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THE ELITE : Ten Basketball Stars Named County's Best Over the Past 20 Years

February 01, 1989|TOM HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Tom Lewis was the scoring sensation and Rich Branning was a point guard extraordinaire.

LeRon Ellis was the graceful center, and Wayne Carlander was a powerful blue-collar forward.

Matt Beeuwsaert was the ultimate team player, and Mark Wulfemeyer was a legend.

For the past 20 years, some of the Southern Section's most talented basketball players have gained fame, notoriety and scholarships to some of the nation's top major colleges while playing for Orange County high schools.

County players dot the section's career scoring list with five listed among the top 11 players who have competed in the past 76 years.

Mark Wulfemeyer of Troy, the most electrifying player in county history, is second on the list with 2,608 points in 4 seasons. The Wulf averaged a stunning 27.5 points per game.

Forward Tom Lewis (Mater Dei) is fourth at 2,456 points, Wayne Carlander (El Toro-Ocean View) sixth at 2,314 points, Adam Keefe (Woodbridge) eighth at 2,212 points and Johnny Rogers (La Quinta) 11th at 2,012 points.

The Times has extensively covered the county's best players for the past two decades, and began selecting an all-county basketball team 14 years ago.

The criteria for picking the all-star teams have always followed a simple formula: The 10 best players regardless of position have been selected with no second team.

Following this formula, for the sake of a good argument or some great memories, here is The Times' all-Orange County high school basketball team covering the past 20 years--which was based solely on the athletes' high school careers.

RICK ABEREGG

Aberegg was a seasoned veteran by the time he reached Katella, having played 6 seasons on traveling all-star teams for Pete Liapis at the Fullerton Boys Club.

Aberegg was starting on sixth-grade teams as a third-grader and lost only 1 game in 6 years of youth basketball.

He teamed with another standout guard, Bob Sherwin, at Katella in 1969 to lead the Knights to the 2-A championship game in his junior year. Katella lost to Verbum Dei, 90-87, in what some consider the greatest basketball title game in Southern Section history.

"It was 32 minutes of craziness," Aberegg recalled. "Both teams pressed the entire game. Defense created a lot of the points. The next year was my team and it was the most fun I ever had playing basketball."

Aberegg later starred at Fullerton College with Sunny Hills' Brad McNamara and transferred to Cal State Long Beach where he played for Jerry Tarkanian.

Aberegg, 37, plays for fun in an Anaheim recreation league where he admits he has developed a liking for the 3-point shot. "It's nothing to make those," he said. "Where were they when I played?"

MATT BEEUWSAERT

Was there anything Matt Beeuwsaert couldn't do?

"He did everything for us," said Gary McKnight, Mater Dei coach. "He brought the ball up the court. He scored. He rebounded. Plus, he was a great kid who always put the team ahead of himself."

Beeuwsaert was named the Southern Section's 4-A Player of Year in 1982 after leading Mater Dei to its first of five 4-A championships as a junior, but his overall game suffered his senior year when McKnight moved him to point guard.

Beeuwsaert's scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage marks dropped from the previous year as the spotlight shifted to center Tom Lewis.

"When I look back, the moves only broadened my game," he said. "I looked at the added responsibilities as a challenge."

Beeuwsaert started for three seasons, earning All-Southern Section honors each year. Digger Phelps signed him without ever seeing him play a game.

Beeuwsaert went to Notre Dame, the school he said he always wanted to attend, but left after his sophomore year because of lack of playing time and is now starting for the University of California.

RICH BRANNING

Branning always seemed to be a step ahead of opposing defenses. He had the rare quality of seeing the entire court and making split-second decisions while running the offense.

"I get more enjoyment out of making a nice pass than I do making a basket," he once said. "I get more of a feeling of being involved with the team by passing than I do shooting."

"By far, the best high school point guard I've seen," said Steve Popovich, Marina coach. "The only one who comes close is (former Verbum Dei star) Roy Hamilton."

Many thought Branning and Hamilton would be matched in the 4-A championship game in 1975, but Palos Verdes upset Verbum Dei in the semifinals and then beat Marina in the title game.

Branning developed into a scorer his senior year, averaging 27.4 points per game, but Marina was upset in the first round of the playoffs by Estancia.

"Rich had two bad ankles, a 104-degree temperature and we never had a chance," Popovich said.

WAYNE CARLANDER

Jim Harris, Ocean View coach, claimed he always knew when Wayne Carlander was going to have a big game because his knees were shaking during warmups.

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