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SoCal Youth & Prep League Review
4D All Stars- One of the Best (10/22/97)

So what is "4D"?

It's probably one of the premier basketball leagues and group of traveling all-star tournament teams based in SoCal.

Why is it called "4D"?

Well, it really should be called "4D+DF+GF."

According to the league's founder and head honcho, Reinaldo Henry, 4D stands for "Defense, Desire, Dedication, Determination".

And, according to Henry, it also stands for "Drug Free" and "Gang Free".

For the last seven years since it's founding, this league has been one of the top showcases and breeding grounds for youth basketball training and traveling all-star teams in the U.S. It is currently touted by some (not Henry though) as the single largest youth basketball program in America, although to be fair, there are no statistics kept on this subject so far as we know, and so the statement is certainly based only upon observations from those close to the program. In other words, while no one really knows how it compares in size with other major metropolitan programs from cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Philly, New York or Indiana, there's no denying that Henry has started something very big here which has attracted at one time or another most of the top talent in SoCal.

The program is large. How large? The program is for players ages 8 to 18, and in each division there are 70 or 80 teams competing. Not all of these are "traveling" tournament teams, but even that end of the program is large by comparison with other comparable programs. For example in the boys' "14 and under" group (one of the most popular divisions for AAU competition), there are a total of 16 boys' teams in the league and eight of them are "traveling" teams. Now that's large, and it signifies the level of quality play offered by 4D.

Henry and 4D trace their roots back in Southern California basketball for a good many years. Even though the league has been around for the last seven years, Henry has been active for more than 15 years as a CIF official, a Parks & Rec. league official, and as a coach of City Park league teams in the Torrance area. After watching kids play over many years, he became convinced that there was a better way to showcase the talent he was seeing in some of the youth programs, so that the players could begin playing up to their potential. Henry got the idea, he says, to meld together a group of kids he had come across while refereeing in Palos Verdes with another group he had watched play in the Inglewood area. He formed two teams from this grouping of kids, and 4D All-Stars was born.

That first year, Henry entered both his younger and older age groups into a Police Athletic League, in which they went undefeated. Among the players on the younger team were James Murdoch (5'-11" Sr. point guard at Lakewood Artesia, being recruited by Washington State and Portland) and Marvin Isaacs of Inglewood. The older group featured Paul Pierce, now at Kansas, "as the 12th man on a 12 man team" according to Henry.

As the teams began doing better and better, Henry started entering these kids in a few tournaments outside the league, including an AAU "qualifying" tournament in Palo Alto. Much to Henry's surprise, at that first Palo Alto tournament, his teams won every game by about 25 or 30 points, doing so well that they qualified to enter the AAU Nationals in Florida. That first year in Florida they went to the "Sweet 16", losing in a close game by only a few points. The following year, in order to provide competition and training for the growing numbers of kids he found who were interested in competing in the South Bay area, Henry formed a league with 15-20 teams, and the rest, as they say is history.

The 4D program is in many ways unique, and in others it is really indistinguishable from other club and AAU leagues, such as ARC. Like ARC, 4D has no "tryouts" per se; it is instead a complete program, run on a sort of "high school program" model, with kids interested at first going through an evaluation process and then being placed on a team in their age and ability level. Henry is quick to acknowledge that his "no cut policy" is really the best from his perspective. As he says, "you never know when or where a youngster will step up and show you what he or she is really capable of. Look at Paul Pierce: When he was a youngster, we had no idea what he could do; had we 'cut' him from the program, he might never have reached his potential, and might not be playing now at Kansas or be the NBA prospect that he's become."

Henry's had some of the best and brightest come through his league in addition to Pierce. According to him he's had Schea Cotton, his brother James, Tayshaun Prince, Charles and Ed O'Bannon, Eric Chenowith (who's dad is also affiliated with NJB), Chris Burgess, most everyone who's ever been on a Crenshaw, Compton or Dominguez team in the last seven years, and players from as far away as San Diego to the South, and San Luis Obispo to the North. Some of the current crop of older players include Issacs of Inglewood, Bradley Jackson (who has verballed to Bobby Braswell at CSUN, and who may be playing with Senque Carey from Mountain View, CA, next season), and James Worthy's nephew Marquis Worthy, a 6'-5" soph from Fullerton who's rated as one of the top 40 players in the state this year. Also among the current crop of up-and-coming "all-stars" who are playing for the 4D All-Stars on the traveling teams is Jason Kapono (6'-7" Artesia), Eric Geffner (6'-4" Harvard-Westlake), Michael Luderer, a 6'-2" SG who transferred from Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks to Crespi this year, and Andrew Zahn (6'-10") from Redondo, who is rated as one of the top 10 soph prospects this year.

