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There's Just One Word for Valley Cagers: BIG!

March 28, 1985|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

One glance at the 1984-85 Times All-San Gabriel Valley boys basketball team is all it takes to get the message that this was the Year of the Big Man in the area.

With five players 6-8 or taller, this might be the tallest valley team ever.

Consider: 6-8 Ron Draper of Pomona, 6-8 Greg Trygstad of Bonita, 6-9 Scott Williams of Wilson, 6-9 Bruce Wheatley of Nogales and 6-11 Erik Rogers of Temple City.

Other all-stars are Tony Akins (6-5) of Muir, Brian Graham (6-0) of San Dimas, Michael Johnson (6-3) of Baldwin Park, Efrem Leonard (6-1) of Damien and Phillip Sanchez (5-9) of Arroyo. Johnson is the only repeater from last year.

Selection was based primarily on voting by coaches and Times sports reporters. The Times also conferred with high school and college coaches and with prep basketball rating services.

Awards Ceremony

Players from nine circulation areas of The Times will be honored at an awards program sponsored by the Times Fund at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Harry Chandler Auditorium at Times Mirror Square. In addition to the San Gabriel Valley team, all-star squads from Orange County, Westside, Glendale, Southeast, South Coast, South Bay, San Fernando Valley and Central City will be honored. A similar program will be held in San Diego.

A player of the year and coach of the year for each area will be named. Each player will receive a certificate and a trophy. USC Coach Stan Morrison, who guided the Trojans to a Pacific 10 Conference co-championship and a berth in the NCAA playoffs, will speak.

The 1984-85 team is composed of nine seniors--Akins, Draper, Graham, Johnson, Leonard, Rogers, Sanchez, Trygstad and Wheatley. Williams is the lone junior.

Akins, a three-year starter for Muir, had good seasons as a sophomore and junior and in his senior year blossomed into one of the top offensive players in the CIF Southern Section.

The strong, aggressive 200-pounder averaged 24 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists and scored more than 30 points in several games. Akins had averaged 15 points and made the All-Pacific League team as a junior.

USC Wants Him

An all-league selection from the strong Pacific League, Akins is being recruited by USC, Texas, Montana and the University of San Diego.

Draper was called the best inside player in the area by an opposing coach. At 6-8 and 190 pounds, he certainly was the main ingredient in a successful year for Pomona.

With Draper averaging 22 points and 15 rebounds, the Red Devils were ranked No. 1 in the CIF 3-A Division most of the season before losing in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

Draper, named the most valuable player of the Baseline League, said he is uncertain about his college plans although scouts consider him an outstanding prospect.

Graham has a smooth shooting touch, which made him one of the top scorers in the Montview League.

Voted most valuable player in the league, Graham averaged 19.4 points and 9.9 rebounds, despite being only 6 feet tall. Graham's play was a big factor in a surprising season for San Dimas, which won the Montview League and reached the CIF 2-A quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Santa Clara.

Small Schools Want Him

Graham is being pursued by two small NAIA schools: Azusa Pacific and Point Loma Nazarene.

For all-around athletes, there is none better than Johnson of Baldwin Park, who may be regarded more as a quarterback. He was the CIF Division III player of the year last fall and is headed for Arizona State to play football.

Perhaps the most versatile player on the all-star basketball squad, he averaged 20.5 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

Johnson was beaten out by Graham for league MVP honors. As a junior, Johnson was the league MVP and an All-CIF selection.

He has thought about playing both sports at Arizona State but probably will stick to football.

Another versatile player is Damien's Leonard, one of the top shooting guards in the Valley and an outstanding rebounder. He averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists--not bad for a guy who is only 6-1.

Coach Says He's Great

His coach, Mike LeDuc, labels him a great player, and opposing coaches have used words such as outstanding , excellent and dynamo .

An All-Baseline League selection, Leonard is being recruited by Missouri, the University of San Diego and UC Riverside.

The tallest player is Rogers of Temple City, and he has imposing statistics to go along with his slender 6-11, 200-pound frame.

Rogers, considered by many the best center in the valley, averaged 22.5 points and 12 rebounds. "Erik Rogers was not outplayed all year in the post," Coach Gene McCreadie said. "He dominates inside."

A three-year starter for the Rams, Rogers led his team to the CIF 2-A quarterfinals and was named the MVP of the Rio Hondo League.

He is a prime prospect of recruiters from Pepperdine, Syracuse, Kansas and UC Santa Barbara. "He's the best big man we've ever had here," McCreadie said.

'Fastest Gun in West'

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