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SoCalHoops High School News

High School Team Preview:
Crespi Carmelite HS--(Nov. 22, 1999)

"This could be the best shot we've had at winning it all since I've been coaching at Crespi. We're deep at every position, with good quickness and size. And this is also the best defensive team I've coached here." --Dick Dornan, head coach, Crespi High School

Dick Dornan is going into his 7th year of coaching, his 6th at Crespi, a small boys' only school located in Encino, with an enrollment of 483 boys.  This will be his his third full season as the Varsity Head Coach, and he's looking forward to getting started tomorrow night.  The biographical data we've posted on Coach Dornan in our past previews is already available online here at SoCalHoops, but at the risk of repeating just a bit of it, here goes: Dick Dornan graduated in 1986 from Crespi. He attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating in 1990, and during his time there, worked under Digger Phelps and Lou Holtz as a student manager. After graduating from college, Dornan worked with the Lakers' front office as a publicist from 1990-1995, and he credits former Laker Michael Cooper with inspiring him to get into coaching.  Hanging around the Lakers players and coaches, he had plenty of opportunity to be inspired by guys like Magic Johnson, Vlade Divac, Byron Scott and others.  He also got to work with the USA Dream Team early in his career when they were working out in San Diego, and he observed all the practices, listened and watched as Coach K and Chuck Daly did their thing, and he also got to attend all of the coaching clinics.  This was just one more item that inspired him to try his hand at coaching. In 1996-97, Dornan returned to Crespi when former Crespi coach and AD Paul Muff unexpectedly died; the then-jv coach moved up to varsity, creating an opening at the jv level, and Dornan grabbed it, and after one year of coaching jv, he moved up to coach the Varsity two years ago.

"Inspirational" is a word which comes to mind when you start to talk to and about Dornan, in at least several respects.  First, he's clearly an inspired guy, an extremely effective communicator who is able to inspire his players, able to get the best from them.  Second, he's always telling little anecdotes, stories and parables with inspirational overtones which often are about him and his many connections to basketball's coaching elite.   Whether it's his ability to get the legendary John Wooden to come out to Crespi to talk to this year's team (a small talk which evolved into a full blown practice where Wooden ran the show for an hour and a half), or just telling a story about one of his pro or college basketball friends, Dornan is both inspired and inspiring.

A great example is his connection to the story about "Rudy".  If you ask Dornan about his years at Notre Dame, he'll tell you about "Rudy,"  and candidly, it's a story we hadn't heard until our interview with Dornan last week. "If you've seen the movie Rudy, then you know how special that story is to a Notre Dame grad. [Ed: "Rudy" is the true life story of a young man from a steel town, a football nut of limited physical talent, who has a dream about attending and playing at Notre Dame on the football team. Rudy eventually makes his way onto the team as a practice player, but never gets the chance to suit up for game day.  We won't reveal the entire story, but there's a critical scene in the movie following the coach's announcement to the team that Rudy, the hardest working practice player ever at Notre Dame, won't be allowed to suit up for what would be the last game of his senior year.  The scene has every starter on the team walking into the coach's office, and one by one, each player lays his jersey on the table, and tells the coach, that he won't play unless Rudy is allowed to suit up.  One by one they say "this is for Rudy," and they leave their game jerseys behind.  Of course, Rudy winds up suiting up . . . Really, while the story is a bit corny, it's true and very, well, very inspirational. . . there's that word again]. 

Dornan told us of his connection to the film:   "You remember the scene where everyone lays their jerseys on the coach's desk?  Well, I didn't know about this for several years afterward, but apparently, the names on the backs of the jerseys represent the names of some of the SID's and managers of Notre Dame teams.   And if you watch the scene closely, you'll see that the only jersey that is placed on the table with the name facing in the direction of the camera has 'Dornan'  written on it.   It's a jersey with my name on it.  It was a great honor, especially for a Notre Dame grad like me. It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it," Dornan told us.

Just another inspiration for a clearly inspired coach. 

