The name is pronounced DE-dawn, as in Dedan of the dead. Put most players through Taft point guard Dedan Thomas' daily practice ritual, or ask them to play at his breakneck pace, and the coroner would be carting some off to the nearest morgue.
Thomas, you see, does these killer calisthenics at warp speed before each practice, all to work out the kinks in his ballhandling repertoire.
"He does the between-the-leg, behind-the-back and wrap-around stuff. You name it, he does it with a basketball," Coach Jim Woodard said. "It's his way of getting loose. He goes at it for about 10 minutes before we start. It's something to watch."
Woodard also has seen Thomas do his thing in games for Taft (6-1). Game in and game out, Thomas, a 5-11 junior who is averaging 12.4 points, 10.4 assists and 4.3 steals a game, has done everything asked of him.
"The thing that amazes me most is that he just seems tireless," Woodard said. "He goes full speed all the time on offense and defense. He never slows down."
Maybe Thomas' off-season workouts have something to do with that.
"He plays basketball--all the time," Woodard said. "That is his exercise."
Thomas is so adept at running the team that Woodard has used a one-guard offense, freeing 6-3 off-guard Quincy Watts to rebound and score inside.
Watts, a senior who missed most of last season because of an ankle injury, averages 21.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. Watts is shooting 62% (68 of 109) from the field.
Taft's early success--the team's only defeat was to Fairfax, 52-49--has been a surprise to some. Woodard said he knew good things were afoot for the team when Watts, one of the nation's best high school sprinters, decided to play. The addition of Watts helped offset the loss of guard Kevin Franklin, The Times' Valley player of the year in 1986-87.
Trivia time: Name the two area players who played on the City Section 3-A Division championship basketball team last year and the 4-A football championship team this season. (Answer below.)
Early shower: Canyon Coach Greg Hayes did not witness the conclusion of the Cowboys' fifth consecutive loss. In the fourth quarter of Canyon's 60-38 loss to South Hills on Friday, Hayes was ejected after receiving a third technical foul. Hayes protested a call against Canyon's Mike Garner, who was whistled for a flagrant foul against a South Hills player making a layup.
But Hayes, whose team is off to a 1-6 start, was even more incensed that officials allowed South Hills Coach Gary West to stand during the game. Coaches are prohibited from leaving their seat while the game is in progress.
"He was standing up throughout the whole game," Hayes said. "I was saying 'Hey, the rule has to work both ways.' The problem is, the referees aren't enforcing it."
Double fault: Two Burroughs football players were suspended from interscholastic competition for six weeks because of their involvement in a brawl that followed the Indians' Northwestern Conference championship loss to Arroyo Grande.
Burroughs Vice Principal David Jackson, who Thursday reviewed a videotape of the fight with Arroyo Grande coaches and Southern Section officials, declined to identify the players. Jackson, however, said that both were seniors who expected to participate on the track team in the spring. The suspensions will take effect Feb. 1.
Arroyo Grande defeated Burroughs, 15-10, Dec. 12 at Burroughs. On the game's final play, a 10-minute melee erupted after Arroyo Grande quarterback Jamie Martin smothered the ball to run out the clock.
According to Jackson, Arroyo Grande agreed to suspend one player.
Bombs away: Calabasas Coach Bill Bellatty believes in a six-second offense and he is learning to like the new three-point rule. In nine games, Calabasas (4-5) has made 53 of 151 three-pointers (35%).
"Our offense is basically designed for the three-pointer," he said. "Our kids have the green light to shoot it whenever they're open. We like to set up our offense, make one pass and pop--shoot the ball, even if it's a three-pointer. We're going to stick to that format until it kills us."
Injured guards: Bell-Jeff's two losses in the North Hollywood tournament last week were especially difficult for Coach Joe Dunn.
Dunn's son Greg suffered a second-degree sprain of his right ankle in an 81-59 first-round loss to Taft and might be sidelined for the rest of the season.
In the second round, Dunn watched in anguish as the Guards blew a 16-point halftime lead and lost to Grant, 70-68.
Greg Dunn, a 6-1 junior guard and team captain who averaged 7.1 points and five assists a game last season, was leading the Guards in assists this season and was second in rebounds.
"When I first heard it was a sprain and not a break, I was kind of relieved," Joe Dunn said. "But a second-degree sprain means the ankle is sprained on both sides. It'll probably take longer to heal than a broken ankle."
Bell-Jeff sorely missed the younger Dunn's leadership against Grant.