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High School Team Preview:
Ambassador Christian High School--(Nov. 3, 1998)

"I think this is a great place. I love the academics and the class size. I just wish more people knew about our basketball program." Darryl Vincent, head coach,  Ambassador Christian High School in Rialto.


Ambassador Christian is not a school which rolls of the tips of many tongues when basketball is mentioned in the Inland Empire. But for a school with a total enrollment of only 210 students in all grades, and only about 100 total in the high school, and with 1 out of 5 high school boys on the basketball team at the varsity level, the amount of success they've achieved in the last few years is remarkable.  They've won 7 league titles in 8 years.  They had a record which was eclipsed (according to Darryl) recently, with 55 consecutive league wins. "I think it's now the third best," Darryl told us. Last season, AC played at the Division V-AA level, but this year they'll probably move to the V-A level, the smallest in CIF. They made it to the playoffs last season after literally crushing some of their opponents by more than 50 points, ultimately losing in the quarterfinals of Southern Section D-V-AA playoffs to Pasadena Poly 62-43.  And this year, while they are not again blessed with the kind of size that led to many of their successes, Ambassador Christian will still impress more than a few people.

Their coach is Darryl Vincent, and he led the team to a 20-5 record last season, and hopes to repeat that this season. Darryl is a graduate of Cal Poly P:omona, where he graduated with a degree in management & Human Resources in 1994.  Prior to that he attended college in the early 80's, where he played at LSU as a walkon freshman. E then transferred to Eastern Arizona where he played for a year and then he left school for "a while."  Darryl tried the summer pro-am leagues, and was all set to begin his career on a team overseas, having the best tryout of his life, when he tore up his knee and was forced to give up playing competitively.  This is his his second year at AC, and like most small schools, he likes it and wishes there was more to the program. "I wish we had our own gym to play and practice in. But we play all of our games at San Bernardino City College, and practice at a local junior high, so it's still pretty good. Other than minor inconveniences like that, I love it here and really enjoy being able to keep a close eye on all of  my players throughout the day," Darryl told us. "I would ultimately like to coach at the college level, so I'm paying my dues right now.  I had a couple of offers to coach at the JC level, but it's going to have to be the right offer to get me to move." He's married with two children ages 12 and 9, and the 12 year old "is a player", according to Darryl.

Last season, Ambassador Christian had one of the best players in Division V-AA in Chris Como a 6'-4" 3/4 man who graduated in June. Chris was named to the All-CIF second team and was all-league last season in the crowded Metro League, where Ambassador plays against such teams as  Boys' Republic, Cal. Lutheran, Calvary Baptist, Calvary Chapel  Lake Arrowhead, Calvary Chapel Redlands, Calvary Chapel Twin Peaks,  Christian Center Academy, Riverside Christian, and Upland Christian. We're not exactly sure about the league configuration this year, but these were the teams last season. Chris was just a scoring machine last year, averaging 22 ppg, 8 rbpg, 2 steals and a ton of assists. He's now at Riverside Community College and will be attending Texas El Paso next year.  They will also be without Mitch Lombard (6'-7" Jr. F/C) who has transferred to Damien. Without Chris' scoring, and Mitch's height, it will be hard to duplicate some of the lopsided scores they had last season in this small division, but  they're going to try. They'll also try to duplicate the All-Scholastic honors that the team had last year with more than 6 players with 3.6 GPA's or better.

Here's the roster:

Matt Winter (6'-0" Jr. PG/SG)
Estaban Guzman (5'-7" So. PG)
Trey Harper (6'-0" Jr. SG/SF)
Gregory Peck (6'-1" Jr. SF)
Babatunde Akingbemi (6'-2" Jr. SF/PF)
Eddie Cheers (5'-10" So. SF)
Joe King (5'-9" Jr. PG)
Charles Pine (5'-11" Jr. PG/SG)
Danny Ruiz (5'-6" Fr. PG)
David Scott (6'-2" Sr. SF/PF)
Corey Glinzy (6'-0" Fr. SF)
Shame Biggs (6'-4" So. C)

