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SoCalHoops High School News

High School Team Preview:
Bishop Montgomery--(Nov. 15, 1999)

"Last year we were really two different teams; one was tall, the other was a running team; this year we're going to be one kind of team, and we are so quick that sometimes it's just scary."--Doug Mitchell, head coach, Bishop Montgomery High School

We caught up with Bishop Montgomery Knights head coach Doug Mitchell a couple of days ago, and he managed to squeeze in enough time during his busy day to talk about a variety of subjects, mostly though about the Bishop Montgomery team this year, which is a good thing since that's what this preview is supposed to be about. Two years ago, Bishop Montgomery played in Division III-A;  last year, due to a slightly higher enrollment, they were  moved up to Division III-AA for the playoffs. This year, no one really knows where they'll be, and as a result, Mitchell really can't comment about the competition, except from an overall point of view in D-III in general:   "I have no idea where we're going to be this year, or where anyone else will be placed in the divisions, so I can't tell you who I think we're likely to see during the playoffs.  I do think though that we'll be in the playoffs, because this year we're even better than last year."   And that's not just an understatement, because Bishop Montgomery has two of the highest high-profile players in the country in Errick and Derrick Craven,  along with Kenny D'Oyen, Brian Pruitt, and DeVaughn Peace, who will try to bring the Knights back to the promised land of another Southern Section final.  Only this time, they hope to win. Last year, Bishop Montgomery made it to the finals, only to lose to San Dimas.  But that was then, and this is now.  

Bishop Montgomery is a private, Catholic,  co-ed school with an enrollment of 1243 students, located in Torrance, and run by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.    Mitchell has been the head coach at Bishop Montgomery for the past 11 years, and his view hasn't changed at all from what he told us last year.  "I'm very happy as a high school coach, and I don't have any plans to try to move to the college ranks."  As Mitchell told us last year, "You know, I'm in my 40's, married with a daughter, and college jobs just don't fall off trees. I don't think I'm in a position any longer to become a graduate assistant. I'm very happy at Bishop Montgomery. This is a great school, and I hope to continue here for a long time."

Mitchell is from SoCal, and he attended high school here at South Torrance High, where he played basketball for three years. He graduated in 1976, attended Antelope Valley College, and continued playing for two years. He worked for a time in the construction industry, and eventually returned to Cal State Dominguez Hills, earning a degree in history in 1988.  He is a history teacher and does not teach P.E..  His connection to coaching began while he was at CSUDH; during that time he was a four year assistant coach at Palos Verdes HS under John Mihalovic (the same guy who coached PV   game where Bill Laimbeer and Butch VanBredakoff beat David Greenwood and Roy Hamilton for a CIF title. He then coached for one year at South Torrance and then got the job at Bishop Montgomery.  Doug is married with a young daughter. 

Two years ago, Bishop Montgomery contended for a Southern Section Division III-A title, losing to Chaminade in the Southern Section Finals, and then getting knocked out in the first round of the Southern Regionals in the State Championship tournament by Ocean View. Last year Mitchell had most of the same team returning, and was looking forward to taking advantage of not only the Knights' quickness, but also their tremendous size, with guys like Gabriel Hughes, the "little" brother of Cal's Solomon Hughes, no diminutive fellow himself.   But to hear Mitchell recall what happened, he'll tell you that he really coached two entirely different teams last season: The team which began the year was not the same team that finished.  "We really had two different teams on the floor. At the beginning of the year, I thought we were going to be a really tall team, and that we'd just end up pounding away inside, that our size would be our best attribute," Mitchell said.  "But then we had a bunch of guys go out with injuries, including Tony Booker and Hughes, and with Pruitt's injury too, we really became a running team that was much better in the open court."

Whether it was size or speed, an inside game or a running, full-court slashing game, Bishop Montgomery again went deep into the Southern Section playoffs, about as deep as you can go, making it to the Championship game in Division III-AA, but ultimately losing to San Dimas62-55. In the State Southern Regionals, Bishop Montgomery lost to USDHS in the first round; USDHS then went on to face San Dimas, and wound up in a showdown with Washington Union and we all know what happened there as DeShawn Stevenson led his Panthers to a State Title.

Bishop Montgomery plays in the Del Rey Athletic League, against Bishop Amat, St. Bernard's, St. John Bosco, St. Joseph (Lakewood), St. Paul, and Gardena Serra.  It's a tough league but the two best teams this year should be Bishop Montgomery and Serra. "In our league, Serra has got to be one of the favorites just because they've got such good size, but I think we may be a little bit deeper than them. After us and them, just about anyone can be tough, especially the teams we have to play on the road.    St. Paul always plays well at home and Amat competes, and you just never know about St. Bernard's and Bosco," Mitchell said.  "As far as the Divisional Playoffs, who knows. Until we know which teams are in which divisions, I really have no idea who we'll be competing against.  I do know that when you talk about Division III overall, from a statewide point of view, Chaminade, USDHS, Washington Union, and maybe even St. Augustine are all top teams. In fact a lot of people have been telling me that St. Augustine may be even better than USDHS this year," Mitchell said. 

