The benefits of Southern California basketball teams traveling around the country for tournaments have previously been extolled--the publicity for the schools, the exposure to other parts of the country for the players, the competition.
But the trips can also be beneficial for those who didn't go with Carson High to the King of the Bluegrass Tournament in Kentucky, or with Huntington Beach Ocean View to Arkansas for the King Cotton Tournament.
The talk that went on at those places can go on here, too. So, from Coach Richard Masson of Carson and Jim Harris of Ocean View comes this report. It's the next best thing to being there.
Coaching: "My experiences, especially with Capistrano Valley, Mater Dei and perhaps ourselves, is that the teams may have the same talent each year on paper," Harris said. "But coaching in this area really surpasses the rest of the country. There are a lot of good coaches out there, but nothing like here, especially Orange County."
Style of play: "Except for the New York City team (Tolentine), most of the others played a half-court game, pressed very sparingly and didn't try to run the fast break a whole lot," Masson said. "They try to execute almost everything from a half-court offense.
"Personally, I feel that most of the publicity comes from the East Coast and I see that their teams are rated awfully high. But after playing supposedly one of the best big men in the country (Felton Spencer) and Rex Chapman, supposedly the best No. 2 (shooting) guard in the country and the best team from New York, the top teams out here are at least as good, if not better. I think the teams we saw would have trouble in the City Section. Playing against the Fairfaxes and the Crenshaws and the Bannings, they would not dominate as much."
J.R. Reid, 6-foot-10 senior, Virginia Beach, Va., Kempsville: "Awesome," Harris said. "I told his coach right before we played them that UCLA is the place for him (Reid). He'd be perfect in their system. He'd be perfect in anybody's system. He's legitimate. He'll be in the pros. He was triple-teamed most of the tournament and the rest of the team didn't come through a lot for him. Unfortunately, against us they did."
Led by Reid, considered by most the top prospect in the country, Kempsville beat Ocean View for fifth-place, 48-45.
"We used a zone defense, but we didn't do anything super-special," Harris said. "When he turned around toward the basket, he had two guys staring at him. When he put the ball on the floor, it was knocked away. In the last few minutes of our game, Ricky Butler stole the ball from him twice."
Felton Spencer, 7-2 senior, Louisville Eastern: "If Clifford Allen was still playing for us, the game probably would been an embarrassment for him (Spencer)," Masson said. "He is very good around the basket, but I would think anyone 7-2 would be. He doesn't run the court very well and isn't real good without the ball. Nice hands, real strong and a nice little turnaround jumper around the basket. But he didn't show too much range. . . . I don't think he's worth all the hype that people have been giving him."
Spencer had a career-low six points and fouled out at the end of the third quarter against Carson with Anthony January guarding him. He has already signed with Louisville.
Flint Hill High of Oakton, Va., the top-ranked team in the country by USA Today: "One of the best teams I've ever seen take the floor, ever," Harris said. "There was one kid who was supposed to be a freshman and I was in awe. Then I heard from someone that he was a freshman somewhere else last year. That's nothing I can confirm, but everyone seemed to be saying that."
Rex Chapman, 6-4 senior, Apollo of Owensboro, Ky.: "An awesome talent," Masson said. "He jumps 40-something inches. Shoots the ball very well. He's uncanny. He got 19 against us, which is way below his season average of 28 or 29, and they beat us in double overtime. . . . I think his potential is unlimited. But he's lazy on defense and can be slowed down if he has to work hard to get the shot on offense. But once he gets the ball, you might as well forget it."
Chapman has signed with Kentucky.
Perry Carter, 6-7 junior, Gonzaga College High in Washington, D.C.: "He is going to be a stud," Masson said. "He is a stud. About 6-8 and 225 or 230. Just really a fine player. A nice shot outside the basket area, plays defense hard and is real strong on the boards. I liked him much more than Spencer, personally."
West in the South: Judging by some of his postgame comments, Crenshaw Coach Willie West took home some less-than-pleasant memories of the Cougars' games in the Myrtle Beach Tournament in South Carolina.
Crenshaw began play ranked second in the country by USA Today and beat host Myrtle Beach in the first round, 101-74, which prompted West to tell Sammy Fretwell of the hometown Sun News: "I think we were very sluggish. I don't know if that was from not having any competition (tonight) or what."