This season, Don MacLean easily could have mailed in the obligatory 25 points a game, the rebounds, then scooped up a scholarship to the Division I program of his choice and ran.
The preseason accolades and recognition rolled in for the 6-foot, 10-inch center at Simi Valley High.
He was on every All-American list, prominent on every college recruiter's note pad.
College basketball teams that appear on ESPN more often than replays of last year's NBA slam-dunk contest want MacLean. National magazines and recruiting publications also want a piece of him.
MacLean had every opportunity to adopt Alfred E. Neuman's motto typifying Mad Magazine's general defiance.
It could have been, Don MacLean: "What, me worry?"
Instead, the lighter side of Valley-area basketball has been players trying to defend MacLean. Only opposing coaches aren't laughing. Indeed, there's an air of reverence.
"It should be for our kids and myself an honor to play against MacLean," said Newbury Park Coach Ken Barone, whose team plays the Pioneers tonight. "I hope we're not in awe of him. Hopefully we don't fear him, but we respect him."
In last week's Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., MacLean earned more than a little respect by scoring 103 points and grabbing a tournament-record 48 rebounds. Two days later, MacLean had 43 points and 16 rebounds in Simi Valley's Marmonte League opener against Thousand Oaks, a 103-71 rout.
"The unique thing about Don is he's a high school All-American and he's living up to those credentials," Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking said. "He continues to hone his skills. And I think he's going to continue to get better and better, primarily because he puts his nose to the grindstone. You can throw out the numbers, but as his coach that's what I respect him for."
For now, Hawking will surely hold onto those numbers, at least through the Southern Section 4-A Division playoffs. For the season MacLean is averaging 35.5 points and 15.1 rebounds a game.
MacLean attributes some of this year's success to recruiting trips he made before the season. Of the five trips he made, he saw four of the teams--Kentucky, UCLA, UNLV and Georgia Tech--during practice sessions.
The intensity of the practices impressed MacLean.
"I wasn't feeling conceited or anything, but my feeling was I wasn't going to do a whole lot of running or anything," he said. "But when I went on my visits and saw how hard they worked, I think I turned it up a notch. They were just bustin' all the time. They were trying to hold onto their starting jobs."
MacLean need not worry much about finding a warm spot on the bench.
"The people in South Carolina were astonished at his skill level," Hawking said. "Sometimes you get this preconceived notions of a 6-10 high school basketball player. But Don has improved 50% from last year, and I said that last year, too."
Alfred E. Neuman would be disgusted.
VALLEY TOP 10
Selected by sportswriters of The Times
Last Rk Wk Team League Record 1 1 Simi Valley Marmonte 10-3 2 2 Cleveland Valley 8-2 3 3 Kennedy Valley 9-0 4 4 Taft Valley 9-2 5 5 North Hollywood East Valley 7-3 6 7 Grant East Valley 8-2 7 8 San Fernando NW Valley 5-4 8 6 Crespi Del Rey 8-6 9 NR Hart Foothill 7-5 10 NR Burbank Foothill 8-5
Through Tuesday's games.