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He's Mr. Blue-Collar Amid Blue-Chippers : Four Years of Hard Work Pay Off for Mater Dei Guard John Boyle

March 21, 1987|TOM HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

A list of Mater Dei High School basketball stars who have played in the past five years reads like the starting lineup of an all-star team.

Matt Beeuwsaert, Chris Jackson, Tom Lewis, Mike Mitchell, Mike Fielder, Stuart Thomas and Tom Peabody all earned Division I college scholarships. All ranked among the best players in Orange County in their playing days.

Then, there's current starting guard John Boyle. Boyle, a 6-foot 1-inch senior, is the Monarchs' answer to plain wrap. No fanfare is necessary here. Save the accolades for someone else.

Boyle has yet to score in double figures in the Monarchs' six playoff victories that have led to tonight's Division I championship game against Concord Ygnacio Valley in Oakland, but he's a big reason Mater Dei has reached the title game for the first time.

Boyle began the season as a reserve to point guard Chris Patton and off guard Mike Hopkins. When Hopkins suffered a stress fracture in his right ankle midway through the Angelus League season, Boyle moved into the starting lineup.

Boyle has provided steady ballhandling and just enough outside shooting to keep opposing defenses honest. He also has defended against some of Southern California's best guards with a blue-collar effort.

"The team is (center) LeRon (Ellis), so my first priority is to try and get the ball in to him," Boyle said. "If a team is sagging inside on LeRon, I'll take the outside shot.

"I take a lot of pride in my defense. I thought I did a good job against (St. Monica's) Jason Matthews for three quarters, and I guarded (Fresno Edison's) Charlie Ross in the fourth quarter."

Boyle limited Matthews, who will attend the University of Pittsburgh, to 15 points through three quarters before Matthews scored 10 points in the last quarter. He held Ross to four points in the last quarter after Ross had 19 points in the third quarter.

Boyle has been the biggest surprise in the Monarchs' program during Coach Gary McKnight's five-year tenure. Boyle played for the Monarchs' second freshman team and last year averaged only four minutes a game on the junior varsity.

"I've never been a starter since I came to Mater Dei," Boyle said. "I honestly never thought I'd make the starting lineup. I had to work hard just to make the team."

McKnight said Boyle's work ethic earned him the starting spot.

"I'm not overly surprised by what John Boyle has done this year," McKnight said. "Last summer, he showed he could play. He had some good games in the Bosco Tech tournament, but I kept saying it wasn't going to last.

"He knew coming into the season that he was going to be a backup, and most kids would not have worked as hard as John did, knowing that they wouldn't start. John could have easily said, 'I'm a sub, why work hard?' but he didn't.

"John and Mike had some good battles, so when Mike got hurt, I knew John could do the job. He's an honor student who has done everything we've asked of him."

Boyle, who lives in Corona del Mar, has spent most of his time during the summer playing in pickup games on Balboa Island or the Newport Pennisula.

"I've always tried to play the game as hard as I can," Boyle said. "My dream was to play on the CIF championship team, and I wanted to get as much playing time as I could.

"When Mike got hurt, I knew it was my big chance. I was a little nervous, but I wasn't going to blow this opportunity."

Boyle has maintained a 3.9 grade-point average in college preparatory courses and has been accepted at UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA. He plans to major in political science or business, and hopes to attend law school.

Boyle's father, Joe, is a political science professor at Cypress College and played baseball at Loyola High in Los Angeles. Boyle's younger brother, David, played on the Monarchs' first freshman basketball team this season.

"He didn't start, which might be a good omen," Boyle said. "I think he's going to be good, if he works hard at it."

Although Boyle can't be categorized with some of the great players at Mater Dei, he may long be remembered for a missed shot against Virginia's Flint Hill Prep in the finals of the King Cotton Classic in Pine Bluff, Ark.

Boyle missed a five-foot jump shot with 12 seconds remaining as the Monarchs suffered their only loss of the season. Flint Hill Prep has been the nation's top-ranked team by USA Today since the season started.

"I was wide open and missed," Boyle said. "We came that close to being No. 1 in the nation. I thought it was going in, but it bounced out. I'll never forget that.

"When I look back, that was my biggest memory of the season. I'll also never forget the great fan support we have received all season. Our fans have been the difference in some of our close games."

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