This year Bishop Montgomery will be an all-running, gunning, open-court type of team. Gone from last years team are Marvin Perez, Tony Booker, Garrett Lee, Gabriel Hughes, Eric Torres, Quincy Kelly, all of whom graduated. Also gone is 

Here's the roster for 1999-2000:

Brian Pruitt 6'-6" Sr. F
Errick Craven 6'-2" Jr. SG/PG
Derrick Craven 6'-2" Jr. SG/PG
DeVaughn Peace 6'-3" Jr. PG/SG
Kenny D'Oyen 5'-9" Jr. PG
Leland Dodd 6'-2" Jr. SG/SF
Ian Salisbury 6'-0" Sr. G
Daniel Fynaardt 6'-1" Sr. G
Craig Caldwell 6'-3" Jr. SF/PF
Gavin Lee 6'-3" So. SG/SF
Fred Washington 6'-3" Fr. SG

You might notice one name missing: David Colbert (5'-10" Jr.PG), has transferred to Lynwood.  He'll be missed, but there are plenty of other guards on this team who will more than take up any slack, and in fact the Knights won't miss a beat.  Last year, as noted above, Brian Pruitt was injured all season.  But he's back now, and he's reportedly 100% from a physical point of view. "While he's healthy, and able to play, there's no doubt that his injury has hurt his development a bit," Mitchell told us.  "Just how much it hurt is something we won't know for a while, but Brian is playing very well in football, where he's a wide receiver. But he's just now getting his game back."  Pruitt is a very talented player, who started on the varsity as a freshman, and who was an all-league soph and the team's leading scorer.  He could have had a great career, but the injury interrupted that, so everyone is hoping for a huge senior year. "He's really very strong, not at all an inside player, but he can bang around when he needs to. He's really very strong, but for us will be more of a three with a good inside outside game. He's up to about 215 lbs, and really has worked on his strength all summer," Mitchell said. "I think he'll have an outstanding year."

Mitchell was also not at a loss for words about his two twins, Errick and Derrick Craven. "While Errick has gotten maybe a little more publicity than Derrick, and is perhaps a slightly better finisher, Derrick is probably a better creator of his own shot off the dribble and has slightly better court vision," Mitchell told us.  "But the great thing about these two guys is that for all the attention they've gotten, they're still just great kids, and they are the most coachable players I've had, ever."  Both of the Craven twins are high-major prospects, who are extremely athletic, with long arms and incredible rebounding skills, and a great ability to find a way to get to the basket.

A lot of the summer teams they've played with have attempted to utilize these two at various positions on the floor, but according to Mitchell, that's really the wrong approach to their game. "With these two, you really don't think 'position' because they are not 'position' players.  While they can both play the point, I prefer to have others cover the true point guard responsibilities.  A point guard is supposed to be thinking about balance on the floor, about getting the ball to the guy who is open, the guy with the hot hand. I don't want these two having to worry about that sort of thing, and that's why we have Kenny or DeVaughn to handle the point guard duties," Mitchell said.  "With Errick and Derrick, I want to let them run the court, free them up to do what they do best, get to the glass and score."

Mitchell said that he's gotten letters from virtually every top program you can think of when it comes to the Cravens. "Kansas, Stanford, Notre Dame, virtually every Pac-10, Big-12, and many others have written, and the kids are interested in a lot of different schools.  The Arizona coaches have come to the school, as have a couple of others. There's no doubt in my mind that these two are going to be big time players," said Mitchell. "But they haven't let it get to their heads.  Let me give you an example. Just this past spring, I talked to Derrick about his shot. He was shooting across his face, and while the shot was going in, I suggested to him that if we improved his mechanics, he might even become a better shooter.  A lot of kids would say 'Yeah sure' and then go about their own way. But Derrick was just great and he said, 'Ok, great, let's work on my shot'," Mitchell recalled.  "I think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they see these two play this year, because it's sometimes said that they're not shooters from the perimeter and that's been an element of their game that they needed to improve.  They're improving it and the shots are now dropping." 

Mitchell is sensitive (perhaps that's not the right word, perhaps "attuned" is better)  to the to the claims made by some that the Cravens are more slash and drive than they are finesse players, that every time down the court is isolation, one-on-one crossover dribbles with a drive to the basket.   "Well, that's a big part of their game, but remember, Errick made 50 three-pointers last year, and Derrick was also a decent shooter from inside.  As I said, they've been working on their shots, and I think a lot of people will see a whole new dimension to their game."  Both were All-CIF last year,  and Derrick was All-State, and both of them have a chance to be named co-CIF players of the Year in their Division, and this is the same division (D-III) which will have DeShawn Stevenson too.  Can the CIF have a three-way award?

