Each afternoon after summer basketball practice, Chad Givens, La Canada High's 6-foot, 7-inch center and the MVP of the Rio Hondo League, leaves the court for a quieter, more harmonic pursuit--cello practice.
And for Givens, boxing out the cello is easier than banging beneath the backboards.
"I dwarf the thing," said Givens, who earns spending money playing in a string quartet with friends. "There aren't that many 6-7 cellists out there."
Nor are there many 17-year-old cellists of Givens' caliber at any height.
"I have a good ear," Givens said. "I just sit down and play and things come easy for me."
Things on the hardwood haven't come quite so easily the past three weeks, though. Givens, who begins his senior year this fall, fell and tore ligaments in an ankle during the first practice of the summer. The mishap initially looked like a harbinger of doom for the Spartans, who were headed into L. A. Games play.
But La Canada responded with convincing wins over Jefferson, Fairfax and Hart in the first three rounds. Forward Greg Thompson served as an admirable replacement for Givens, averaging 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Coach Tom Hofman said Givens' injury might have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed other players to shoulder the team's scoring responsibilities. Once Givens returns to the center spot, the opposition's defense will have to focus on his presence in the middle, thus creating outside-shot possibilities for teammates.
"Chad gives our team direction," Hofman said.
Last year, the Spartans looked to another Givens for direction, too. Chad and his older brother, Greg, a 6-4 senior guard who will play at Dartmouth next season, were team co-captains.
"Greg is the best defensive player in the history of the school," said Hofman, who added that the older Givens' on-court confidence isn't as strong as his brother's.
Chad, who averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds per game this season, should be confident.
"I enjoy going head-to-head against other great players," he said. "I'm convinced nobody's going to beat me."
It's that type of winning outlook which has attracted college scouts. He has been courted by Stanford, USC, the Air Force Academy, Columbia, Dartmouth, California, Notre Dame, and Eastern Washington, where the coach is Hofman's brother, Bob.
"For me, there's not that much difference between an Ivy League school and Irvine," said Givens, who maintains a 3.82 grade-point average.
But he says the East Coast may be too cold for his liking.
Givens' father, Gene, said he and his son have been awaiting this decision for years.
"A long time ago we sat down and said, 'We know what colleges are looking for and we should design a program that they'll buy,' " he said.
Nevertheless, Gene's proudest memory is not a stellar basketball performance by his son, but a string recital in which Chad played a concerto composed by Saint-Saens.
"I knew then that he was a better cellist than a basketball player," he said.