When former Alemany High basketball player James Moses was given permission by the Southern Section to play at Serra this year, many people at the Gardena campus were elated.
Moses, a 6-6 swingman, was one of the most impressive freshmen in Valley basketball history. He averaged 17 points for the Alemany varsity last year, despite breaking a wrist midway through the season.
Many considered him among the most impressive players in his age group in the nation.
But not everyone at Serra was initially pleased. Keith Malone, for one, had his doubts.
Malone, a senior, was a highly regarded forward himself. The 6-4, 180-pound athlete averaged 22 points a game last season to lead Serra to a Camino Real League co-championship and a 22-6 record.
He thought the presence of Moses, a sophomore, would greatly diminish his shooting opportunities.
"At first, I thought he'd have a big head and want to shoot all the time," Malone said of Moses. "But after the first game, I knew that wouldn't be a problem." The problem has been for Serra's opponents.
The Cavaliers finished the regular season 20-6, capturing the league title with a 14-0 record.
At 7:30 tonight, Serra plays Pius X in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section's 5-A Division. In the opening round last Friday, Serra defeated Marina, 102-67, as Malone scored 35 points. Moses had 25.
The Moses-Malone combination is averaging almost 52 points a game (about 26 apiece), about 60% of the team's 87 points-per-game average. And they average 15 rebounds (8 for Malone and 7 for Moses), as well.
"I haven't seen a better combination of forwards," Serra Coach George McDaniel said. "I've seen bigger, but not better."
McDaniel said he was unsure how the arrival of Moses would affect the team, especially Malone, its designated star.
"We were a little concerned at first that James might be unhappy if he wasn't scoring as much or Keith wasn't getting the glory he thought he should get as a senior," McDaniel said. "But the main thing we work on is getting the ball to the open man."
Moses, a resident of Carson, used to ride to Alemany's campus in Mission Hills with assistant coach John Carr. When Carr took a position at Pius X in Downey, Moses was left with no transportation to Alemany.
That led him to decide to transfer to Serra. Under Southern Section rules, however, a player who transfers without a change of residence is ineligible to play at the varsity level for one year.
Since Moses had not moved, he filed for a hardship waiver, claiming that he had no viable means of transportation from his home to Alemany.
Initially, Southern Section Commissioner Ray Plutko denied Moses' request in October last year. A week later, however, an executive committee of the Southern Section overturned Plutko's decision.
Thus, Moses became a Cavalier.