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SoCalHoops High School News

High School Team Preview:
Dominguez (Compton)--(Nov. 18, 1999)

"We've got a lot of work to do before we can think about the State Title again this year. We're an excellent team, but we've got a lot to do."--Russell Otis, head coach, Compton Dominguez

Russell Otis is the head varsity coach of the Compton Dominguez Dons, one of three high schools in the Compton Unified School District. Dominguez has an enrollment of 2,065 students, and is thus slotted into the Southern Section's II-A division.  They've been one of the most successful programs in SoCal basketball over the past decade, and even before that with some great players who have made names for themselves in the NBA, including Cedric Ceballos.  Over the last 10 years though, they've won three state championships and several more Southern Section CIF crowns, and they are consistently ranked among the top teams in the State, and have frequently been in solid contention for the mythical USA Today "National Championship."

They compete in league play in the San Gabriel Valley League of the Southern Section, a tough league where they compete against Downey, Gahr, Lynwood, Paramount and Warren.  The league usually has one or two other teams who can compete, but by and large for the last five or six years, other than a challenge here and there, Dominguez seems to use its league competition as an interlude, a stopping off point between the high-profile events in which they participate during the preseason, and the playoffs and State Championship tournament.  They are the defending State Champions, and many rank them as among the top 10 in the State again, and possibly one of the truly elite-level teams in the U.S.

Will they play in Division I or in Division II again.   That's the question everyone's asked throughout the summer, and candidly, Russell Otis still isn't saying, and evidently a decision about whether they will move up or remain in their enrollment division doesn't have to be made until December, so there's still time. Just like last year though, Russell Otis says that there are a lot of people interested in whether they'll make the move or not. "Everyone is calling again,   asking which Division we'll be in. I guess it's a compliment they still want to know what we're going to do before they decide which division they'll be in," Otis said.

Otis is another coach who returned to his alma mater to teach the next generation. He played basketball at Dominguez under coach Ernie Carr. After graduation, he attended Southern Utah University where he also played. In 1986, he graduated with degrees in P.E. and Criminal Justice, and he returned to Compton to begin coaching the sophomore team at Dominguez. In 1987, Russell became head coach. In his second year as varsity head coach won his first CIF Southern Section title. Dominguez has won three State Division II Championships, in 1996 when the Dons beat Northgate from Walnut Creek 65-49, in 1997 when the team featuring Tayshaun Prince, Walter Small, and Kenny Brunner defeated Shasta of Redding 85-52 at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, and then last year at the Arco Arena in Sacramento when they beat Sacramento Grant 72-59.

In the past decade, Dominguez has put together some incredibly talented teams, and the Dons have had some great players, including Tommy Prince (Pepperdine via ASU),  Kenny Brunner (College of Southern Idaho, via Georgetown and Fresno State, but now being recruited by USC, San Diego State and several others), Walter Small (San Diego State), Tayshaun Prince (Kentucky), Keith Kincade (West Virginia), and others like Willie Hurst, Mike Carson,  James Boulton, and on and on. . .  And this group is also very talented and, has at least one player who continues to be touted as among the top 10 prospects in the class of 2001, Tyson Chandler (7'-0" Jr. C).  But this team is about much more than just Tyson this year, just as it has been in the past.

Here's the roster for 1999-2000

Bobby Jones 6'-6" So. SF
Larry Johnson 6'-5" Sr. PG/SG
Keion Kindred 6'-1" So. PG/SG
Michah McKinney 6'-3" Sr. SG/PG
Steve Moore 6'-2" Sr. SG
Montell Williams 6'-2" Jr. SG
Jamel Gay 5'-10" So. G
Saul Langston 6'-3" So. G
Sherman Gay 6'-6" Sr. SG/SF
Darius Sanders 6'-5" So. PF
Keith Brooks 6'-6" Sr. PF
Tyson Chandler 7'-0" Jr. C
Garry Looney 5'-10" Sr. PG
Samir Hernandez 6'-6" So. PF
Mingus Murray 5'-9" Fr. PG

You might notice one name missing from the roster.   Keilon Fortune (5'-11" Jr. PG).  Here's all Russell would say about his absence from the roster. "He's got some personal issues to work out.  Right now he's not with the team. I hope he works out his problems because he would have been our starting point guard. But for now, I'm not certain whether he'll return."  Aside from the absence of Keilon, the other thing this team is missing is a guy like a Keith Kincade or a Marcus Moore who can consistently go out and score 20-25 ppg as they did last year, at least that was the observation we made watching the Dons play in some of the early fall tournaments.  But then in those tournaments, there wasn't much of a structured offense, and it's really hard to say whether by the time the season starts, that 20 point-a-game guy will show up. Certainly they have enough talent from which to draw a guy like that:  Tyson, Keith Brooks, Bobby Jones, Larry Johnson, Steve Moore, Sherman Gay, immediately come to mind as guys with the potential to be big time scoring threats who have not really achieved that potential yet.  Whether they will this season is something only time will tell.

