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Basketball of the Past : Coaches Remember the Best of the Bay

April 11, 1985|ALAN DROOZ | Times Staff Writer

Ken Brown, longtime coach at Aviation, had the fun of coaching Westphal and several other stars. The Westphal team in 1967-68 went 28-4 before losing to eventual champ Compton in CIF quarterfinals. Brown's next two teams didn't suffer much despite Westphal's graduation, going 23-6 in 1968-69 and 26-5 in 1969-70 and beating Verbum Dei, led by Raymond Lewis, in the Inglewood Tournament.

But Brown says nobody he saw was better than Westphal, who went on to star at USC and for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA. Westphal's pro career ended last year and he is now doing basketball commentary and considering coaching.

"He was the best high school offensive ballplayer I have ever seen," Brown said. "That includes every phase of offense-scoring, shooting, dribbling, passing, rebounding. He averaged 32 points his senior year and it could have been 42 easily. The closest I've seen was Byron Scott."

Morningside, which is back in the spotlight again, had a nice run in the mid-1970s, producing players like Jackie Robinson under Jim Harrick and winning a CIF 3-A title in 1974 under Ron Jacobs with the likes Mike Santos. Scott was the South Bay's best player in 1978.

The more recent championship teams like Inglewood and Carson don't appear to nudge memories yet; they may be too fresh to have settled rightfully into their historical niche, but they were mentioned.

Inglewood's 1980 team went undefeated, received a mythical national championship and had four standout players; point guard Ralph Jackson, the CIF player of the year and all-time assists leader, center Vince Kelley, off guard Jay Humphries and wing man Angelo Robinson, Jackie's younger brother. All went on to Division I colleges. Coach Vince Combs molded them into a selfless machine driven by Jackson, called by Warren "a great high school player, better than Spillane."

Though Jackson never became a college superstar at UCLA, Humphries escaped his shadow to earn stardom at Colorado and is now playing for the Phoenix Suns. Inglewood also produced pro star Reggie Theus, a virtuoso in the mid-1970s.

State Tourney Winner Carson won the first state tournament in 1982 led by the colorful Eldridge Hudson, acclaimed that year as the best player in California. Coach Dick Acres' team had a strong supporting cast including Doug Brown at forward and junior Mark Wilson at guard. Wilson is now at Oral Roberts University. Hudson is at Nevada-Las Vegas where he has been battling serious knee injuries.

In between, Sera had a fine team in 1981 that reached the CIF semis. The roster included 6-9 Kerry Boagni, then a junior, 6-7 Joe Cormier, the starting USC tight end, and Glenn Smith, Patrick Lombard and Dwan Hurt at guard; all went on to play in college.

Mira Costa produced a strong team in the late 1950s led by Harry Dinnel, who went on to coach in the area and produced 6-9 Gig Sims at Redondo, possibly the best player to come out of that school despite a disappointing career at UCLA. "I'd rank him right after Acres. He was a truly great high school player," Warren said.

Individually, one name that kept popping up was Bart Johnson, the Torrance High star who went on to a pro pitching career with the White Sox. He scored nearly 2,000 points in high school.

'Great Vertical Leap' "He was not in the class of Acres as a player, but on pure ability he might have been the best ever," Warren said. Mihaljevich remembered him as "one of the first players who had great vertical leap." Nielsen said he may be the best all-around athlete ever produced in the South Bay.

That leaves St. Bernard, which some saw developing into the Verbum Dei of the 1980s. The Vikings never quite reached that level, though they did win a 3-A title in 1982, but they may have more players in major colleges now than any school west of Baltimore Dunbar.

Vikings playing at major colleges last season included Taylor, the Pac-10 rookie of the year at UC Berkeley, Chris Washington at Berkeley, Corey Gaines at UCLA, Bobby Thompson at Arizona State, Rod Keller at USC, Kevin Vidato at Washington, Eric Knox at Oregon State, Keith Ramee at Stanford and assorted others around the country. "A St. Bernard all-star team could do pretty well in the Pac-10," Mihaljevich noted.

The first great star out of the South Bay may have been Willie Naulls of San Pedro, who led the Pirates to their last city title in 1952. He went on to national prominence at UCLA.

The best ever? Take your pick. Maybe go Westphal, young man.

There are certainly Acres to choose from.

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