a double-double, and he will be counted upon again for some major production. 

Coupe was out for most of the summer with an infection in his foot, but he's come back stronger, more solid and in better shape than at the end of last season. He averaged about 27 points per game last season, and we expect that he'll sign with Alabama State and will join Richard Millsap there next season.   Coupe has great court vision, a nice handle and can run the floor very well. He's already fully qualified, and has all but verballed to Alabama State.  Sharing the point duties will be Archie DePree Copeland (actually everyone calls him "Archie". . . his real name is Archibald DePree Copeland).  Archie is a football player, and has great court vision, good hands, and makes excellent decisions on the floor.  Another point guard is Maruice Moore, who Vonn describes as "crafty with the ball."  He's talented and has a great handle, and is also a good, quick finisher. His decision-making needs some improvement, but he will be a team leader, and works incredibly hard  Sometimes he has a tendency to want to do too much, but it's a lot easier to turn down a player's intensity than it is to rev it up. Vonn also has a very well kept secret, a new freshman in Marvin, and he thinks that in the next few years, Marvin will be the best player in the Central Section. "This kid is quick, smart, and does things you'd expect only a senior to do. We're really excited about him.  You know  I told people about Chris [Jeffries], and most folks didn't believe me; then I told them about DeShawn and most people were sceptical; maybe this time they'll believe me."

Carvell Wafer has grown a couple of inches too, and like Coupe, he didn't see a lot of playing time this summer because he broke his ribs in June. But he's also back, hitting the weights, and has improved his shot and his stroke around the basket. He's a great team defender  and will see significant playing time.   Also at the foru will be Adman Fain, a very athletic guy, who can jump, spin, slam dunk and who will be an excellent role player on this team. We also look for Aaron Johnson, a kid who is built a lot like Shammel, with long spider arms who drives and plays almost reckless defense to see significant time at the 3/4 spots.

At the two, in addition to DeShawn and Maurice, look for the other DeShawn (Anderson) to play out on the wing and shoot from the perimeter with great accuracy. He's a very long-range shooter, and he can also drive to the hole and dunk, and this year, Vonn will try to teach him some defense; for now the main focus of his game is offense. "He's the one who needs the mentality, to be a defender. When he gets that, he'll be unstoppable," Vonn told us.

Finally, at the center spot will be Keith Sconiers, a big sophomore who already is wearing a size 15 shoe. He's probably got the most promise of any big guy in a long time, and in about two years should be a really accomplished post player.

Washington Union will have just an amazing travel schedule, and in Central Section of CIF there is no restriction on the number of times a team can travel out of state (in Southern Section, a team can only go out of state once every other year; Vegas, because it's in an adjacent state, can be visited every year.).  How amazing is their schedule?  "We try to over-schedule in the pre-season and before the State Tournament because our league is not the strongest, and we know that if we're going to compete with the Southern Section and San Diego teams, we need to play against the best," Vonn said.

And they'll be playing against the best.   First from December 2-5, they'll be playing at the Fresno Buchannan Holiday Tournament, where they will be the No. 1 Seed.  Other teams playing will be LeMoore (Central), Visalia Golden West, Porterville Monache, Clovis West, LA Canoga Park, Madera, LA Sylmar, Fresno Edison, Bakersfield Highland, Bakersfield Centennial, Buchannan, LA Chatsworth, Clovis High, Fresno Hoover, and Inglewood, the No. 2 seed, and the tournament is broken into two brackets, so they might see Inglewood in the finals if both teams win all their games.

Then on December 10, Washington will take off and fly to St. Louis for the KMOX Holiday Shootout where they'll be for three days until the 13th.  After 5 day's rest, they'll hop on another plane and fly off to Las Vegas for the Reebok Holiday Classic from December 19-23. Oak Hill and Inglewood are in their bracket, so it's possible that they'll get to see Inglewood again.

After coming back to Fresno on the 23rd of December, the team will board a plane again on Christmas night and fly to Ocala Florida for the Kingdom Classic where they'll be until January 1, 1999. 

But they're not done yet.  They come back to Fresno on the 2nd of January, unpack and do some laundry, and then on the 5th of January, they get on another plane and fly to Toronto, Canada for the Prepstars of North America Tournament.  This one will feature 8 teams from the U.S. and 8 teams from Canada.  Among the participants will be Maine Central Prep, St. Thomas More, Little Rock Central High.  In fact, Vonn says they are the only non-prep public school that will play.  The tournament runs until the 10th of January, and they'll be back in Fresno on the 11th.

Finally, five days later,  on January 16, 1999, they'll come down to Los Angeles for the adidas/Double Pump MLK Hoops Festival at Cal State Dominguez Hills.  And there's been a little bit of a change:  Instead of playing Chaminade, two games have been switched around to avoid a scheduling conflict.   Now Chaminade will play Los Alamitos, and Washington Union will play Verbum Dei.   And while this will avoid the D-III preview matchup, these are two that probably now make more sense.

So when, you ask,  does this team play it's league games?  We don't know, but they've got one hell of a road trip schedule.  

Look for Washington Union to win their league and to contend for another Central Section title, and possibly a State Division III Championship. We'll be watching.

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