Dollie Lucero's decision to attend Glendale College this fall was met with much criticism. The freshman was an All-City Section guard and the 3-A Division scoring champion at Marshall High last season.
But instead of attending a more successful junior college, Lucero opted for Glendale, hoping to improve her grade-point average and attract Division I scouts. The problem is that Division I coaches rarely frequent programs like Glendale's, which has never had a winning season.
"It was kind of hard at first because a lot of my high school friends expected me to go to a four-year school," Lucero said. "Everyone was bummed out because I was going to Glendale."
Initially, she also questioned her decision. She enrolled at both Glendale and Valley colleges, she said, to leave her options open.
"I was registered at Valley," Lucero said. "But I didn't like the whole atmosphere that the team gave me. I didn't feel wanted. The coaches were great and that was the main reason that I wanted to go there. But I just didn't like the atmosphere."
Lucero's decision has been a boon to the Glendale program. She has improved quickly under first-year Coach Rocky Moore and is averaging 19 points a game.
"I really like it," Lucero said. "I'm gaining a lot from coach Moore. My knowledge of basketball has grown tremendously."
Marshall Coach Beth Ercek agrees.
"She's only playing at about 70% of her potential," Ercek said. "She has a certain gift for basketball. She has a real unorthodox shot, but it is so consistent that it wasn't something I wanted to change. She is probably the most experienced high school player I've ever seen."
Lucero, 18, has played basketball since the fourth grade, participating in the Los Angeles Asian league. Although she is 5-9, her primary position was guard. But when she entered Marshall and was one of the team's tallest players, she was quickly moved to center.
Last season she averaged 22.7 points a game and had 18 rebounds, earning a share of the City 3-A most valuable player award. Her solid rebounding and ballhandling have made her an asset at forward this season.
Lucero attributes much of her success to Moore.
"He has such good basic techniques," she said. "Our whole team is predicated on our defense--man to man. He gives tips on footwork, on how to correctly post up and screen out. He has made everyone on the team better.
"We don't really have that much talent. But we win games and play with the better teams because the girls try very hard."
Glendale (6-7) has a realistic chance of finishing above .500 for the first time in school history. But Lucero views this season as a learning experience. She has already grown emotionally.
"In high school I would be more hard on my teammates when they didn't do well," Lucero said. "I was more pushy. I knew what they could do and what to expect of them. So when they didn't give a whole effort I would get on their case.
"Now we play as a team. But if one person doesn't do as well, it's up to her. I think that it is a privilege to be playing basketball in college."
Ercek said that Lucero's competitive attitude sometimes divided the Marshall team.
"It only worked to an advantage to the extent that as long as there was another leader on the floor it was helpful," Ercek said. "She had a tendency not to account for somebody else's feelings. If she was having a hard time, too, it made it even worse.
"She needs to play with people of her own caliber."
That's what Lucero hopes to do at a Division I school in a year or two.