Last year, Crespi finished 3rd in the Mission League, a somewhat less than inspirational finish behind Chaminade and Alemany, which tied for first, and Harvard-Westlake, which finished second.  But in every cloud there's still a silver lining, and Crespi actually improved from 4th in Dornan's first season.   Overall he's got a 31-23 record, and is 12-12 in league play, and figures that they'll improve upon that this season.   Crespi plays in the Mission League against Chaminade, Notre Dame, Harvard-Westlake, Alemany, St. Francis and Loyola, and this is one of the most competitive leagues in the region. The Celts are a Division IV-AA team, and last year made it as far as the CIF Southern Section Semifinals in the division, one game away from making it to the finals and a trip to the State Tournament.  Now that was inspirational. . .

Looking at the league this year, Dornan thinks that this could be their best shot at a title since he's been coaching. "The way I see it right now, there are about four teams capable of taking a title.  Chaminade is the overall favorite, and they have to be until somebody beats them, but we think we can compete," Dornan said.   "We have very good depth at every position, and while we may not be the most offensively oriented team, I think we are quick, big and this may be the best defensive team I've coached here."  As for other contenders, Dornan said that he thinks it may be a three-way race once you get past Chaminade:   "Harvard-Westlake has some good seniors, and Geffner and Lakey are dangerous, and Hilliard is a great coach; Notre Dame has become a whole lot better with Luderer there this year than without him. [Mike Luderer transferred from Crespi to Notre Dame over the summer]. We think we can win the league, but it's going to be a real battle," Dornan said.

Dornan will have some help in the coaching department this season, with two assistants on the sidelines: Chris Yoakum, from Bishop Montgomery is in his second season as a defensive coach. "Chris is 30, and I'm 31, and I think we could wind up as being a great coaching team for a while," Dornan said. "We've also got Paul Grazulis this year, and he's our 'big man' coach.  He's 6'-9"  and played center at Eastern Michigan in 1988. I'm just glad we've got someone who really understands the position and who will work with and teach our guys the nuances of post play."

Here's the roster for 1999-2000:

Andrew Moore 6'-1" Jr. SG
Allan Ellis 5'-11" So. PG
Devin St. Albin 6'-1" Sr. PG
Gregg Robinson 5'-11" Sr. SG
Kingsley Anyanwu 6'-3" Jr. SG/SF
Matt Biernat 6'-6" Sr. PF/SF
Robby Koslowsky 5'-10" So. SG
Pat Casella 5'-11" Sr. PG
Derrick O'Dwyer 6'-3" Jr. SF
Charlie Shiebler 6'-1" Jr. SG
Mike Grimes 6'-6" Sr. C
Aaron Tunney 6'-0" Sr. F
Brandon Duplessie 6'-6" Jr. C
Perry Smith 6'-6" Sr. C

According to Dornan, the backcourt is one of the strengths of this year's team, and it's likely that you'll see Andrew Moore starting there. "Andrew is one of the premier shooters in the region," said Dornan. "He's getting some looks from a lot of the Ivy League right now, including Yale and Brown, and he's also being recruited by Santa Clara, and other WCC schools." We've seen Moore a lot over the years, and he's gotten even stronger in the last year and improved his shot a lot. He was named First Team All-League last season, and he's good off the dribble or catching and releasing, and he could potentially be one of the best players in the league again this year. "He's the epitome of what I think of when I talk about Crespi basketball," said Dornan.   Joining Moore in the backcourt will be Pat Casella, another senior co-captain with Andrew, and a solid point guard who unfortunately was injured a lot last season. "Pat is a very creative player, very quick off the dribble, who also is showing great leadership on this team. He's coming off a terrible year where he had his season ruined with a sprained ankle, but he's regained most of his strength and will be ready to go," Dornan said. "With Pat, Andrew and Kingsley in the backcourt, not to mention some of our other players, we could have one of the best backcourts in the Valley this year."  Casella is looking at several schools but is most interested in the College of Notre Dame and St. Mary's in California, but is really eyeing a small school in Connecticut, Quinnipiac College. "Apparently his sister attends school there, and he may also be able to get significant playing time," said Dornan. Wherever he winds up though, it's fairly certain that this three year varsity player who was named to the second team All-Mission League team as a sophomore should be one of the better players in the league this year.

