SoCalHoops High School News
High School Team Preview:
Crossroads School--(Nov. 4, 1999)
"To have a good basketball you need to focus on only two things: Hard work and winning. But my goal is to do more than just have a good basketball team; it's about turning out good people."--Darryl Roper, Head Coach, Crossroads
That's the same quote we got from Darryl Roper last year, and it still applies. He's now starting his 12th season as the head coach at Santa Monica Crossroads, a small school, four year coed high school with an enrollment of 489. Their most famous alum, Baron Davis, is now making a very nice living in the NBA, after playing two years in an injury plagued career at UCLA. Baron made the jump to the NBA three years after leaving Crossroads, but he's certainly left his mark on the program and on Roper. "Some people hear about our program, and they think that because their son is talented, he'll automatically make it. But this school is about more than athletics," Roper told us. "This is a very tough school to get into. Every applicant comes through the front door, takes the ISEE [Independent School Entrance Exam] and then we only take about one out of 10 applicants. So just because a kid can play is no guarantee of anything."
Darryl Roper is a Los Angeles native. He attended LA Fremont High, and his team won the City Championship in 1975, and then lost in the semifinals to Dorsey in 1976, the year he graduated. He credits his former Fremont coach Dave Yunai (now at CSULA) with being his true mentor. "Everything I learned about the game, all the fundamentals, he taught me. He's really my true mentor, both as a player and a coach." After graduating, Roper attended Cal State Fullerton, where he played for Bobby Dye (GM of the Idaho CBA franchise) and as a sophomore his team went to the NCAA "Great Eight," the only Fullerton team to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Roper became an assistant Crossroads for one season in 1982 following his college graduation, and then he went overseas to play pro ball in Europe, Israel, and Australia. When he came back to the US in 1989, he got a call about the job, and another telling him that David Benezra had recommended Darryl for the job. He's been there ever since and has a truly remarkable record. He's also coached Austin Crochere, Baron Davis, and seen many of his players go on to D-I careers. "While that's nice, it's just as satisfying to see a kid get a good academic scholarship at a good college. Not everyone can play at the level of a Baron Davis or Austin Crochere," Roper said. Darryl is married, and has two daughters ages 10 years and 2 years.
Like Greg Hilliard at Harvard-Westlake who coached Stanford's Jason and Jarron Collins, Darryl has "been to the mountain, and come back again," but this year he's ready to climb it again, and he may have all the right pieces in place to get another title in Division IV. Crossroads plays in Southern Section's Delphic League against Campbell Hall, Montclair Prep, Pacific Hills, Brentwood, Landmark West and Whitney, and they've won the league title every year for the past 10 years. They've been to the State Finals four times, three times in Division III (including a visit with former coach Dave "Rockfish" Benezra in 1987 defeating Colusa). With Baron Davis, the team won in 1997 against Sacramento Encina. Last season, Crossroads again won league, made it to the Southern Section CIF finals, ultimately losing to cross-town rival and eventual two-time state champion Verbum Dei. They made it to the State Regionals, losing to Horizon Christian, but it was a bittersweet loss for Roper and the team. "Isaiah Fox had been injured, he was unable to play. If he's in the game, I don't think there's any question but that we would have won."
But this year, Isaiah is back, and according to Roper, "He's the man, he's the messiah, as he goes, so will our team. Seriously, Isaiah is ready and we think we're going to be very, very good this year, and there may not be anyone who can stop us." Of course, Roper's other most quotable quote from our conversation last night was this: "Don't disturb the sleeping giant. That can mean a lot of things," Roper said somewhat cryptically, "but I think we're going to be very, very good." The team lost several players to graduation, including Chad Gordon (6'-3" SG), Devrin Anderson (6'-2" SG/PG) --who is now at LMU, but not playing this year, Mischa Taylor (6'-6" SF/PF), Albert Gersten (6'-3" SF/PF), Daniel Utsinger (6'-1" SG), Adam Shimolian (6'-3" PF), and a couple of others who have moved or left the school. But there's a really strong core group returning with some excellent and talented athletes.
Here's the roster for 1999-2000:
|Isaiah Fox||6'-10" Jr. F/C|
|Anthony Locke||5'-11" Jr. PG|
|Felipe Williams||6'-4" Sr. SG/SF|
|Kris Lofgren||6'-6" Jr. SG/SF|
|Nick Forman||5'-10" Jr. G|
|Ari Levin||5'-10" Sr. G|
|Andy Richards||6'-4" Jr. F|
|Jordan Rush||6'-5" So. SF|
|Joe Abrams||6'-2" So. SG|
|Douglas Hall||6'-6" So. SF/PF|
|Martin Usher||6'-1" Jr. SG/SF|
|Kai Oredugba||5'-9" Fr. SG|
|Nick Pfeiffer||6'-3" Sr. PF|
In the backcourt, the team will lead off at the point with Anthony Locke, and according to Roper, "Tony could be key to team. If he can use his abilities and move the ball up and stay in the game and out of foul trouble, we'll be looking for him to get the ball to Isaiah and Felipe so that they can do more things with it," Roper said. "He's been great the last four weeks in our conditioning, and he could have an excellent season. He really wants to be one of the guys everyone is talking about as a great point guard, and he could have that kind of year," Darryl told us. Backing up Tony will be Ari Levin, a player who understands the system and what Roper is trying to accomplish. "He's tough and has a good handle," said Roper. "With the two of them bringing the ball up this will take some of the pressure off Felipe Williams, who I intend to play at the two spot this year. Last year Felipe really had too much to do, and we'd like to get him up the sidelines and open more than just bringing up the ball."
