Ron Loneski, Lincoln High School's basketball coach, calls senior guard Carl Gaines his team leader.
But Saturday night in the championship game of the Limited Division of the Kiwanis tournament, Gaines was missing--not the usual action of a team leader.
"I came to the game late," said Gaines, The Times' player of the week. "A guy on our team said we were supposed to meet at 6:45 but actually we were supposed to meet at 6. I had to go find another ride really fast."
Gaines, who said he got to the game with about three minutes left in the first quarter, scored 28 points and had 5 steals to lead Lincoln to an 85-68 victory over La Jolla.
"Coach was upset," Gaines said. "Not as much mad, he really just didn't know where I was."
So far this season, Loneski has been very much aware of Gaines, a 6-foot 1-inch guard. Gaines, who scored 72 points in the three-game tournament, has averaged 21.8 points and 7 assists per game for Lincoln. Moreover, he has established himself as the leader of a talented team.
"There's a respect there among these kids," Loneski said. "Carl's a complete and total team player. He will do and accept what's best for the team.
"If I said, 'Carl, I can't start you this game,' he'll understand."
Three years ago, Gaines was on the Lincoln freshman team, which went 31-0. Then, for the next 1 1/2 years, he lived in Texas. But now he's back at Lincoln, reunited with his former freshman teammates, helping Lincoln to a 10-1 record.
Gaines, who sat out his junior season because of transfer rules, returned to Lincoln just before mid-semester last year. He had lived with his father in Texas. He now lives with his aunt in southeast San Diego.
Although he could not play for the team last season, he continued to work hard on his game. And when Lincoln was playing last season, Gaines couldn't be found in the stands but rather on a court somewhere in a pickup game or alone working on free-throw shooting.
"Not being able to play gave me a lot of incentive," Gaines said. "I thought, 'When I do get a chance to play, hey, we're going to do it.' "
The work Gaines put into his free-throw shooting is evident. Loneski held a team free-throw shooting contest recently. He counted every shot from every player, and Roger Johnson made 87 out of 100.
"Carl walked in and said, 'How many do I have to make to win?' " Loneski said. "He missed his first, made his second, missed, then made 47 straight. Then he missed and then he made 49 straight for 97 out of 100. He can do everything."
This summer, he played on a San Diego all-star team that competed in an Arizona tournament. The team was coached by former Fallbrook coach John Gillian, who remembered Gaines from ninth grade.
"I still had to show him that I could still play," Gaines said, who averaged 15 points per game at Arizona.
He also helped Lincoln win the summer league title.
"I didn't have the best summer league," Gaines said. "My goal was getting back with my teammates. I just wanted to blend my talents with the rest of the team."
That he did, and that's how he began to establish himself as the team leader.
"I feel the fellows believe I am (the team leader)," Gaines said. "I'm real close with those guys. Even though I left for a couple of years, there was no problem when I came back. We respect each other. This team has great unity. I try to keep the guys motivated. I'll tell them what they need to do. I'll say, 'Hey, we are here for you. We are a team.' "
Lincoln High School
Height, Class, Position: 6-1, Sr., guard.
Last Week: Scored 28 points and had 5 steals as Lincoln defeated La Jolla, 85-68, in the championship game of the Kiwanis tournament Limited Division Saturday night at Hoover High. Gaines scored 72 points in the three-game tournament.