The absence of Keilon on this roster, leaves a hole, but not one that can't otherwise be filled, and Dominguez has several options including a newcomer freshman point guard, Mingus Murray. Mingus is very young, only 14 years old, and he is a transfer from New York. "We knew about him last year, and his mother is an artist and works on both coasts. Last year she was in New York, so Mingus went to school there. This year he's back in California and is with us," Russell said. He's very talented, and is a smart player, with good ball-handling skills and we hope to have him for a long time so we can help him develop," said Otis.  "I think he'll fit in well with our structure of offense and the kinds of half-court game we run in addition to our running game."

There are a couple of other guys who will also see significant time at the point, and one of them is Larry Johnson, who has been noted more as a shooting guard than a point, but he's got the same kind of "Marcus Moore-like" qualities, and he can push the ball and best of all can see and shoot over bigger defenders. Larry is a tremendously good shooter, a big time athlete and he's smart and very coachable. Keion Kindred, a smart and strong, physical player who is also relatively young, will also get the call at both the point and the off-guard spots in what will often be a three or four guard rotation. Keion is quick, has good passing skills and can defend even the quickest opponent. He played at the Long Beach Fullcourt Press Fall Showcase on a very talented sophomore team (which had guys like Carlos Rivers (Long Beach Poly), David Gale (Buckley), Lenny Collins (Santa Margarita), Keith Everage (Westchester), Shomar Shire (San Diego HS), Mike Washington (Long Beach Poly) and his own teammates from Dominguez, Bobby Jones and Jamel Gay) and he was impressive.

Michah McKinney will also see some time at the point this year, although he's much more of a two than a one, something which Russell knows, but he'll also see some time at the point.  Garry Looney, an athletically talented transfer from Crenshaw last season probably "has the most pure ability, but will need some more experience with running our type of offense, although he'll see some time this year," said Otis. "He needs to learn to feed the post, and be able to play in our kind of half-court offense, where we run plays. He's learning, but it was really new to him when he came, and he wasn't expected to run the point last year so he's learning.

"We're going to try some experimenting in the backcourt, running a lot of guys at the point, although based on the practices right now, if I had to pick a starting five, it would be Mingus, Larry Johnson, Bobby Jones, Keith Brooks and Tyson," Russell said.  "That could of course change, but that's how I feel about it right now."   And if that seems like a young starting five, with one freshman, two sophomores and one junior and a single senior, you're right.   But these guys, with the exception of Mingus, are all pretty much battle tested from years on varsity and in high profile tournaments.  They can certainly compete, and the rest of the team is equally deep at just about every position. 

Bobby Jones, although an excellent shooter, will likely play the small forward spot, and between him and Darius Sanders, another Keith Brooks-like power forward type, will see a lot of minutes together. Of Bobby and Darius, Russell says, "They are both the most improved players on the team, and they've stepped up their games to a whole new level. Both of them are turning into more solid scoring threats, and they are able to get it done in the paint. We expect them to both be major contributors.

Inside, Keith Brooks is the muscle, while Tyson is truly a finesse player, although in the last year he's gotten even more physical and vocal.   Both of them provide the leadership on this team that they'll need to return to the State Title game again. "If Tyson is our vocal leader, the floor general, Keith is the leader by example. He's just a coach's dream," said Otis.  "Keith just does everything he's asked to do. I ask him to go to class and he does it; I ask him to come to practice and he does, always working hard, never complaining and never once causing any trouble. Really he's a coach's dream."  Russell says that Brooks is getting a lot of recruiting attention from schools like Seton Hall, San Diego State, Fairleigh-Dickenson, and several other east and west coast schools, including a whole host of Big West. "Long Beach State is recruiting him very hard," Otis said.  As for Chandler, while Otis didn't say, it's not any secret that UCLA is recruiting him heavily, as is every other top major program in the country. He's taken several unofficial visits, but Russell has no comment on where or when Tyson might commit to a program.

For now, there are a whole slew of other guards and wing players on this team, anyone of whom could end up starting at some point during the season.  Most notable among the two who Russell believes are very talented but will have to step up the level of their play are Steve Moore and Sherman Gay. Sherman is getting a lot of recruiting attention, and he's very agile, mobile, and can stroke the ball and is accurate out to way beyond the three, but at least according to Russell, "he'll need to go hard all the time, both in practice and in games. He's playing well now, but he'll need to play even better if we're going to make a run at another title."  Still it's very early, only during the first week of practice, so a lot of guys are still working the kinks out of their games, and just brushing away the cobwebs. Steve Moore is one of those Russell thinks will need to work harder as well. "He's very talented physically and is a great shooter, but he'll need to make better decisions on the floor and help distribute the ball more. If he does that and can sustain defensive intensity throughout a game, there's no question he's got the ability to be a starter and a player at the next level. It's really going to be up to him," said Otis. Right now, Moore's recruitment is mostly from small to low D-I's, but that could change by springtime if he is able to put together a good season. 

