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'Mr. Silent' Making Noise for Vaqueros : Cager David Djolakian Maintains Low Profile but Stats Tell His Story

January 15, 1987|GARY KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

When David Djolakian is on the basketball court, his game is much like the D in his last name. Silent.

The 6-7 center for Glendale College has helped lead the Vaqueros to an 18-2 record and No. 4 ranking in the state, but he has done it almost unobtrusively. When Djolakian threads the net with a jump shot, the swish seems to be replaced by a sh-h-h-h .

"He's very effective because he does what he does quietly," Moorpark Coach Al Nordquist said. "I've had players like that, too. The day after a game, you look at the paper, see that he got 20 points and you ask yourself, "How did he do it?' "

Djolakian, a sophomore, is averaging 22 points and 7 rebounds a game for the Vaqueros, who play host to Santa Monica tonight at Glendale.

"He's not an intimidator," Glendale Coach Brian Beauchemin said. "He can take over a game, but he does it in an unassuming way."

Lee Smelser, basketball coach at College of the Canyons, said Djolakian's effectiveness is attributable to his all-around skills.

"He's not a banger who is going to go in and beat your brains out inside," Smelser said. "He's not that dominant physically. But he has good knowledge of the game, he knows how to position himself for shots and he has great touch."

When Djolakian comes out for warm-ups, opponents can't seem to figure out what all the fuss in their scouting reports is about. In terms of a chiseled physique, Djolakian isn't going to make anyone forget Moses Malone or Terry Cummings. Nor does he run fast nor jump very high.

But Djolakian is shooting 56% and many of his points come on shots made from 20 feet and beyond. His ability to shoot from the outside helped Glendale win three of the four tournaments it entered this season. It has also caught the attention of four-year schools that are interested in having Djolakian play small forward or off-guard.

"He's not the kind of player who comes out onto the court and you say, 'We have to stop that guy,' " UC Irvine assistant coach Bob Thate said. "He's a quiet scorer. He could score 30 points on you and you'd never know it. He's kind of like a good-looking Larry Bird."

Djolakian, 19, likes the comparison to Bird, whose poster hangs on Djolakian's closet door.

"Bird is a guy who can do a lot of different things on the court," said Djolakian, who had a career-high 39 points against Harbor this season. "I like to get a guy one-on-one away from the basket. If I come off a pick from 18 feet on in, I can stick it."

That phrase also sums up Djolakian's feelings about basketball--and school in general--when he found out during his senior year at Alemany High that he would not qualify academically for a hoped-for athletic scholarship to Southern Methodist University or any other four-year school. Djolakian said his academic problems began during his first two years at Alemany.

"I wanted to go to Kennedy, but my mother wanted me to go to a Catholic school," Djolakian said. "I started Alemany and fell behind because I didn't want to be there. It was my fault. Once you get behind it's tough to catch up."

Djolakian played three years of varsity basketball for Alemany and was All-Del Rey League his junior and senior years. He said he had a 2.1 grade point average his senior year and was confident he would qualify for a scholarship.

"My dad kept warning me about my grades, and I'd keep telling him not to worry because I had a 2.1," Djolakian said. "I didn't realize at the time that the 2.1 was not a cumulative average.

"When SMU called and said I wasn't eligible because of my grades, it was the first time in my life that I saw my dad really mad. He didn't talk to me for two weeks."

Djolakian said the lack of communication was bearable only because he didn't feel like talking much. He said he went into "manic depression" and didn't even think about playing basketball. He eventually sought the council of neighbor Tom Haller, 38, who had coached Djolakian as a youngster.

"I used to tell David that the NCAA was getting tougher with academics and that he had better concentrate," Haller said. "He apparently lived in the fantasyland that somehow it would all go away. When the bubble burst he was really down.

"He had to face some harsh realities. But he's done that at Glendale and is showing what he can do in the classroom and on the court."

Last season at Glendale, Djolakian was used primarily as the sixth man. He averaged 15 points a game and had a season-high 37 against Mt. San Jacinto. He was also a success in the classroom. Djolakian has a B average and plans to major in business.

"With his shooting ability, he's going to be an offensive thrust wherever he plays," Beauchemin said. "I would like to see him improve his offensive rebounding and his defense in the interior. Once he understands that, he'll be a force on the next level."

Meanwhile, Djolakian is attempting to help bring a state title to Glendale. Led by Djolakian, forward Eldridge Hodge and guard Jesse Ellis, the Vaqueros seem to have the talent and depth to reach that goal.

Nordquist, whose Moorpark team lost the conference opener to Glendale, must figure out a way to stop Djolakian.

"He can drive, get the tip-in, hit the outside shot and do a lot of different things," Nordquist said. "There's not much you can do to a player like that. Maybe give him the flu or something."

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