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HOLDING COURT : St. Anthony's Martin Plays Game as If He's on the Floor by Himself

February 18, 1988|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | Times Staff Writer

Live from the playground at Our Lady of Victory school in Compton, for two or three hours on most weekends, it's the Darrick Martin Show, starring one of the best high school point guards in the country.

Watch him dribble downcourt, one-on-four, with 10 seconds left in the game. Get ready for a quick behind-the-back pass, or maybe a 360-degree spin move down the lane. A move for every moment. He's unstoppable.

What's that? There really are no defenders out there?

Details, details. Martin, the 6-foot ballhandling whiz at St. Anthony of Long Beach, sees them, if only in his mind. They're there, the opposition only he can detect. This is his stage, after all.

There is, of course, a method to this madness. Martin, a lock to be named All-Southern Section 5-A for the second straight season, sets up the game-like situations in his mind and then goes out and plays them for real, even if the defense isn't. So when he gets in a game--the real stage--he has faced every situation.

"I have seen it and tried it already," Martin said. "It's like second nature. I don't think about it when I'm coming down the court. I don't even have to think about it.

"Some of the things I do, it's become like habit. I'm not out there showing off, but that is how my game has developed. I practiced doing those things. It's not being lucky."

Keep on playing those mind games. Martin is only 16 (he skipped fifth grade), but, with his flashy dribbling and passing, he controls the tempo of a game like few others. His statistics are equally impressive, having averaged 33.4 points and 11 assists through the 25 games of the regular season.

Now, imagine this: St. Anthony, champion of the Camino Real League, winning the Southern Section championship. The Saints (21-4) are the third-seeded team in the major division heading into tonight's first-round game at home against Edison of Huntington Beach (16-10).

The true dream-like sequence is what has happened to Martin in the past year.

In February of 1987, then-Coach Tom Roanhaus was having to convince people that his 5-11 junior point guard was a big-time player. The 31-point-a-game average was legitimate, he said.

Months later, Martin made the tour of the summer camps, and Roanhaus would have to sell no longer. The basketball world believed, especially after Martin's showing at the Nike camp in Princeton, N.J.

No one knows exactly how to describe the sudden change, but "explosion" comes to mind. The same player who three months earlier was being shown true interest by only Cal State Long Beach was suddenly regarded as the No. 1 point guard in the nation.

Would the defenders at Our Lady of Victory believe this?

"It was wild," said Jesse Martin, his father. "The phone started ringing at all times of the night. People were calling to say how great he had done that day and the interest they had in recruiting him. People were calling me at work. My secretary would say, 'Who are these people?' She's be taking messages from Duke, Walt Hazzard, Arizona, all the big names. I'd come in in the morning and get my messages, and people would stand around and look at my notes."

Martin narrowed his college choices to Nevada Las Vegas, Arizona, Duke, Notre Dame and UCLA before picking the Bruins and becoming the instant heir apparent to junior Pooh Richardson at point guard. The deciding factor, his father says, was Darrick's commitment to staying close to Andre, his younger brother (by 11 months) who is learning disabled.

"He was on his way to Arizona, signed, sealed and delivered," Jesse Martin said. "If he knew his mother and I would make arrangements for Andre to get down there (Tucson) to see the games, it might have been different."

Prep Notes

All the 5-A first-round games will be played today, with the four other divisions going Friday. The City also begins Friday, and the Southern Section girls are Saturday. . . . In an otherwise forgetful year for El Camino Real of Woodland Hills, Brent Lofton, a junior swingman in his first full year on varsity, continues to stand out. Lofton, who has scored double figures in 27 of 29 games since coming up from the JV team, is averaging 21.9 points and 11.9 rebounds a game, including 27 and 21 against Cleveland of Reseda last Friday, when he also brought the ball upcourt against the press. "He's kind of the shining star for a season that hasn't been too bright," assistant coach Jeff Davis said. El Camino Real (4-14) faces either Manual Arts of Los Angeles (20-2) or Crenshaw (22-0) in the first round of the City 4-A playoffs. . . . When Los Altos of Hacienda Heights beat Diamond Bar, 63-44, in a Sierra League girls' basketball game Feb. 3, junior Susan Peters had 45 points and 34 rebounds to lead the Conquerors. The rebound mark ties for the ninth best for a single game in Southern Section history.

Loyola of Los Angeles, an all-boys' school, is 5 for 5 in Del Rey League titles in 1987-88, having won in football, cross-country, water polo, soccer and basketball. . . . Kye Courtney of Hawthorne has been named boys' track coach of the year by the California Coaches Assn. He will receive his award at a March 18 banquet in Oakland. . . . Lakewood pitcher Mike McNary, the Southern Section 4-A player of the year last season, has been named the 1987 athlete of the year by the Lakewood Youth Hall of Fame. He will be honored Feb. 29.

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