Casella will get some valuable backup at the point from a couple of players, including Alan Ellis and Devin St. Albin.  Ellis was promoted to the varsity last year for the first 7 games of the year, but then went back down to the jv's to get more playing time. Unfortunately for him, he blew out his knee in the first jv game, and lost the entire season. "Allan is back to 100%, and he's really explosive now in practices. He's got a great handle, but will need to become more consistent on defense and applying on-ball pressure. Still," said Dornan, "he's one of our hardest working guys.   He'll see some time this year, but really, this year he'll be the heir apparent and won't really take over any significant point duties until next year and the year after."  Devin St. Albin took a year off but came back to the team this summer. "He's one of the more athletic players on the team, and he's got great quickness, but he's a little think. His best attribute is that he's got good size and can penetrate very well, and is an aggressive defender," said Dornan.  "We will expect big things from both Devin and Allan this year." 

Providing backup at the two spot for Moore will be Gregg Robinson, who could just be one of the best defenders on the team.  Offensively he's probably a better shot off the dribble than a catch and release guy coming off a screen, but he's working on that aspect of his game. "He's got a tremendous work ethic, and he's really the epitome of what a 'sixth man' is all about.  Robby Koslowsky  will also see time at the two.  He was the freshman team's MVP last year, and has improved dramatically over the summer.  "He could be the teams' second best three point shooter in general,   after Moore, and he's physically stronger than last year too which is great," Dornan said. "Robby is turning into one of the top defenders; he's young but he'll play a lot and will be key for us for the next two years. In fact, Kingsley and Robby are the two who improved the most over the fall conditioning period.  They are both very fundamentally sound, and the best thing about them, like a lot of the other guys on the team is that they listen and learn. They're very coachable," Dornan said.

At the combo guard position, really more of a two/three type of player, look for Kingsley Anyanwu, a junior shooting guard-small forward transfer from Taft.  "Kingsley has the most potential of just about anyone, from a purely athletic point of view, and he could also be a D-I prospect in two years," said Dornan.   "He's very eager to learn the game, very good at shooting, and has nice drive to the hole with an excellent crossover with his long arms, and best of all, he's got an explosive first step."  Kingsley will share some time with Charlie Shiebler, another good shooter. "He's also very fundamentally sound, and one of our hardest working practice players, probably the third best shooter behind Moore and Koslowsky, and he's a tough, tenacious defender, who knows the game of basketball, knows when to shoot it or pull up," said Dornan.  Shiebler can shoot off the dribble or catch and release. "He's not at all flashy, but just goes out and produces."

At the four, look for three guys to all vie for starting time: Matt Biernat, Derrick O'Dwyer, and Aaron Tunney.   Tunney is the only returning varsity starter. "Aaron has the heart of a 6'-9" guy, and is our best post defender on the team. He boxes out better than anyone, and will just run through a brick wall," Dornan says.  "He'll dive for loose balls, hit other guys, set screens, and do all the things no one else likes to do, all those little things that win games," Dornan told us.  "Tunney is also one of the co-captains this year and will be counted on for some big contributions."   Matt Biernat is also another player who will be looked to for big things this season. "He's been rapidly maturing, and is probably our best rebounder right now," Dornan told us. "He's a lefty, has excellent post moves and a great work ethic. I think he could be key to our team this year."    Biernat is also getting some recruiting attention after a reasonably good summer with one of the ARC travel teams which played in Vegas at the Big Time and at the Slam N Jam NIT in Long Beach, and he's getting some attention from mostly D-III schools like the College of Notre Dame and St. Joseph's of Indiana.  Lastly, Derrick O'Dwyer is the lone football player on the he team. "He just came out last year for the jv, and was one of the most effective members of that squad," Dornan said. "He's got a nice medium range jumper and is pretty skilled; he will get his share of minutes this year, but next year could be one of the better players on the team.