Finally, there's a very talented group of young players waiting to come up in the wings and get their shot, and depending on the numbers this year, some of them may move up and down the lineups, and a couple (notably Jamel and Saul) might not get a lot time on varsity.  Montell Williams a slashing junior, who is a good defender, bright, listens, and is the "heir apparent at the two spot" for next year, according to Otis, will get some time, but he may get caught up in the numbers. Jamel Gay and Saul Langston are also two very hard working, but also very young players, who both may play some jv depending on the situations. Finally Samir Hernandez, a big-bodied player who transferred in this past summer from New Roads School (a small Division V school located near Dorsey High) is, according to Otis, "A great addition. He works hard, and he wants to get better. He will need to work on improving his athleticism and his overall intensity, but he's got lots of talent, and the best thing is that he's still young and has some time."

Like last year, Otis has kept his guys together during the summer, and they've played in events like the Slam-N-Jam NIT, the Double Pump Best of the Summer, at the summer version of the Best in the West, and many of the top "stars" on the team have also appeared at the Nike Peach Jam in Georgia, and at Nike Camp. More recently, Dominguez has played in several fall tournaments including   the Long Beach Fall Hoops Classic and the Double Pump Fall Premier tournament, where they suffered a semifinal loss to cross-town rival Long Beach Poly.  Still Russell hasn't changed his view about keeping the team together during the summer: "I think it's good to keep the team together, but during the spring and summer they pretty much do what they want on the floor. It's been hard for us because some of the guys--not the ones like Tyson, Keith--but some, and I won't mention names--I think let some of this recruiting stuff get to their heads, and now they are having to come back down to earth and realize that they just have to play hard, no matter what. It's up to them. Either they'll do it or they won't.  But that sometimes happens when they play with teams and each of them gets to be 'the man.'  But we're working on what we need to do to play as a team, and it's time for us to put in our structured offense. Anyone can run motion, but we do things like run
good zone offenses, and a flex offenses, which are very complicated. These guys will have to play smart to learn what I want them to do."

Dominguez is not playing at the 3rd Annual Reebok Compton Tip-Off Classic this year, but will instead open with a scrimmage this coming Tuesday afternoon at 3:40 against Compton Centennial, which should be a good test of how strong and how fit they really are as they'll go up against Omar Weaver and his squad, perhaps the toughest and strongest team in Division IV in the State.   From December 1-4 they'll be up in Fresno with most of the rest of the State's top teams at the BCW Battle of the Central Valley, a tournament hosted by Buchannan and Clovis West which will feature Dominguez in a pool with Chatsworth, Calvary Temple (Modesto), and McLane from Fresno. Other top teams include Long Beach Poly, Oakland Fremont, and on and on. . . 

From Fresno they'll take a break until the 17th when they'll travel to Hawaii for the annual Iolani Classic, which should rival the best of any big-time tournament this year, including perhaps even the Slam Dunk to the Beach or the Las Vegas Reebok Holiday Prep Classic. They may not have as many teams as those others, but it will be a classic showdown of some of the country's best, including Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, VA), Washington Union (Fresno), Arkansas Central, Provo, Utah, and others.   Russell promised to send us the brackets and pairings, and his conclusion about the event is that, "It's loaded."

Upon their return, they'll play at the Best in the West, where they are seeded as the No. 2 team, right behind Artesia, and if all goes according to the seedings, Artesia and Dominguez should meet up for the final.  But "should" and "will" are two different things, as we all saw last year when Artesia got knocked off early. Still Dominguez wants back in the title game, and they just might have the ability to get there again if they play hard and smart.

During the season, specifically on January 17, 2000,   Dominguez will host the "Nike Dream Classic" yet again, which this year will be at the Long Beach State Pyramid, rather than at Pauley Pavilion. We've previously published the list of teams, and the matchups were just recently finalized, but there will be some really big games, including Artesia v. Dominguez.  We'll have the full matchups shortly.  Dominguez will also be appearing in the SoCal Classic, the Poly-Artesia sponsored event which takes place at LA Southwest College, and they'll also be playing national power Oak Hill again this year at the Nike Extravaganza V, also at the Pyramid.

Here's the full schedule for 1999-2000 for the Dominguez Dons (recognizing that this came from the CIF, and there are some gaps for some of the Exhibition games):

Dec. 1-4 BCW Tournament
Dec. 17-23 Iolani Classic
Dec. 27-30 Best in the West Tournament
Jan 12 @ Paramount
Jan 14 Downey
Jan 17 Nike Dream Classic
Jan 19 @ Lynwood
Jan 21 @ Gahr
Jan 25 Warren
Jan 27 Paramount
Feb 2 @ Downey
Feb 4 Lynwood
Feb 5 Nike Extravaganza
Feb 8 Gahr
Feb 10 @ Warren

Like last year, this is a very deep team, with tons of talent. How well they'll do this year and whether they'll defend their title, is something
only time will tell, but it's going to be a lot of fun watching them try. See you at the games.

 The Swish Award
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