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Montclair Prep and Coach Abrams Revisited--(November 9, 1997)

"I want to make sure the kids have fun, that they remember their high school days as a fun time in their lives."-- Howard Abrams, Head Coach Montclair Prep

Our first review of Montclair was a bit incomplete. At that time, we hadn't talked to Howard in depth about his team, although we did spend a week together in Seattle coaching Maccabi teams--He and Steve Goldstein of La Salle won the bronze with their team; the younger team coached by me and Lee Garson won the gold in the younger division.

We've seen many of the players off and on during the summer and Howard is probably as optimistic as he's been in years with this group, and he's been around Montclair for a while. He started coaching at St. Cyril's, a catholic elementary school, and then moved to Montclair in 1976. He's been there ever since, and he's coached the Mounties to 1 State Championship, 1 runner-up at the State Finals, and they've won the Southern California Championship twice. Howard is a local product: He went to Monroe High School, which was then located in Sepulveda, but now is in North Hills, which is pretty remarkable, since the buildings are still in the same spot. He then went to CSUN where he played college ball. He's been married 8 years and has a six year old daughter, Daniela, who's his biggest fan.

Howard says that his real sympathies on any team he coaches probably lie with the subs; he was a sub for a few years, and knows what it's like to come in off the bench. He really does want his kids to develop and to have good memories of their high school playing days, so that they'll go on to either be good recreational players, or for the lucky few, to continue their careers in college and possibly beyond. "I just want them to have a lot of fun, and to go on and continue playing. If I can make sure a kid has good memories and leaves with a good feeling about himself and the game, then I've done what I set out to do."

Our earlier report had a few errors, some misspellings, and an incomplete roster. One error was that we had Montclair rejoining the Delphic League this year; that's incorrect. Montclair will not play in a league this year. They'll continue to freelance until next year when they will rejoin the Delphic League.

Here's a more complete roster:

Jason Anderson (6'-8" Jr PF/C)
Kevin Bentley (6'-2" Sr SF/PF)
George Brown (6'-1" Sr F)
Carlese Clark (5'-10" Sr. PG)
Micah Cohen (5'-10" Sr PG/SG)
Chidi Daniel (5'-9" Sr PG)
Jedediah Hall (6'-71/2" Sr PF/C)
Geoff Hull (6'-2" Sr F)
Denek Smith (6'-0" Sr SG)
Rocky Steryo (6'-2" Sr SG)
Jules Thompson (6'-3" Sr F)
Ryan West (6'-2" Sr SG)

Howard says that if he had to pick a starting five "right now" he'd "probably" pick Kevin Bentley at F, Jed Hall at C, Rocky at small forward/shooting guard, Micah Cohen at off-guard, shooting guard, and Carlese Clark at point. But then, he doesn't have to pick it now, and he hasn't completely made up his mind yet, so there's a chance that some of these positions may change. Our original assessment of Jason Anderson may have been overly-optimistic, and there's still a possibility that he'll play JV this year where he'll start and get lots more playing time; while Howard and Jason are mulling that option over, Howard would clearly rather have Anderson's height on the varsity, and our guess is that you'll still see him on this squad rather than JV, where he'll provide much needed height in the playoffs. In our earlier report we also wrote about Greg Jones, a 14 year old prospect who is 6'-7" and the brother of Clipper Keith Closs--he'll play JV as well this year, and will be groomed for next year. All in all, the team will consist of all seniors, with the possible exception of Jason Anderson.

In the backcourt, we haven't changed our analysis or opinion of Micah even if he will play the off-guard spot instead of the point. Carlese is very capable and can create for others, with a very quick first step and drive to the hoop; he's a D-I football prospect; Micah is probably the quicker of the two, and will be used to break down the defenses and penetrate as well as shooting from the outside. We also haven't changed our view of Rocky; he's still probably the best pure shooter on the team, and has a widebody type for someone whose 6'-2"; he weighs about 190-200 and can also play defense inside when he has to. Chidi Daniel (sorry Chidi for the mis-spelling in our original report) has got some serious hops. As we noted, he's only 5'-9" but has no trouble dunking the ball, and he'll use that vertical leap to great advantage on this team.

One of the few players we neglected to report on were Ryan West, the son of Laker GM and legend Jerry, who will see some time backing up Cohen; Howard says he wants to get him as much time as possible. West's real forte, which seems to run in his family, is the three. Also neglected in our original report was Jules Thompson, who has a nice touch and is a defensive specialist. We also left out Smith, Geoff Hull and George Brown. Smith is a fine guard, who plays tenacious defense, and Hull and Brown are both football players who can put bodies on guys on d and also can shoot some too.

Howard says that Jed Hall will "definitely" wait until the spring to sign. "It's way too early for him. None of the larger schools have really seen him yet." He's visited USC and CSUN and after the season, a few more Pac-10 schools will get wise to this guy; who knows maybe even Lavin. Ben Braun's already been to Montclair, and we're certain more will follow. Jed's got great low post moves, a nice soft touch around the basket, and will certainly be a major D-I find for somebody.

Montclair will also be playing in a few preseason tournaments including the El Segundo tournament, the La Salle Tournament, and the Valencia Tournament. We've already put up the details of the La Salle tourney, and will post the El Segundo and Valencia details in the next few days.

Montclair is going to challenge for the State Championship. But most of all, they're going to have some fun. Howard will see to that. It's his job.

The Swish Award
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