At the post, look for three guys, with Mike Grimes, Perry Smith and Brandon Duplessie to get most of the minutes, but not necessarily in that order.  Mike has definitely improved from last year, where he was hampered with limited time but this year he's definitely the best "big man" shooter on the squad.  "He's really effective boxing out other players, and has great touch inside or outside.  He's been developing some nice footwork inside and can also flare out on the wing and shoot it," said Dornan.  Mike is really a finesse player, sort of in the mold of a Rick Smith."   Brandon Duplessie transferred from St. Bonaventure in that "four-way-deal" (just joking) which saw Duplessie and Kingsley come to Crespi from St. Bonaventure and Taft, respectively and which saw Gregg Guenther (6'-8" Sr. PF/C) go to Taft for football and Mike Luderer (6'-3" Sr. SG/SF) go to Notre Dame.   Brandon is a natural shotblocker, very strong, perhaps the strongest on team, and he bench presses 225. "He's working on some good post moves, but will need to be more aggressive on the blocks to take advantage of his size and muscle, but he's very effective outside with a nice shot; we obviously want him to be more of an inside guy, and he's adapting well to that role," Dornan told us.  "He's a great kid, who could also be a low D-I in a couple of years. Right now Colorado State is interested, and we'll see what happens this season. But he could be a big-time player."  Finally, Perry Smith, another 6'-6" guy, who played jv last season, will see some time at center. "Perry has developed into a good rebounder who is getting better offensively and in the low post. He'll get his minutes this year and we'll definitely count on him to provide support at the center position," Dornan said.

Crespi has a tough schedule this season, perhaps the toughest of any other team in the Mission League next to Chaminade and Harvard-Westlake.  From December 2-4 the Celts will be up in San Luis Obispo for the SLO Tournament, which will feature teams like San Clemente, San Luis Obispo, Bullard from Fresno and a lot of other D-III and D-IV teams.   They'll play LA Baptist on December 7, and then they'll be at Simi Valley on the 11th.  From December 14-18, they'll play in the Valencia tournament against teams like Notre Dame and Lynwood, and from the 27-30th they'll appear at the Westlake Tournament with teams such as Chatsworth, Burroughs Burbank, and Lynwood again.

Here's the schedule for this season:

Dec 2-4 @ San Luis Obispo Tournament
Dec 7 LA Baptist
Dec 11 @ Simi Valley
Dec. 14-18 @ Valencia Tournament
Dec. 27-30 @*Westlake Tournament
Jan 5 @* Harvard-Westlake
Jan  7 @*Chaminade
Jan 10 @* Alemany
Jan 12 *Loyola
Jan 20 *Notre Dame
Jan 22 @*St. Francis
Jan 26 *Harvard-Westlake
Jan 28 *Chaminade
Jan 31 *Alemany
Feb 2 @*Loyola
Feb 7 @*Notre Dame
Feb 9 *St.Francis

In between tournaments this December, Coach Dornan will also be holding a special session of his Crespi Winter Basketball Camps for players ages 8-13.   The camps will be held from December 20-22, every day from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Crespi's gym in Encino. The emphasis will be on footwork and shooting, and this is a great experience for young players to get to work with some talented coaches. If you are interested, contact Coach Dornan at (818) 345-1672.

Dornan is convinced that this year, Crespi can overcome what he perceives as their few weaknesses: lack of game experience and youth.  Their strengths, including their athleticism, shooting and team chemistry far outweigh any deficiencies and the addition of some strong transfers hasn't hurt either.  Whether they are able to take a league title or not may become largely irrelevant for purposes of the playoffs, since at least four teams in the Mission League will qualify (and possibly more if wild cards are needed in certain divisions), and Crespi is all but certain to face some incredibly tough competition in their division (IV-AA) from teams like St. Paul, Serra, Marshall Fundamental, Laguna Beach and possibly even St. Bernard's.  And then, of course,there's always Compton Centennial, with Ellis Myles, Omar Weaver, Anthony Coleman, and those are just the inside guys. . . wow.  This is not going to be any pushover division, and assuming Crespi makes the playoffs as they should, they'll face a difficult road to the finals.  Whether they've got what it will take to get there is something that we'll know only when the season is over.  But one thing is certain:   We'll be watching. . . .

 The Swish Award
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