Also in the backcourt this year will be DeVaughn Peace, who Mitchell thinks is one of the most underrated players on the team.  "He does a lot of subtle things, sacrifices the most of anyone on the team, and he's just such a great player; he's done a lot of things so that others can get the numbers and the reputations, but he's a great player in his own right," Mitchell said.   "He's matured physically in the past year," said Mitchell, a fact we can confirm having seen him as recently as two weeks ago at a Rockfish workout where he was a boy in a man's body. "He's been lifting and is unbelievably strong right now. He's also the most unselfish player on the team."  Peace is a quick footed, excellent ballhandler who can backup at the one or, in the system which Mitchell intends to run, be one of several point guards on the floor at the same time. He started at the point, but Mitchell is trying to expand his game this year: "We'd like for DeVaughn to do more this year than just bring the ball up; we  want him and Kenny D'Oyen in together,   and we'd like to see him do the things he does well, which is be a very creative passer and player," Mitchell said.  "Up until now, he's always channeled that creativity for others; now we want him to finalize more for himself. His role is changing and we want him to be a more complete player," Mitchell said.  DeVaughn is getting some interest from the mid-DI level, including from schools like Pepperdine, SDSU, and others.

At the point, or at least sharing the point with DeVaughn will be Kenny D'Oyen, the brother of Delano D'Oyen, who is the starting point guard on for the University of Santa Clara. "He's our Energizer Bunny," Mitchell said.   "He never wears down, he just gets into other guys, defends, pushes the ball and plays hard. He's got excellent court vision and is a great passer, and even has a decent shot. If he stays away from the rainbow arc shot, and sticks with the 15' jumper, he'll be fine, and he's actually very talented with some of his moves to the basket. Kenny had a marvelous summer, has gotten a lot stronger, and he's really solid," Mitchell said.  "He's everything you look for in a solid point guard."

Another potential starter in the backcourt, really a perimeter player is Leland Dodd. "He's just starting to figure out how good he can be, shooting and stroking the ball well. He's only 15 and while he played in the same type of league competition with the Cravens and the rest of our juniors and seniors, he's a little younger, so he was usually with a younger age group as these kids came up through youth basketball in the area," Mitchell recalled.  "But he's finally coming into his own.  Right now he's probably our sixth man, but he could come in and start for anyone."  Another couple of guards who could potentially see a lot of playing time are Ian Salisbury and Daniel Fynaardt, two very athletic shooters with good handles who play tough pressure defense.

At the forward spot, look for Craig Caldwell, who will provide interior defense and rebounding, and give some depth up front. Gavin Lee, a very talented sophomore will also provide some inside outside defense and scoring as well.   "In our system, we'll run a lot of motion, and everyone is really interchangeable, each guy has to be able to do a lot of things.  Gavin is probably more of a perimeter player, but we're going to ask him to do a lot of other things. He's probably the biggest surprise of the team this year, and he will play a lot of minutes coming in off the bench, and if he keeps playing hard, he might even have a chance to start some," said Mitchell.  Lastly, Bishop Montgomery will also have the services of Fred Washington, a young but very talented freshman player who will "play all over, but mostly as a true wing guard," according to Mitchell. Washington was with a very talented 4D team and also played for Pat Barrett's Southern California All-Stars, and he's been to the AAU Nationals and knows what it takes to win. "He's an excellent slasher, can shoot a little, but is really best in the open court.  He can finish really well for a freshman, and just finds a way to get to the basket, attacking all the time. Like last year, my real problem will be finding enough minutes for everyone, which is a nice problem to have," Mitchell said.

Bishop Montgomery will play a very tough season, and will also appear at several high profile events.  Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday weekend the team will play in two of the biggest MLK events.  On Saturday, January 15, the Knights will play the Washington Union Panthers and Kansas signee DeShawn Stevenson (6'-5" Sr. SG) at Cal State Dominguez Hills in the adidas Double Pump Hoop Challenge in a game which could be a prelude to a Division III State Southern Regional Final.  The following Monday, January 17, they'll play in the Nike Dream Classic against Mayfair and Josh Childress and Edwin Draughan in another blockbuster game.   They'll lead off the season with three tournaments, the Pacific Shores Tournament at Redondo and Mira Costa, the La Canada/St. Francis Tournament, and finally, a run through the Best in the West at Cal State Long Beach.

Here's the entire schedule from start to finish for 1999-2000:

Date Opponent
Nov. 20-Dec 4 @ Redondo Mira Costa Pacific Shores Tournament
Dec. 15-23 @ La Canada/St. Francis Tournament
Dec. 27-30 @ Best in the West Tournament (CSULB)
Jan 7 St. Bernard
Jan 8 @ Mayfair
Jan 14 Serra
Jan 15 Fresno Washington Union at CSUDH
adidas Double Pump Hoop Challenge
Jan 17 Mayfair at the Pyramid
Nike Dream Classic
Jan 21 @ St. Paul
Jan 26 Bishop Amat
Jan 28 @ St. Bernard
Feb 4 @ Serra
Feb 9 St. Paul
Feb 11 @ Bishop Amat

This is going to be an exciting season for Bishop Montgomery. Whether they're really good enough to make it back to the Southern Section finals and beyond to the State Tournament is something that only time will tell.  But one thing is for certain: This will be a quick, exciting and fun team, and it will be one heck of a ride this year.  We'll be watching.

 The Swish Award
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