In Southern California, where boys dream of playing college basketball before capacity crowds of 15,000 screaming fans and nationally televised audiences, the opportunity to don a cardinal-and-gold Glendale College uniform and play before a few hundred fans is not exactly a dream come true.
But for some prep standouts--like the disappointed all-CIF senior guard Brian Capp, who turned some heads at Crespi High School but did not have major college recruiters pounding at his front door, begging him to sign a scholarship contract--Glendale is not such a bad choice after all.
"There are a lot of kids, who because they don't get a Division I scholarship, go in the tank. It kind of breaks them down," Glendale Coach Brian Beauchemin said. "They feel like they're useless . . . like they've failed.
"Really that's not the case. A lot of major universities are now looking to the junior college level for players."
Beauchemin ought to know. Since taking over the Glendale helm in 1979, eight players have earned Division I scholarships, including 6-2 guard Bill Carr (now at the University of San Francisco) and 6-7 Toros Yetenekian (Idaho State) from last year's 20-12 squad.
This year, 6-6 second-year forward John Hoffman, who scored a career-high 46 points in the 97-93 Glendale victory over College of the Canyons earlier this season, has already received letters from more than 25 colleges, including Washington, Oregon and Idaho State. And with a little work, Beauchemin believes, Capp, a starting Vaquero guard, and 6-7 first-year forward Dave Djolakian from Alemany High School could attract similar attention next year.
Glendale College gives an aspiring Division I basketball player a second chance at attracting a major college scholarship. Junior college is the place to go for players who need work on their ball-handling, defense, inside game, academics or any combination of problem areas, Beauchemin said.
"I would say that junior college ball is a feeder to the Division I programs," said Beauchemin, who has a 125-67 overall record in his six years coaching at Glendale. "It serves a purpose for the kid who has the ability to develop his physical skills and prepares them to move on (to major colleges).
"We're close to a major college situation here. The exposure and experience is getting them ready to move on. If they use that as it presents itself, a kid can do very well on the next level."
The two-year junior college system works best for borderline Division I players, like Capp and Djolakian, who were overlooked by major colleges out of high school.
But even with all these advantages, prep players are still hesitant to attend junior colleges.
"Some people look at junior college basketball as an upgraded level of high school. But I'll tell you what, it's as far from upgraded level of high school as you can get," Beauchemin said. "I've seen a million 'MVPs' in high school leagues that do not do well at the junior college level."
If Capp was asked last year what college he would like to play basketball for once he graduated from Crespi, chances are he would not have mentioned Glendale. In fact, the star guard probably would have had a good laugh if Glendale was brought into the conversation.
"If you were tell me last year at this time that I'd be playing at Glendale this year, I'd probably say, 'No way,' " Capp said. "I just didn't want to go to junior college."
So how does Capp view junior college basketball a year later?
"It's not as bad as I thought it would be," he said.
A prolific outside shooter, Capp averaged 19.1 points a game in his final year at Crespi, while being named the Del Rey League MVP and being placed on the all-CIF squad.
But while crowds cheered his offensive prowess, college recruiters noticed that Capp had ball-handling problems in summer leagues and needed work on his defense.
Capp "has to learn that there are other elements to the game, not just the one-dimensional thing (scoring)," Beauchemin said.
"A lot of times in high school, a star does a major part of the handling and shooting of the ball. . . . Everything kind of depends on him. Well here, he's not such a major part as yet, so he's got to understand and improve the other parts of his game. And maybe next year, he can become that vital player."
For Capp and Djolakian, the biggest difference between junior college and high school ball is the style of play. Junior college basketball is more physical and aggressive, the players said.
"The competition is a lot tougher than I thought," Capp said. "There are a lot of guys that could easily be playing Division I basketball, but just didn't have the grades."
Djolakian knows about academic problems. Low grades cost him scholarship chances at SMU and Texas, which recruited him. As a senior at Alemany, Djolakian, who averaged 24 points a game as a junior, was hampered by a recurring ankle injury but still averaged 20 points a game in limited action.
At Glendale, he hopes to improve his grade point average and knowledge of the game.
"Compared to what I'm learning here (Glendale), I wasn't really taught too much in high school," Djolakian said. "It's like learning all over again. The game is a lot more physical. Compared to high school, it's like night and day."
Said Beauchemin: "Kids come here and don't realize that the junior college level is this good. It really does surprise them."