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39th Annual Best In The West:
Tournament Overview Program Notes--(Dec. 25, 1998)

Wayne Merino graciously asked us to write a tournament overview of what fans, college coaches, scouts, players and parents are likely to see at the 39th Annual Best in the West, and we were happy to oblige. Mike Miller, the last we checked, had agreed to provide the small one inch team profiles in the printed program on each team appearing, and so knowing Mike, we'd also expect to see some BIW stuff over at WCH as well (maybe a little Christmas bonus for the web readers).  We haven't seen the printed program materials yet (we'll pick one up tomorrow morning just like the rest of the people coming out to watch) but we're told that the SoCalHoops preview will be included, and if it is, this is what you'll see.  And if it isn't, this is what you'll have missed seeing unless of course you read SoCalHoops on the internet.

The Best In The West Is Still The Best

This year marks the 39th Annual "Best in the West" Basketball tournament, and like past editions, this year's tournament features two of the top, unbeaten teams in the country, not just SoCal or "the west":   This year it's No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, Artesia and Compton Dominguez.  Among the other top teams appearing this year will be other top seeded teams including Long Beach Poly,  Compton, Verbum Dei,  Clovis West, Long Beach Jordan, and Bishop Montgomery. Each year this tournament just seems to get better and better, and 1998 is no exception.   

Coach Wayne Merino's No. 1 seeded Artesia Pioneers was last year's Division I State semifinalist, and this year could capture a Southern Section, Southern Regional and State Championship, and they come into the tournament ranked among the top 10 teams in the country. [Web update:  Artesia was ranked this past week as USA Today's No. 3 Team in the "Super 25" right behind Dominguez at No. 2 in the USA, and Oak Hill at No. 1]  Artesia features Jason Kapono (6'-8" Sr. PG/SG/SF/PF), maybe the best pure basketball player in the senior class, who can and often does play just about every position on the floor, one of the best shooters, and still one of the top unsigned prospects left in the senior class.   Jason will sign this spring with one of four schools: Utah, UNLV, Syracuse, or Missouri, and it's possible others will still get involved. Artesia also features the dream team of sophomores, Jack Martinez (6'-7" So. PF/SF) and Apolinar Fernandez (6'-8" So. PF), and together they make up one of the best front-lines in high school basketball in the country.  Artesia also features Andre Hazel (5'-10" Jr. PG), Marcus Crane (6'-3" So. SG) a great shooter, Malcohm Heron (6'-5" So. F) Jon Steffanson (6'-5" Fr. F), Ryan Reyes (6'-2: So. PG), Jamal James (6'-2" So. SG), Aaron Hamilton (6'-5" Sr. F), and Franklin Matos (6'-3" Fr. PG/SG)

At the other end of the bracket, as the No. 2 seeded team is the other team many feel might be the best on the West Coast this year, [Web Update: Dominguez was ranked this past Tuesday as the No. 2 team in the country by USA Today in the Super "25"]  Russell Otis' Compton Dominguez Dons, which is absolutely loaded with talent, and which features 7'-0" So. center Tyson "The Franchise" Chandler, who, next to Kapono, may just be the most well-publicized young player in the country.  There's not much he can't do: He can shoot, block, run the floor, and may be one of the most exciting players we've seen in a long, long time.  The supporting cast at Dominguez is also a wealth of talent, including Keith Kincade (6'-4" Sr. SG/SF), one of the most prolific scorers, Keith "Big House" Brooks (6'-6" Jr. F), a huge shot-blocker and rebounder,  Cedric Thompkins (6'-6" Jr. F) a great scorer, and Redondo Beach transfer Marcus Moore (6'-5" Sr. PG), one of the top point guard prospects on the West Coast.  Dominguez also features. Keilon Fortune (5'-10" So. PG), James Jackson (5'-10" Sr. PG) and Ronald Jackson (5'-8" Sr. PG) sharing duties at the point.   Reserves who will see significant time include freshman sensation  Darius Sanders (6'-5" Fr. F), and players like Jafus Haley (5'-11" Sr. PG/SG),  Micha McKinney (6'-2" Jr. SG),  Steve Moore (6'-3" Jr. SG/SF), Larry Johnson (6'-6" Jr. SG/SF/PF), Joey Arby (5'-10" So. G) and Bobby Jones (6'-3" Fr. SF).

If the bracketing works out as planned, both of these teams should meet for the final.  But before that happens they'll have to get through a lot of other really top quality teams:

No. 3 seeded Long Beach Poly, is one of the best teams in the state, a possible contender for a Division I CIF and State Title,   which features one of the top point guards on the west coast, Wesley Stokes (5'-10" Jr. PG), and two other big scoring threats in Shea Anderson (6'-7" Sr. SF) and Joe Travis (6'-8" Jr. PF), and Keyon Cooley (6'-8" Sr. SF/C).    Poly has been impressive in it's pre-season games this year, and Ron Palmer's teams are always well coached. 

The No. 4 seeded Compton Tarbabes could be the next D-II State Champions, and Rod Palmer has assembled a great squad.  Compton features one of the best point guard prospects in the country, Tito Maddox (6'-4" Sr. PG) who has one of the quickest first steps you'll see. Tito is also a top college prospect, unsigned, and he's reportedly looking at Arizona State, UConn, Michigan and possibly some other schools in SoCal, like USC and/or UCLA.  Compton also features Ellis Myles (6'-4" Jr. SF) one of the top juniors, Terry Hosendove (6'-4" Sr SF) a great leaper, and Leroy Dawson (6'-1" Sr. SG) an effective scoring threat from inside or out.

