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9th-Grader Is in a Class by Herself : Newbridge Cager Believed to Be Only Girl on a CIF Boys Varsity

February 06, 1986|JAMES L. ADKINS | Times Staff Writer

There will be a roar when a certain Newbridge School basketball player scores those first points of the season.

The points could come on a breakaway lay-up, free throws or a jump shot. However they are scored it will be special moment.

But no more special than the player.

She is Kim Aran, the only girl on the boys varsity basketball team at Newbridge, a private school with 190 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade. She is probably the only female playing boys varsity basketball in the 480 schools of the CIF-Southern Section. At least she's the only one that Scott Cathcart, CIF-Southern Section sports and publicity director, knows of.

First He's Heard Of

Cathcart said that if there are any other girls playing on boys varsity basketball teams this season, they have not "been brought to my attention. (Aran) is the first one I've heard of." Aran, 14, is a 5-4 ninth-grader and the youngest member on the team, which is otherwise made up of 11th and 12th-grade boys. The team's overall record is 5-10.

Her coach, Bill Ruehl, the first-year athletic director at the school, said that she is making great progress for someone in her first year of organized basketball.

"I don't know if this is typical of girls in basketball or not, but there's a tendency (for them) to be restrained, to be much more in control. The idea of opening up and letting go and running . . . takes time in developing, and I've seen progress in her in that respect," Ruehl said.

Ruehl has seen so much progress that he has made Aran his second-string point guard, and her role on the team is to get the ball into the hands of the team's top scorer, Derrick Hartwick. Ruehl said she does that as well as anyone on the team. She is averaging four minutes of playing time a game for the season.

Key to the Zone

"Her passes are quick--she doesn't hold on to the ball while the defense shifts," Ruehl said. "She gets the ball and makes that bounce pass quickly and that's the key to breaking the zone (defense), which we face every game."

And she gets the chance to make those passes--she doesn't sit idly by on the bench and go in only when the outcome is no longer in doubt. Aran plays when the game is on the line.

"She's been in all but two of the games," Ruehl said. "The last two in particular she's played close to half a game. She's had no problems knowing where to go or what to do."

The only problem Aran has had in the games is figuring out how to put the ball in the basket. She has come close.

Called for Traveling

In one game she took the ball the length of the court and took a shot with three seconds left and made it, but the referee spoiled all the fun when he called her for traveling.

There were other opportunities for her to score when she was able to shoot the ball over the player guarding her. But she said that most of the players she goes against are "so big, and your self-confidence is a little lower."

Ruehl said, "One of the players from Bel-Air Prep School blocked a shot of Kim's and when he came back to the bench he said he didn't mean to do it. And he stuffed it, he just stuffed it down her throat."

Aran would prefer to play for a girls basketball team, but Newbridge, in the Small Schools Division of the CIF, doesn't have one. So, encouraged by her parents and friends, she tried out for the boys team.

New Experience

She said that she looked at it as a new experience, one in which she felt she would be able to learn more about the game from the boys. She added that Ruehl "didn't guarantee me playing time."

"I wasn't worried about it. I thought I would do fine," she said. "And my parents thought it was good that I went out for the team. They're happy that I've done this."

Past attempts at Newbridge to form girls basketball and softball teams failed because only enough players turned out to field teams, not enough to have substitutes. Ruehl said that the teams played some games but some Newbridge players dropped out and the school had to forfeit the remaining games.

"This year we took a poll of the girls to see how many were interested, and there were not sufficient numbers to field a ladies basketball or varsity softball team," Ruehl said. He said that a CIF rule states that if the school does not offer a girls program in a sport, they should be allowed to try out for the boys team.

No Cuts

Ruehl said that only 10 students tried out for the boys team, including Aran. He said that because so few tried out, he decided not to cut anyone. "It's my policy to teach them, even though their playing time depends on their ability."

A Santa Monica resident, Aran said she has always been interested in sports. She said that when she was younger she took lessons in ballet and jazz dancing but they didn't interest her.

So two years ago, she said, she decided to play baseball for the Santa Monica Little League and she developed into a good hitter and second baseman. At Newbridge, Aran said she played on the girls softball and volleyball teams.

She said she also acts in school plays and maintains a 3.5 grade-point average (out of a possible 4). Aran said she hopes to become a sportscaster and wants to attend a college that has a good communications department.

Competes as an Equal

Aran said she has been accepted very well by the boys on the team.

"The first time I played with them and the ball would go up, I wouldn't even grab for the ball that much," she said. "But now I have the attitude that, gee, I'm not going to let them (get) the ball."

Shawn Needleman, a starting guard on the team, said, "I was surprised that a girl was coming out. Then I felt good that someone was coming out because we needed the people," Needleman said the level of play doesn't go down when Aran enters a game.

Aran said she sees herself as a trailblazer for other girls who will follow her. "Going out for the basketball team (may give) them the outlook, 'Well, maybe I'll try it.' "

"I think you broke the ice," Ruehl said.

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