Henry is proud of the fact that other leagues and traveling teams have come to his league to play on a regular basis to find a higher level of competition. Teams such as Pat Barrett's Southern California All-Stars, teams from TPI, Future Prospects from San Diego, and NJB's All-Star squads have all congregated at 4D at one time or another, including during the current fall league. Ask Henry why this is so, and he'll tell you that everyone knows where the best competition is, and if you want "game", 4D's got it.

4D's traveling tournament record, especially in AAU competition has been pretty impressive as well. They've held the "12 and under" National Championship three times in the last seven years; 4D has won seven straight regional AAU crowns; they've been to 2 final fours in other age groups in Nationals in the years they haven't been champs; finished 6th once; and went to the "Sweet 16" the first year. I'm sure that this list isn't complete, as Henry was going by memory when we talked, and if he'd had more time to research it, he'd have provided even more details about 4D's success story.

So where does all this action take place?

4D All-Stars holds regular league play principally in the South Bay and Torrance area, with its main "headquarters" for the league play at Luezinger High School in Lomita. The program is offered year round, and features league play and traveling teams for boys and girls ages 8 to 18. Currently in session is the Fall League, which concludes on November 9. The Winter League will run from December 14 through March 1; the Spring League will run from March 15 through May 24; and the Summer League is scheduled this coming year to run from June 7 through August 23, 1998.

The cost of the League is, by comparison to other leagues, pretty inexpensive. It's only $550.00 per session, per team, with a guarantee that each player will play at least 10 games during a season (not including "playoffs"). That's fairly cheap if you consider that most teams have at least 8 players to share the load, and at that rate it's only about $68 per player per session. By comparison, some other programs charge as much as $100.00 per month, and some leagues charge about $225.00 per player for a similar 10 game (or less) session. Henry acknowledged that even if his league is relatively inexpensive, some parents believe it's not, and he said that it's amazing how many parents think their kids should be allowed to play for free. He said that if he could swing it, he'd be happy to comply, but as it is, there are expenses for uniforms, gym rentals, tournament costs, referees (all officials are certified CIF ref's), and other assorted costs, and he figures that with the travel costs for the tournament teams factored in, he's just about even in the operation. He did acknowledge that the fees from the regular league enable him to raise sufficient funds so that the 4D "travel teams" can afford to go to as many tournaments as they do, and thus, in this way, the regular league operation serves in part to subsidize and offset the costs from the all-star teams. Some of the non-traveling players might think this is a bit unfair, but Henry doesn't seem to be getting any complaints. He runs a quality program, and most folks know it when they see it.

4D All Stars is a great operation, showcasing some of the best and finest talent in SoCal. It offers solid instructional basketball and a high level of competition for players of all levels. To be sure, it's not "park league" and players will get playing time according to their abilities (in that sense, it's run like a "high school" program). It is especially fun to watch, particularly at this time of year before the high school season starts, so that you'll see a preview of "high school" teams mixing it up with the club teams. Spring is also a good time to see the competition, and players and teams join the league as they are gradually eliminated from the City and CIF high school playoffs at the higher levels of play.

In addition to the league and traveling teams featured at 4D, Henry also hosts a series of regular tournaments, including the following:

The 4D Thanksgiving Tournament, to be held this year from November 28-30 in the Lawndale/Lomita area. Fee is $285.00 per team with a three game guarantee.

The 4D Holiday Classic, which will be held this year December 27-29, also in the Lawndale/Lomita area. The fee will also be $285.00, again with a three game guarantee.

Other tournaments include the "Spring Classic" (April 3-5), the "Memorial Day Tournament" (May 23-25, 1998), the "Fireworks Tournament" (July 4-5, 1998), and the "Labor Day Classic" (September 4-7).

If you want to see some fine hoops, perhaps some of the finest SoCal youth and high school players around, then check out 4D All-Stars. Or better yet, if you're between 8 and 18, consider joining a team and playing. You can contact Reinaldo Henry at (310) 320-1346.

The Swish Award

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