No. 5 seeded  Verbum Dei comes into the tournament as the defending State Champions in Division IV in 1997-98 and features one of the other top college prospects in the senior class in Dalron Johnson (6'-9" Sr. PF/C) who has already signed to play with UNLV.  Verb also features Marlon Parmer (6'-0" Jr. SG), Larry Davenport (6'-3" Sr. F), Washum Dashiell (6'-4" Jr. F) and Rashawd Cobbs (5'-10" Jr. PG), and they are coached by former Verbum Dei-UCLA-NBA player David Greenwood who returned to his alma mater.

No. 6 seeded Clovis West is truly an amazing team, and they come into this tournament after having just knocked off Division III contender Washington Union, one of the top teams in the state, which features the top junior in the country, De Shawn Stevenson (6'-6" Jr. SG/SF).  Clovis West features freshman sensation Charlie Rodriguez (6'-9" Fr. F/C) who doesn't speak English, but he knows how to play, and top point guard Ash Knowlton (5'-11" Sr. PG) an excellent ball-handler and floor general.

No. 7 seeded Long Beach Jordan also features three top prospects in junior Travon Bryant (6'-8" Jr. PF/C) who is being looked at by virtually every college in the country, and the guard duo of Darren Peterson (6'-4" Sr. PG/SG), and Craig Calloway (6'-0" Sr. PG/SG) who has signed to play at CSUN next year.  Jordan is also a possible CIF finalist in Division I and is always dangerous. 

No.  8 seeded Bishop Montgomery, one of the State's top Division III teams,  features Gabriel Hughes (6'-10" Sr. C), brother of Cal's Solomon Hughes, Garrett Lee (6'-4" Sr. SG/SF), Tony Booker (6'-5" Sr. SG/SF), and the sophomore twins, Errick Craven (6'-2" So. SG/PG) and Derrick Craven (6'-2" So. PG/SG). Bishop is also led by DeVaughn Peace (6'-1" So. PG/SG) and Kenny D'Oyen (5'-7" So. PG) at the point with help from Leland Dodd (6'-2" So. SG/SF) and David Colbert (5'-10" So. PG), and many believe that Bishop Montgomery could contend for a Southern Section title this year. 

And those are just the top eight seeds.  

The other teams feature at least one, and many have more, junior and senior top college prospects.  Among the the top seniors is Pomona's Shomari Sarpy (6'-9" Sr. C), Lamar Kent (6'-8" Sr. PF), and Aaron Tomas (6'-5" Sr. SG).   Pasadena will feature George DeJohnette (6'-0" Sr. SG), a great shooter, while Ayala will showcase Jack May (6'-7" Sr. F). who averages about 16 ppg. Compton Centennial will feature the great shooting of Marquis Poole (6'-2" Sr. PG/SG) who has signed with Washington State for next year. Burbank has Eric Rowher (6'-9" Sr. PF/C) who will play at San Diego State next year, while Los Angeles High features Roger Flowers (6'-3" Sr. SG) and Brian Segbefia (6'-1" Sr. SG). Harvard-Westlake features Dan Kinzer (6'-8" Sr. C) while San Pedro has Oscar Abrons (5'-11" Sr. SG/PG). Lakewood will return Bobby Thompson (6'-2" Sr. SG). Bakersfield should return Otis Graim (5'-11" Sr. G) and San Jose's Bellarmine Prep will return Ben Fuller (6'-4" Sr. SF/SG), Derek Martinez (6'-7" Sr. PF/C), and Jeb Ivey (6'-2" Sr. SG). Perris is in a rebuilding year, but if they are anything like last year, expect big things from Jontae Vinson (6'-5" Jr. SF), Kason Love (6'-2" Sr. SG).

Among the underclass' top prospects, are Ayala's Chris Pacana (5'-11" Jr. G) a great shooting ball-handler, Palisades quick and dangerous Steve McMaryion (6'-4" Jr. SG), LA High's Scottie Stern (6'-4" Jr. SG/SF), Harvard-Westlake's All-American junior point guard Russell Lakey (5'-11" Jr. PG), Eric Geffner (6'-5" Jr. SG/SF), Chad Garson (6'-4" Jr. SG/SF), Anthony Naylor (6'-3" Jr. SG/SF/PF), and Alex Holmes (6'-4" Jr. PF/SG). Bakersfield should return Alfred Williams (6'-3" Jr. PG/SG) , while LA Jordan will have Tyrone Riley (6'-6" Jr. SF). Morningside features Ricky Rico (6'-7" Jr. C), Daniel Campbell (5'-10" So. PG/SG), and Tracey Cathey (6'-1" Jr. SG),  while Perris rebuilds but should hve Derick Lloyd and Ricky Moore,  both 5'-8" Jr. point guards. 

There are far too many other top players to list individually, but one thing is certain:  Fans, players, coaches, parents, friends, scouts and college recruiters will have a great time watching some of the best prep basketball in the West.  But that's why it's called the "Best in West."

The Swish Award
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