YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Breeding's Perseverance Pays After Frigid Shooting Spell : Basketball: Crescenta Valley guard who gave team a spark late last season recovers his touch in time for key Pacific League games.


The shots just kept on coming.

And missing.

Crescenta Valley High guard Lamar Breeding launched, floated and literally threw the ball toward the basket 20 times in a game against La Canada earlier this season, often with defenders no closer than 10 feet away.

Set shots, jumpers and lay-ups clanked off the rim as Breeding converted just two attempts while the Falcons fell further and further behind.

"Keep shooting," Crescenta Valley Coach John Goffredo pleaded.

Goffredo hoped Breeding would shoot himself out of a slump that had just about everyone involved with the Falcons' program baffled.

Entering the season, Goffredo billed Breeding as one of the finest shooters in the Glendale area. Breeding, after all, led Crescenta Valley in scoring after he was summoned from the junior varsity for the regular season-finale and two playoff games last season. He was the leading scorer for the Falcons during summer league.

But it wasn't until he was benched following the La Canada game that Breeding began working out his shooting problems and finished the regular season the way Goffredo envisioned he'd start it. Two weeks ago, he produced 19 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against Hoover that marked a return to form.

"He's their team leader," Hoover Coach Kirt Kohlmeier said of Breeding. "His quickness makes up for a lot of things."

Breeding's shooting woes resulted in just a 10 points per game average this season. But he used his quickness and passing skills to help lead the Falcons to a 7-3 record and second-place finish in the Pacific League.

"When he has a good game, we're on top of ours," Goffredo said.

On Tuesday, Breeding scored 11 points as Crescenta Valley (16-8) defeated Hacienda Heights Wilson, 70-54, in the first round of the Southern Section 4-A playoffs.

Breeding, 5-foot-9, 140 pounds, hopes to continue his basketball career next season at either Glendale College or Pasadena. Adapting to play at a higher level should not be a problem for a player who has demonstrated the ability to fit in, even while standing out, throughout high school.

Born in Cleveland, Breeding was five when he moved with his mother, Yvonne, to Chula Vista after his parents divorced.

During the middle of his final year in junior high, Breeding and his mother moved to Montrose to be closer to Yvonne's fiance, who owned a business in Glendale. Breeding said there were other considerations for the transplant.

"The gang problem was getting carried away (in San Diego)," Breeding said. "She didn't want me growing up around that stuff."

The move to Montrose, however, presented Breeding an entirely different social predicament.

When he enrolled at Crescenta Valley in the middle of the second semester, Breeding became one of just three black students in a predominantly white school with an enrollment of about 1,600.

"In San Diego it was mostly blacks and Hispanics," Breeding said. "It was hard to change. I'm not prejudiced, but I didn't know how other people thought about me."

Steve Finch, who is now one of Breeding's back court teammates, helped ease Breeding's transition by befriending him the first day he was on campus and introducing him to other students. "People were nice to me and I was the same with them," Breeding said. "I get along with everybody."

Finch also was instrumental in helping Breeding adjust to the pace and discipline of a Crescenta Valley basketball program that has had only one losing season in 28 years.

"In San Diego, we'd sit down on the side (during practice) and mess around," Breeding said. "When I got up here, it was 'Run over there. Hands up.' It was really strict.

"At first I didn't adapt, but Steve told me that things weren't going to change unless I listened and after that I slowly got into it."

Breeding was a reserve on the sophomore team, but worked hard over the summer before his junior year and earned a starting position on the junior varsity. He averaged 20 points a game for the JV's while Raffie Eskandarian, a senior, ran the show as point guard for the varsity. When Eskandarian was declared academically ineligible near the end of the season, Breeding stepped in and scored 19 points against Arcadia and 17 and 18 points, respectively, in two playoff games.

So what happened to the soft touch?

Breeding says his shooting troubles began shortly after summer league was completed.

"We had a month off and I was playing everyday at different parks and gyms," Breeding recalled. "I would watch other people shoot and I guess I changed where I was releasing the ball."

With center Paul Matijasevic having a fine season, the impact of Breedings struggles weren't felt until the entire Falcon team started a tailspin during Winter break.

For two weeks after the players returned to school, Goffredo drove to Breeding's home in the morning and chauffeured him to the gym for 7 a.m. shooting practice.

Breeding, however, said the recent return of his touch was more of a welcome revelation.

"I got up that morning (before the Hoover game) and told my mom, 'I just feel like playing,' " Breeding recalled. "She said, 'You better, because I'm getting sick of watching you shoot like that.'

Los Angeles Times Articles