This team will really miss Mitch's height, and they'll have to depend upon good ball movement and outside shooting to get the job done.  They'll also depend again on the press and great, quick man-to-man defense. Last year, Ambassador Christian  had 48 steals in a single game all off the press, not a very charitable way to play the game, but then Darryl says "I figure we'll win big or lose big, either way, I just want my guys to play as hard as they can." Matt Winter, who will start at point, is the only returning player. He was named to the All-League team last season, and averaged 17 ppg as a soph. He's a great outside shooter who averaged 48.3% from behind the arc. A very athletic player who's made tremendous strides in his game this summer, he also plays for the Rockfish team coached by Mark Berokoff. Matt also can be seen regularly playing with older college kids at San Bernardino Valley College, and he's a great student of the game who will only get better this season.  Chris will be joined at the point by Estaban, a quick little point who can drive and handle the ball well, and who will do good things at the D-V level. He was on JV last year and played smart, heady ball. He's the kind of kid who makes great decisions with the ball and always finds the open man, a very instinctive player. "I just wish he were 6'-3" or 6'-4", " said Darryl.  Backing up off the bench at the point will be Danny Ruiz, a young freshman who we'd expect to see limited time, at least until some of those blowout wins start occurring.  Joe King is another young player who could see significant time at the one, and he's got a great handle, makes good decisions, and plays the half-court trapping defense about as good as anyone on the team. He's also playing football, so when he will join the team is a bit up in the air right now.  Finally, there's no shortage of points, and Charles Pine is another player who can play either the one or the two interchangeably, another good handle and good decision-maker with the ball who has a better than average shot and who understands the 1-2-1-1 trap which Darryl employs as well as anyone.

At the two-three spot, look for Harper, Peck, Cheers, Glinzy and David Scott.  Harper is one of the best pure athletes on the team, a sort of Dennis Rodman type without the attitude. He plays hard, is not a big scoring threat but can jump out of the gym. He average 6.5 rbgg last season and he's a better jumper this year.  Peck will be a sort of placement or situational player. He's developed a great perimeter shot and can slash to the hole, but he needs to develop confidence. He's a sort of inside-outside player who averages about 8-10 ppg and will fill up the lanes nicely inside.  Cheers will probably get the nod as the starter at the three spot, and he is the best leaper of them all. He can dunk with either hand, is very quick and reportedly runs the 40 yard dash in 4.5, at least according to Darryl, which means he's got close to true sprinter speed. Cheers is also currently playing football, so when he joins the team is open, but he's already having an impressive gridiron season, and is one of the County's top 10 rushers and scorers. Scott and Glinzy are sort of at opposite ends of the spectrum:  Scott is almost a project for a senior, although he's got good instincts and should see some good time during the year.  Glijnzy is a freshman who will have several years to develop, so we'd expect his time this year to be spotty.  

At the forward spot, look for Babatunde to make a big impression. Last year he was "just a body" but this season, he's a real player. He rebounds well, and has developed a decent touch around the rim. He's also working on some good post moves and should develop into an even better player this year. At 220 lbs, he's got the size and bulk to block up the lanes and to set some punishing picks on other players.  At the center position, there's really only one player who comes even close this season, and that's Shane, who, at 6'-4" and 330 lbs (yeah, you read that correctly, 330 lbs.) is described as a "Baby-Barkley" by Vincent.  "I only hope I can find a uniform big enough for him," Vincent joked.  He can run the floor well, scores and rebounds, and is going to surprise a lot of folks who will just assume that he's too big or heavy to play the game at a high level. "They're going to be surprised when they see how tough and hard he plays," Vincent told us.

Ambassador will be busy during the preseason. First they'll be at the Webb Tournament from December 3-5 (Thurs-Sat), which will feature some of the better small schools in the San Gabriel-Pomona-San Bernardino area, including Calvary Chapel Redlands, Webb, Boy's Republic, Laverne Lutheran, Woodcrest, and Ambassador. 

Following that tournament, they'll play two non-league games,  Christianson Academy from San Bernardino on December 4, and Wilson Creek on December 8.

From there, they will be at the Heritage Christan Tournament from December 15, 16 & 18, which will feature St. Michael's, St. Margaret's, Heritage, Masada, Calvary Chapel Murrietta Valley, Southern California Christian, and Los Pinos.  From December 27-30, Ambassador will be playing at the Ontario Christian Tournament, which will feature teams like Calvin Christian from San Diego, Linfield from Temecula, Kilpatrick from San Diego, Big Bear, Calvary Chapel Downey, Western Christian, Laverne Lutheran, Arrowhead Christian, Tri-City from San Diego, Capistrano Valley Christian, Mesa Grande and Chapparal.

Given the talent in Division V at the state level, especially with schools like Horizon or The Bishop's, or schools in Southern Section like Buckley, Montclair, and countless others, whether they can make the playoffs and advance is really anyone's guess at this point. But these guys are going to have some fun trying.

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