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'Tis the Season for Marathons : Moorpark High Basketball Team's Idea of a Festive Occasion Is a 36-Hour Practice

December 23, 1987|SEAN WATERS | Times Staff Writer

You've heard of dance marathons, kissing marathons and Twilight Zone marathons. But have you ever heard of a basketball marathon?

Tuesday at 8 a.m., Moorpark High began a nonstop, play-until-you-drop basketball practice that will not end until tonight at 8.

For 36 continuous hours, the Musketeers will be dribbling and shooting away their holiday vacation in a chilly gym with all the comforts of skid row. The players won't be paid and they won't be raising money for their favorite charity.

There will be no lighting of a Christmas tree, no spinning of dreidels, no girls or sugar plum fairies. Just fast breaks and a few meal breaks.

What did these players do to deserve this punishment?

"Nothing. They wanted to do it," Moorpark Coach Rick Kent said. "I asked my players if they had dates for Christmas vacation. They said, " 'Yeah, coach. We're going out with something big, orange and round.' Then they asked me if I could leave the gym open during the Christmas break so they could play basketball."

Kent, a self-proclaimed basketball junkie, always wanted to hold a basketball party and he wasn't about to disappoint his fellow fanatics.

"I think it's every player's goofy dream to be able to play basketball late at night," said Kent, whose team has a 3-6 record. "I had this idea a few times, but this is the first group of kids that actually wanted to do it. They're an unusual group. They like to shoot for two hours after a game."

The Musketeers, who won only one game last season, arrived early Tuesday morning with sleeping bags and tote bags under one arm and basketballs and radios under the other.

"This is going to be fun. I can't wait, " guard Lloyd Thomas said. "We're getting a chance to learn a lot of things. It'll be like camping out."

The marathon practice is broken down into one-hour instructional sessions. Kent created games for each session to help players develop skills. In one game, players can only use their left hand to shoot and dribble.

"They'll be working hard while they're having their fun," Kent said.

First-day highlights included a screening of the movie "Hoosiers" at 9 p.m. Kent and four juniors also were scheduled to play an all-comers game at 3 a.m.

"This schedule is subject to change depending on my mood," Kent said.

The 1 1/2-day event concludes with a three-hour session on how to handle and play full-court pressure defense.

Has Kent gone mad? Other coaches from nearby high schools think so.

"I can't even look at my players for 36 hours," Oak Park Coach Steve Goldstein said with a laugh. "They learn something in the first five minutes of practice and that's it. We would be lost for the final 35 hours and 55 minutes.

"I just hope we get to play them the day after they're done. In fact, I'm calling the league office right now to change the schedule."

Agoura Coach Kevin Pasky, who played basketball with Kent at Thousand Oaks High, doesn't think his former teammate can last through the marathon practice.

"We had a four-hour practice and we were dragging, and our eyes got all droopy," Pasky said. "It might be a great way to raise money, but I wouldn't want to do it. I'll probably sneak over there and see how he's doing during that 36th hour."

Before Kent began his marathon practice, he needed permission from Moorpark Principal Cary Dritz and the Moorpark school board. Kent titled his proposal, "A Clinic for a Winning Season."

"We thought it was a great idea," Dritz said. "Rick said he didn't have anything to do for Christmas and he wanted to hold this clinic.

"It didn't seem to violate any Southern Section rules and the school board approved it after Rick got the necessary overnight-trip requests from the parents."

Linda Kira, a school board member, said her son Kelly would have been playing basketball anyway.

"In all honesty, they would be shooting basketball in our backyard," Kira said. "They are better off at the gym with an adult supervising them."

Kent, however, did have second thoughts Monday night.

"When I go to sleep, I'm going to lock my office door," he said. "I'm not going to leave myself unprotected. They might decide to shoot me."

They shoot H-O-R-S-E, don't they?

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