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PREP WEDNESDAY : Lynwood Fights His Way Back on the Court

January 20, 1988|STEVE LOWERY | Times Staff Writer

You're going to take a left here . . . . OK, now turn right at the sign . . . . All right, slow, that's it.

No one on Shelly Street called Jesse Lynwood III "Jesse." He was Scootie, a name pinned to him by an aunt who noticed that, as a baby, he didn't crawl so much as scoot across the kitchen linoleum.

His character had long been established among the neighborhood kids: fighting his best friend, Bobby Joyce, for the affection of a kindergarten teacher named Miss Coggins; heaving rocks at passing cars, swiping Bit O' Honeys from the shelves of the local market.

Part lover, part warrior, part adventurer, he was the fastest boy around and everything the kids on the block looked up to.

"Everyone idolized Scootie," Joyce said.

When his father, Jesse Jr., told him he was leaving Shelly Street, Scootie, 7 at the time, said he didn't cry. He said he listened to what his father had to say and surmised, "It's just something he felt he had to do."

His mother, Dorothy Love, left him when he was a freshman at Santa Ana High School. She had become sick, blacking out at times, Scootie said.

"She had a tumor," he said, though he can't remember where the tumor was located.

When she and Scootie's sister, Tracy, moved to a different part of Santa Ana, he moved in with a family friend. Eventually, Dorothy moved to Seattle where she is living.

To the surprise of no one who knew him, Scootie gained fame at Santa Ana as a basketball player as early as his freshman year.

As a sophomore, he was an all-Century League point guard. Bobby Joyce, also a sophomore, was an all-Century League center, and together they led their team to a league championship. Scootie was out on his own, and yet he prospered.

"He was always the kind of guy who stood on his own two feet," said Robert Lee, a childhood friend and one of Orange County's best high school running backs. "He was very independent because he never really had an adult he could depend on."

But, strong as he seemed, the family problems weighed on him. By his junior year it bogged him down to the point that it led to his dismissal from the basketball team. The outlook for his future, even from his closest friends, was bleak.

"That's all Scootie had was basketball," Joyce said. "It got him through everything. When he lost that, I said here's another guy from Santa Ana who's going to go down the dumps."

He ended up in a continuation school for the spring semester in 1987. Though he did not play interscholastic basketball, he did attend Santa Ana games, painful as that was.

"I wanted to cry sometimes because I wanted to be out there with them so badly," he said.

Athletics, especially basketball, had always made him special. Situations changed frequently at home as did homes--he lived in four houses in Santa Ana between age 7 and 15--but basketball was constant.

He was always good at it. He always played on good teams stocked with good friends. He developed skills as a point guard that cannot be taught, one of which was his amazing ability to accelerate. Scootie could scoot.

"The kid has big-time speed," said Dick Katz, Westminster coach. "He'll run a team right out of a game."

He has run himself back in. Scootie is back at Santa Ana for his senior year. He is back on the basketball team, and is arguably the best point guard in Orange County. As in the past, he has done this on his own.

"It's remarkable he's been able to rise above the problems in his life," said Greg Katz, assistant basketball coach at Santa Ana. "I've seen the same type of thing happen to others and those kids are never able to make it back. They don't have the strength. The one thing you can say for Scootie, he's got a good heart."

Which is what Scootie Lynwood believes he must prove this season to himself, his friends, teammates, opponents and the colleges he desperately wants to play for.

Go straight after the light . . . . Over there, that's where Robert Lee lived. And right up here, that's the Jerome Center. That's where I got my start.

It was so easy for him. Winning. Looking good on the court.

His team, the one that got its start in Santa Ana's Jerome Center gymnasium, went on to play at Spurgeon Intermediate School.

For the most part, the team stayed intact from sixth grade until the conclusion of its freshman season at Santa Ana. In that time, including summer league games, it won 180 and lost 2.

The freshman team, coached by Greg Katz, may have been one of the best in county history. With players the caliber of Lynwood, Joyce and Kenney Bennett, who went on to star at La Quinta, it averaged 77.8 points per game and allowed an average of 36.3 points.

In the opening game of the season, Santa Ana's freshman defeated Pacifica's freshman, 128-37.

The reputation of the team and its players spread. Scootie Lynwood had arrived.

"Everyone wanted a piece of Scootie," Greg Katz said.

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