A big man who can move can make the difference between winning and losing on the basketball court. But it was an off-court move that provided the winning combination of the City College of San Francisco and 6-foot 10-inch center Dean Garrett.
Garrett graduated from San Clemente High School in 1984 after two varsity seasons and was expected to play at Saddleback College. But the summer after graduation from high school, his mother took a job working for the U.S. Navy in San Francisco, and Garrett's plans changed.
Saddleback--and possibly Cal State Fullerton--lost a center, as Garrett joined San Francisco Coach Brad Duggan, who has a 300-83 record in 12 seasons.
In his two seasons at San Francisco, Garrett has become a force.
As a freshman, he averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds, and the Rams advanced to the state quarterfinals. His play invited numerous scholarship offers, and Garrett signed a letter of intent before the start of this season to attend Indiana.
"Everything about my game has improved," Garrett said. "Shooting, rebounding, defense, just everything, especially my confidence. Now, I feel like I can go out there and dominate the other person, instead of thinking about being dominated."
Garrett, 19, sees a similarity between his current coach and Indiana's Bobby Knight.
"He (Duggan) yells a lot during games, and that's all most people see," Garrett said. "But to his players, he's the nicest guy in the world. He would give us his last dollar if any of the players really needed it. Without him, there would have been no Indiana for me.
"I lot of people thought I would return to this area and play at Cal State Fullerton, but I wanted to get out of California. I think it will really mature my game and me. And at Indiana, I will have a chance to play on TV."
Garrett started playing basketball as a freshman at San Clemente. At 14, he was already 6-3, but his motor skills were running well behind his rapid growth. He made it to the varsity as a junior and, as a senior, averaged 20 points and was named to the All-South Coast League first team.
"I knew Dean was going to become a really talented player," said Brian Scherbart, his high school coach. "He improved tremendously just in high school. He never really played basketball before his freshman year. We spent a lot of time working with him, and you could see he was going to get better, much better."
Garrett's game still needed refining after high school. He was 6-10, but he lacked the coordination and confidence to take full advantage of his height.
"What impressed us about him at the start was he was 6-10," Duggan said. "Plus, he could run and catch the ball. We felt like we could develop him and really make him a good player."
While at San Francisco, Garrett has worked with weights and has bulked up from 185 pounds to 225.
Garrett didn't have much trouble dominating almost everybody this season. He averaged 16.3 points and 9.7 rebounds a game and was named Golden Gate Conference Most Valuable Player. He scored a career-high 38 points this season against Santa Rosa.
The Rams were 29-2 during the regular season and 15-0 in conference.
Garrett has returned to Southern California for the first time to play in the state community college basketball championships at Cerritos College in Norwalk.
The Rams defeated Los Angeles Harbor, 53-52, in the quarterfinals Thursday night and beat Santa Barbara, 39-37, in the semifinals Friday. In those games, Garrett's scoring was limited by opponents' slow-down tactics. He scored 14 against Harbor and 9 against Santa Barbara.
Saturday in the title game against Sacramento City College, he scored 18 points, all in the first half, before leaving the game with a sprained ankle. Sacramento won, 77-71.
Garrett's early decision to attend Indiana took some recruiting pressure off him, but the choice has added pressures.
"When I go on the court, people know I'm going to Indiana," Garrett said. "They come out gunning for you. They wonder if this guy is good enough to go to Indiana."