Don Mead is a basketball junkie who turned his habit into profit.
A decade ago he founded Mead and Associates, a scouting service that rates high school players for his customers, subscribing colleges. He knows the top players in Southern California, including strengths and weaknesses.
"I look at everything from what kind of kid a player is to his attitude before a game," Mead said. "Plus his physical ability and knowledge of the game. The main thing is how well he plays."
Mead rates players on a scale of 1 to 10. Those earning a 10 are considered among the top five prospects in the country. "We haven't had too many of those," he said.
The only Southern California seniors earning 9s this season are Chris Mills, a 6-7 forward from Fairfax who signed early with Kentucky, and Adam Keefe, a 6-9 center from Woodbridge in Irvine who signed with Stanford. Both are considered among the top 25 players in the country, Mead said.
Here's a look at the best seniors in the South Bay, according to Mead's ratings, which are listed in parentheses:
James Moses, Serra (8, considered among the top 100 prospects in the country): The 6-5 swing man is a four-year varsity starter who averaged 28 points a game last season. He signed early with Iowa and figures to take full advantage of the three-point shot instituted in the prep ranks this year. Said Mead: "He's probably the top kid in that area. I like his offensive skills. He's a good athlete and he can score."
Michael Brown, Westchester (7, considered an upper Division I prospect): The 6-6 swing man possesses an all-around game, ranking among team leaders in scoring, rebounding and assists last season. He signed early with Cal State Fullerton. Said Mead: "He might be a little better than (his rating). I think Brown has good potential. He's a very good athlete. If he polishes all of his skills, he'll be good."
Bobby Sears, Inglewood (7): The 6-2 point guard is regarded as the area's premier floor leader. He did not sign early. Said Mead: "He's just developing into a fine player. He's a good athlete and an intelligent kid. He's picking up the game fast. He should be one of the top kids recruited."
Rodney Bowen, Carson (7): The 6-4 forward is one of two returning starters for the Colts. Said Mead: "He has come a long way. His coach (Rich Masson) thinks he can be converted to guard easily. He's a late-developing kid, just coming into his own."
Keith Tieuel, Banning (7): The 6-1 guard transferred from Serra after missing last season with a knee injury. Mead: "I think he's a kid whom everybody will get excited about when they see him. He has a chance to be real good. He has quickness and speed and handles the ball well."
Terry Newman, Banning (6): The 6-3 forward transferred to Banning after starting for two years at Serra. Said Mead: "They're going to use him more as a wing and ball handler at Banning. He'll have a chance to show more of his offensive skills."
Marvin Franklin, Morningside (6): The 6-4 off-guard is the only returning starter for the Monarchs. Said Mead: "He's a good athlete."
Kevin Thompson, San Pedro (6): The 6-1 guard is one of five new starters for the Pirates. Mead: "He could blossom into a good player. He's a ball-handling guard, but not necessarily a point. He can shoot."
Eric Nelson, St. Bernard (6): The 6-4 forward averaged 13 points a game last season but most likely will play football in college. He is an All-Angelus League wide receiver.
Stephen Smith, Carson (6): Along with Bowen, the 6-4 forward is one of the Colts' leaders. Said Mead: "I think he's getting better and better."
Tony Scott, Hawthorne (6): The 6-4 forward greatly strengthed his game over the summer. Mead: "He's a good athlete."
Jeff Whitley, Palos Verdes (5, major college potential): The 6-4 forward is one of three returning starters for last year's CIF 3-A semifinalists. Said Mead: "He's a forward with a chance to be a decent player."
Mead says next year's senior class in the South Bay should be strong.
The area's top juniors are 6-7 Zan Mason of Westchester, 6-4 Harold Miner of Inglewood, 6-3 John Hardy of Rolling Hills and 6-10 Ed Stokes of St. Bernard.
"I think Mason is the best junior in California," Mead said. "He's a solid kid who does everything well. He will be rated an 8, maybe a 9."
The revolving door of coaches continues to turn for Bishop Montgomery's basketball team.
Steve Carroll replaced Brian Gauthier three weeks ago to become the Knights' fourth coach in the last three years. Gauthier reportedly had differences with the administration.
"It's too bad," said Carroll. "The people that benefit least are the kids."
The coaching change figures to hurt a team that went 2-20 last year, but Carroll, like most new coaches, is optimistic.
"We're going to improve or die trying," he said.