The all-star boys and girls teams, each consisting of 10 members, their coaches and parents will be guests of the Times at 9 a.m. Sunday, May 1, at the annual Times High School Basketball Awards Brunch where all-star teams from 12 circulation areas will be honored at the Anaheim Hilton. The featured Speaker will be Loyola Coach Paul Westhead. The players and coaches of the year from each area will be announced.
The teams were chosen on the basis of a poll of area coaches, who are asked to fill out ballots nominating their own players and opponents, plus the observations of college scouts and sportswriters. Each player will receive the traditional Times golden basketball plaque and award certificate.
On first impression it appears that Beth Ercek is in an unenviable position as coach of the Marshall High girls' basketball team. She has little to work with. But only in terms of height--there is plenty of talent.
Her tallest player is 5-8 center Rena Winter. The junior scrapped her way onto the Westside all-tournament team, was named first-team All-Northern League and first-team All-City after averaging 10 points and 8 rebounds a game. And this season, she was one of 10 players named to the Times All-Glendale team.
One of Ercek' starting forwards, Maile Feig, is only 5-5. But the aggressive senior averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds a game. She was twice named to the first-team all-league and the first-team All-Times' Glendale team.
Not only is one of Ercek's starting guards small, but she is young. And impressive. Laura Oki, a 5-4 sophomore, averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds and was named second team all-league.
How can Ercek's success be explained?
Much of it is because of the well-organized Asian League which has, for several years, been the training ground for a majority of the Northern League's players. Winter, Feig and Oki all participated in the league, which affords playing opportunities at an early age.
"The Asian league has been a real benefit," Ercek said.
Few other Glendale-area teams have benefited from such a feeder program. Hoover Coach Bob Henry said that most of his top athletes gained experience on their back yard courts--not on an organized team. Most players lack even the basic basketball skills their initial high school season. The junior high school programs just aren't getting the job done, Henry said.
"You can't start with the kids in ninth grade when they have zero background," Henry said. "They'd be 10 times better if the junior highs had a program for the girls. As a result there are no top flight teams in this area."
Indeed, Hoover, Crescenta Valley and Glendale have struggled in the Pacific League. Hoover, which placed third behind Pasadena and Muir this season, was eliminated by a first-place team in the opening round of the playoffs. Hoover had four players who were All-Glendale picks, including Maria Kim, Jenny Pritchard, Juliana Holmstrom and Michelle Ahnstedt. Kim, a junior point guard, averaged 10 points and 6 assists. Pritchard, a senior forward, was a three-year starter. This season she averaged 13.4 points a game while Holmstrom, a 5-8 sophomore forward, averaged 10 points and Ahnstedt, a 5-11 junior forward, added nine points and eight rebounds a game.
Ercek believes there needs to be a balance between athletics and academics.
"We need to focus on the three R's but we also need to focus on the total person," Ercek said. "We can't have all that knowledge in an unhealthy body. It's gone completely to the other extreme now. I'm the first to say that academics is important. But basketball or athletics will give you the social skills you need to succeed in the life that you chose for yourself."
This year's All-Glendale team stands as a good example. Kim, for example, is active in tennis, basketball, student affairs and is an honor roll student. And several other players, including Eagle Rock's Ashlee Tanimoto, carry higher than 3.5 grade-point averages.
Glendale Coach Carrie Meadows said part of the problem is that the line between physical education and athletics has become blurred.
"They need to develop their competitive skills," Meadows said. "There is a big difference between a P.E. program and an athletic program."
Meadows said her team worked most of the season on the basic skills with a majority of that time on ball handling. She moved Lia Petrossian from forward to point guard midway through the season because of Petrossian's excellent ball-handling skills. The 5-7 junior averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds a game this season and was named second-team All-Pacific League.
With ball control playing such an important role it is little wonder that three of the four remaining members of the All-Glendale team are point guards.
Leilani Artis, a 5-7 senior, averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds for Crescenta Valley. She was named to the All-Pacific League teams in basketball and volleyball and is an All-Southern Section outfielder for the softball team.