The 4th annual Simi Valley-KWNK Tip-Off Classic begins today and the tournament's best player probably won't be a Pioneer.
Instead, it mostly likely will be a newcomer to Ventura County--Santa Clara High's Shon Tarver, a 6-5 junior transfer from Rim of the World in Lake Arrowhead.
Tarver, who will turn 16 in December, averaged 29.5 points a game last season and was selected second-team All-Southern Section 2-A Division. He made 27 3-pointers and scored 40 or more points in 3 games for the Fighting Scots.
The addition of Tarver makes Santa Clara a contender for not only the Frontier League championship, but also the Southern Section championship. The Saints already had 5 returning players, including Bubba Burrage, who was also a second-team All-Southern Section 2-A selection.
"I've only see him in practice, but he may be the best player on this team," Santa Clara Coach Lou Cvijanovich said. "He's a complete basketball player and can shoot from anywhere on the court. He's unselfish and team-oriented and that's not something you find in a player with his stats."
Rim of the World Coach Chuck Lane said Tarver was the best player in the 12 years he has been coach.
"I think he has incredible potential," Lane said. "I don't know if he'll be a star at Santa Clara, but he was the best player we've ever had."
Lane said the most impressive thing about Tarver is his willingness to hustle no matter how one-sided a game can become. Lane tells the story about how Tarver wouldn't give up hope despite Rim of the World losing by 20 points to San Andreas League rival Victor Valley.
During the closing minutes, Tarver had blocked a shot and went the length of the court before dunking the ball. He ran back on defense, stole a pass and missed a shot from half-court.
"He scored 28 points and played the entire 32 minutes," Lane said. "After the game, he walked up to me and apologized for not playing harder in the fourth quarter because he was tired."
Ollie Butler, who has been coaching at Victor Valley for 37 years, facetiously said he is no longer impressed with Tarver as a basketball player.
"Shon Tarver impressed me when he was born," Butler told Lane after the game.
Lane said that Tarver has received letters from 50 colleges, including UCLA, USC, California and Colorado.
Cvijanovich said Tarver's weakness is his defense.
"He didn't know too much about it (playing defense)," Cvijanovich said. "But he's learning fast. He can become as good a defensive player as he wants to be and that's quite a bit."
Going for 4: Simi Valley, the defending Southern Section 4-A champions, won't have Don MacLean, Shawn DeLaittre and Butch Hawking to lead its team and may have trouble winning its tournament for the fourth consecutive year.
MacLean, a two-time most valuable player in the Southern Section 4-A, is starting at UCLA, DeLaittre is playing for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Butch Hawking is at the Air Force Academy. Even Coach Bob Hawking has left the team to become an assistant at Pepperdine.
Needless to say, Simi Valley is entering a rebuilding period and first-year Coach Dean Bradshaw talks more about winning the Marmonte League championship than repeating as Southern Section champions.
"It was great being part of a championship team," Bradshaw said. "But that's behind us now and this is a new era. We don't have the same caliber of athletes. We can only hope we grow as a team and develop into athletes. Our slogan is 'Go for 4' because no team has won the Marmonte League title 4 years in a row."
Another first: In addition to being the first winner in its own tournament, Simi Valley also was the first to win the Nordhoff tournament, which is entering its 46th year.
The Nordhoff tournament began in 1940, crowning the Pioneers as its first champions, and has run continuously since 1945. The tournament was not held for 2 years because of World War II.
Nordhoff won its tournament in 1975, 1980 and 1986.
Some of the recent top players to compete include Victor Anger of Channel Islands, who later played for Pepperdine and professionally in Europe, Rio Mesa's Ivan Verberckt, who played at USC and Cal State Long Beach and Righetti's Robin Ventura, who attended Oklahoma State on a baseball scholarship and was a No. 1 draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in June.
Homecoming: Shawn Kirkeby, Buena's leading scorer last season, has earned a starting position at Portland although he didn't receive much playing time Monday at USC.
Kirkeby, a freshman, started at center but picked up 2 fouls after 5 minutes and sat out most of the first half. USC won, 81-61, and handed Portland its second consecutive loss.
Kirkeby played only 9 minutes and had 4 rebounds and no points. He missed his only 3 field-goal attempts.