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High School Team Preview:
Junipero Serra High School--(Nov. 5, 1998)

"In addition to coaching, I teach a class in Christian morality. I think that as a coach, it's my job in life to impart more than just basketball skills to my players."--Dwan Hurt, head coach, Junipero Serra High School.

Dwan Hurt is in his 10th season as the head coach at Junipero Serra High School, located in Gardena. He's a graduate of Serra, and never really expected to end up back at his alma mater, but like about 80% of the coaches we've talked to this year, believes that what he does is the best job in the world. "I think it's great to be able to come back to where I grew up and help instill some of what I've learned in kids from my neighborhood. I never really expected to wind up back here, but I think it's just great,"  Dwan told us last night.  He graduated in 1981 from Serra, and remembers playing Long Beach Poly in the CIF finals, and losing by 6 to the Jackrabbits. "Man, that was a great team," Dwan recalled. "I played the point and we were fast, but not fast enough."  Dwan attended El Camino JC for two years, and then got a basketball scholarship to Gonzaga where he played for two years alongside John Stockton of the Utah Jazz. "He was just unbelievable, even then. He could play all day and all night and never stop. He was the Energizer Bunny, he just kept going and going, and I'm sure that's why he got as good as he did. He would just play all day," Dwan recalled. "Stockton used to run in this marathon too every year in Spokane, and he nearly won it for a few years too. He's really a great athlete and I learned a lot from him."

Dwan graduated from Gonzaga in 1986 and then coached and taught P.E. at Maira Regina part-time and at Serra part-time. He was an assistant to George McDaniels in 1986-1987 and 1987-1988 and took over the following year as head coach. He's married with two children, and truly sounds happy and fulfilled with what he does. "I've been offered some college jobs," Dwan told us, "but I always found a reason not to take them. The last one was at UCSB as an assistant to Jerry Pimm. He was a great coach and a wonderful man, but as things turned out, I guess I was lucky I didn't take the job," said Dwan. For now, he has no plans to leave Serra, especially with a team as good as this year's squad.

Serra has a history of doing very well in basketball. They've played in 5 CIF Championship games and won 1, in 1989.  Last season they made it to the Southern Section Division IV-A Finals, losing to eventual state champion Verbum Dei 56-48. Finishing second in Southern Section, they advanced to the State Tournament Southern Regional, but lost in the first round to Corcoran, 66-61. Last year was an exceptionally good team. Gone from last year's team are Davon Johnson (5'-10" PG), and the Geter brothers, Deron (5'-11" SG/SF) and Leron (6'-1" SG/SF), JaShon Sykes (6'-5" PF/C)  and Corey Rainwater (6'-6" PF/C).  But they're just as strong this year, and we'd look for them to challenge Verbum heavily and possibly take the Southern Section and go even further this time around.

This year's team is:

Earl Lewis (6'-5" Sr. SF/PF)
Aerick Sanders (6'-8" Jr. C)
Doyle Cole (6'-6" Jr. PG/SG/SF/PF)
Ryan Odums (6'-1" Sr. PG/SG)
Sean Weston (6'-2" Sr. PG)
Palmer Brown (6'-4" Sr. SG/SF)
D.J. Wyatt (5'-9" Jr. PG)
Robert Lewis (6'-3" Sr. SG/SF/PF)
Lee Davis (6'-7" Sr. PF/C)
Jermaine Foster (6'-1" Jr. PG)
Warren Roger (5'-11" Jr. PG)

Serra is loaded, and we think will be better than ever. There are at least three, maybe four Division I college prospects on this team, and the first place college coaches should look is to Earl Lewis. He's been named two times to the Del Rey All-League team, and he's one of the most athletic players you'll find out on the wing and posting-up this year.  Earl can score inside or out, and he's developed great quickness and an almost automatic 12'-14' jumper. He's probably the most athletic guy on the team, and will be one of the team leaders this year. He's looking at Auburn, Washington, Oregon and OSU, but for now we'd have to say he's underrecuited and will probably wait to sign in the spring. He's a great student, and fully qualified in all the NCAA core classes and he's met the SAT requirements as well.

