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The Preps

Basketball Teams Will Be Major Victims of New Travel Rule

December 30, 1987|Scott Howard-Cooper

Take a last look at the Southern California high school basketball teams that are in tournaments dotting the country these days.

This week Simi Valley is in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; St. Bernard of Playa del Rey is in Ocala, Fla.; Fairfax is in Pine Bluff, Ark.; Crenshaw is in Forth Worth; Ocean View of Huntington Beach is in Raleigh, N.C.; Mater Dei of Santa Ana has gone from Atlantic City, N.J., to Philadelphia; Glendale, Long Beach Poly and El Toro are in Honolulu for two invitationals; and the Lynwood girls are in New York City.

Annual travel on that scale won't fly anymore in the Southern Section.

Starting with the 1987-88 season, each sport in the Southern Section will be allowed one trip of more than 500 miles one way only every three years, excluding tournaments in California, Arizona and Nevada.

No more going to Orlando, Fla., every year for the Simi Valley baseball team. No more going to the Texas Relays every year for the Hawthorne track team. No more going someplace new every year for the Mater Dei basketball team. In short, no more travel-as-you-please attitude, even during Christmas vacation.

Interestingly, basketball, which offers frequent opportunities to travel because of tournaments, will be hurt most by a rule designed to take a hard-line approach on football.

The Southern Section had decided to look at the travel issue because some football coaches were concerned about a handful of teams getting a one-week head start on the season by playing games in Hawaii or on the East Coast.

A Southern Section subcommittee decided that there was a problem beyond football, citing that travel could be used as a recruiting aid. The thought was that some students might pick a high school because it is "the one that goes to Florida every year." It was considered another opportunity for the rich to get richer.

So, two years after the City Section eased its restrictions on travel, the Southern Section will clamp down. Now coaches will have to be prognosticators as much as judges of talent.

Their choices are unenviable: Should they go to San Francisco this year and Las Vegas next, both within the new rules, and plan on getting an invitation to a major tournament back East in three years? Or, should they go now and let their next two teams take San Diego and Carson City?

It also means good news for local tournaments, which in the past have lost the big schools to the lure of travel but now present a viable alternative.

Track, in that it is an individual as well as a team sport, presents something of a gray area, or at least more flexibility. Athletes can compete throughout the country any number of times by going unattached to something like the Pathmark Indoor meet, a national event with rotating sites, but that means funds have to be raised separately from the school and coaches cannot go along as representatives of the school, either.

Despite the importance of the ruling, an adaptation of a statewide policy dropped in the mid-1970s, the Southern Section office said it has received no feedback, positive or negative. News of the change was sent out to schools in February.

Christian Okoye, the Kansas City Chiefs' running back from Nigeria by way of Azusa Pacific, will be the track coach at Bassett High of La Puente in the off-season.

"I'm not doing it for the money," Okoye, who holds the African record in the discus and is proficient in other weight events, told the Kansas City Star. "That is what I came here (Kansas City) for. I like working with kids, and track is still in my blood."

Okoye got involved with Bassett through principal Robert Nero. The two became friends while Okoye was nearby at Azusa Pacific.

Prep Notes

The Tournament of Champions, one of the best high school basketball invitationals on the West Coast, will shift to Ocean View of Huntington Beach, starting in 1988. For the last 16 years, the tournament has been run by San Dimas and Bob Espinoza, the founder and co-director. San Dimas runs two other tournaments, and organizers hope that the change from the current site of Cal Poly Pomona to Orange County will give a boost to a competition that has had disappointing attendance of late. . . .

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