Now that Crossroads has the height inside, they'll be able to use Williams at the two and occasionally at the three. He's a very powerful player, who can take bigger players off the dribble, or pull up outside creating good spacing off his change up and hesitation moves. Felipe is one of the true acknowledged star players on this team, and he's been three times All-State, was the Freshman of the Year, and made All-Southern Section CIF last season as well. "He's the only guy left from our State Championship team. If Isaiah is my Shaq, then Felipe is my Kobe," Roper joked. He's as committed to doing well this year as I've ever seen him, and he's very focused. Hopefully with him open more and shooting it will take some of the pressure off of Isaiah." Two or three other guys will figure prominently in the rotation and give Felipe some time to rest. Nick Forman will see some time at the two as will Joe Abrams, and possibly Kai Oredugba, the only freshman on the team. Forman is a small but very effective outside shooter, a spot up sort of player with a good stroke who can hit it very deep but who will need to step up his defensive intensity. "He's got a great attitude and works really hard. I'd like to see him continue to work well and improve on defense too," Roper said. Joe Abrams is, according to Roper, "one of the best pure shooters off the dribble I've seen. When he gets his feet under him, he's very good and very accurate all the way out to three point range." Roper figures that Abrams will be one of the "zone-busters" he'll rely on this season, and said, "He might even start." Kai Oredugba is the lone freshman, and while Roper thought about moving him to JV where he'd get more time, he also thinks it's important that he learn and get experience playing with the older guys.
At the wings/small forward spots, look for a group of players to all fight for spots in the rotation, including returnees Kris Lofgren and newcomers Andy Richards and Jordan Rush, as well as some assistance from Martin Usher and Nick Pfeiffer. Lofgren is a really big two man, but he's also probably going to see time at the three or the four spot. He's an extremely hard working guy, who had an excellent summer, but who will be needed to fill the void left by Devrin Anderson's graduation and also to relieve some pressure on the boards for Isaiah Fox. Andy Richards, another junior, is a strong, burly kid, who Roper says has a great attitude. "He's a tough, inside player, a true power forward at this level, with good moves and a nice shot around basket, who will also help take some of the pressure off Isaiah." Martin Usher, a returning junior and a strong, hard-nosed rebounder who likes to mix it up inside and do all the dirty work, and Nick Pfeiffer, a senior utility player who is also a very hardworking guy, will both try to relieve a little pressure for Isaiah down low.
Also looking for time at the wing spots are the two transfers, Jordan Rush from Westchester and Doug Hall from Venice. Roper says about Rush that he "may be the most physically gifted athlete I've seen in a long time. He's silky smooth, has a great shot and plays smart, and has a lot of upside potential." Of course Roper also tempered his remarks a bit, recognizing that none of these players yet has a "complete" game: "Jordan, like a lot of very talented guys, needs to play really hard, and needs to step it up all the time, and most of all needs to understand our system and what we're trying to do. He's young, so that will come with time." But then Roper quickly noted, "Jordan is very talented. He can score, drive, shoot the ball, dunk, and is very talented, and we're glad he's here." The other transfer, Douglas Hall, came over from Venice and is also new to the program. He's young, "springy, and jumps really well. I think we'll also use him as a backup center; he's a really good back to the basket kind of guy and a good defender," said Roper.
Finally, Isaiah Fox (6'-10" Jr. F/C), will have the weight of Crossroads on his shoulders. According to Roper, he's in top condition right now. "He needs to be in the game. He's the heart and soul of our offense and our team," said Roper. Isaiah is the type of player who can be dominating, and loves to play against bigger and better competition. He's got a nice soft touch around the basket, good footwork, can play good defense and move offensive players out of the paint and rebounds well. There's no question that he's considered one of the premier power forward/centers in the very talented junior class, and he ranks up with the truly elite players in the country in the junior class.
Local fans will get plenty of opportunity to see Crossroads, but they won't be doing any out of town travel this season other than to Fresno. From Dec. 1-4 they'll be up in Fresno for the BCW Tournament (Buchannan-Clovis West), and then they'll play Crenshaw at Crenshaw on the evening of December 7, and it will be a chance for Roper to coach against E.J. Harris, (committed to Kansas State) who was originally at Crossroads as a freshman before transferring to the 'Shaw.
On December 14, Crossroads will play Harvard-Westlake at their place, and then they'll also travel up to Santa Barbara to play in a new, inaugural "Nike Santa Barbara Tournament." Roper didn't have any of the details on that one (in fact he said they haven't yet signed the contract) but we'll try to get the details of who might be coming.
From December 27-30, Crossroads will be at the Best in the West Tournament, and then they'll come back for a couple of non-league games, including one against Chadwick, and they'll also be playing in the Nike Dream Classic (if that's indeed what it will be called this year) which will be held at the Long Beach State Pyramid on the Monday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Coach Roper didn't have a league schedule available (we'll post it up shortly though direct from the CIF), but he did make some minor predictions. "I hear that Campbell Hall has some good young players, but I think it will really be between us, maybe Montclair Prep and possibly Pacific Hills, which is always tough." Beyond that, Roper wasn't making many other predictions except that you'll see Crossroads in the D-IVA Southern Section finals.
We'll be watching.
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