Among seniors, Ryan Odums also is a standout player, and he's probably the best shooter on the team. In Vegas this summer, Serra entered as a team, and when they were down by 22 points, he ran off 7 three-pointers in rapid-fire succession bringing them back into the game. He's got tremendous speed and has great ability to change up his direction and speed. On defense, he's a very disruptive player, and can be a real ball-hawk. He's got a great handle and we'd expect to see him handle most of the point duties this year, although when Sean Weston is back from football, Ryan will definitely play the two.  Sean was the starter for most of last season at the point, and he's got an excellent handle and the ability to find the open man in traffic. He's more of a scorer though, and likes to penetrate and drive, more so than he likes to shoot from the outside, but he can finish above the rim; and has good jumping ability.  But before all the college recruiters start to salivate, you ought to relax, because Sean is probably going to sign a football scholarship, and he's looking at Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Washington among others.

The junior duo of Doyle Cole and Aerick Sanders make up the balance of players who will probably be the starters in the early season. Doyle is probably the most versatile player on the team this year, and he truly can cover just about any position, from point to the power forward spot. He has phenomenal jumping ability and is a great defender. When you look at him you'll think "Ricky Price."  And he's also a great student and next year will be a major prospect.   Aerick Sanders is also going to be a major prospect, and between this year and last, he's put on some weight and gained just a ton of confidence. His skill level in the post has improved remarkably, and by the end of the summer he was backing bigger players out of the paint and dunking over all but the strongest of players down low. Aerick has tremendous energy and will dive for loose balls, rebound and will definitely be the "go to" guys this year.

Overall, there are 8 players returning from last year's team, and even though Ryan, Aerick, Earl, Doyle and Sean will probably start, there are a number of guys who would definitely be starters for most other teams.   First among them is Palmer, and he'll probably start at the two spot, at least until Sean gets back from football.  Palmer is an athletic player with great leaping ability, who can penetrate and score around the rim.  Another good addition to the team, up from the jv is point guard D.J. Wyatt, Aerick's best friend, who's got an excellent handle and nice court vision. He could possibly start at the point, but he'll have to beat out Sean and Ryan for the job; he runs the break exceptionally well, and is very quick off the first step.  Two other players will be looking for some time at the point: Jermaine Foster, a football player, may see some time and he's also athletic and competitive, maybe one of the most competitive guys on the team.  Also look for Warren Roger, a left-handed sprinter to challenge for some time at the one spot.

At the forward spots, look for Robert Lewis (who also can play the two or three very well, and Lee Davis, but both of them will be late joining the team and won't show until after football. Robert is the quarterback of the football team, a lefty, and sort of a "Doyle-type" of player. Last year he got the coach's award as the best competitor on the team, and he truly can play virtually any position on the floor. He's a very intense player and extremely competitive, rebounds and runs the floor very well.   Davis is a tackle on the football team, and weighs about 230 lbs now, so look for him to clog up the paint and play some post defense. Having him inside allows Earl to move to his natural three position, and we'd expect to see Davis getting some significant time this season.

Last year the team was young and deep; this year they are a bit older and a bit deeper, and they will be giving lots of teams fits from early in the season until late in the playoffs.  And they've got a very impressive schedule, both with league and the preseason.  Serra kicks off with a scrimmage against Long Beach Jordan at Jordan on November 24.

From there, Serra goes to the Reebok Compton Tip-Off Classic on November 30 against Ayala at 4:30 p.m.  We've already done a preview of Ayala, so if you want to see how they stack up, just check it out. 

From the Reebok Tip-Off Classic, Serra goes to the Pacific Shores Tournament, which actually runs from November 30 through December 5, (they had to have their first game rescheduled from the 30th to the 1st) and their first game will be on December 1 at 6:00 p.m. at Redondo Union against LA Locke High.

From there, Serra takes two days off and then goes to the Tournament of Champions at Ocean View from December 7-12.   They are one of the few teams taking a break thereafter, and they will then play in the Best in the West from December 26 through 30.  After the first of the year, they open at Chadwick on the 5th of January, and then will play Montclair Prep on the 8th.

This is going to be a great year for Serra. And a great year for coach Hurt. We'll be watching.

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