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Ribet a Study in Discipline

March 01, 1990|GARY KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In keeping with the school's college prep curriculum, Coach Michael Miller regularly distributes homework to his players on the Ribet Academy boys' basketball team.

The assignments vary, but many involve exercises in self-evaluation, motivation and goal-setting techniques.

"We like to make people think," Miller says, "because it's a thinking game."

Collectively, the Fighting Frogs must be thinking they're a pretty good team.

Ribet breezed through its Heritage League schedule undefeated, destroying opponents by an average of 46 points a game, and could be on the verge of winning the school's first Southern Section title.

The top-ranked Fighting Frogs (24-2) will get their title shot Friday when they play second-ranked St. Margaret's of San Juan Capistrano in the Southern Section Small Schools Division championship game at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.

"I came here because of the opportunity to win a championship," says Miller, 25, who is in his first season at Ribet after coaching Cathedral High to consecutive Santa Fe League titles and semifinal appearances in the Southern Section playoffs.

In turn, most of the key players for the Fighting Frogs are at Ribet because of Miller, whom they met through all-star summer leagues, camps and clinics.

A familiar coach, a prep school education and financial assistance from the school to help them pay the $4,000-a-year tuition drew juniors Jacquin Moore and Jamal Duncan and highly-touted freshmen Jason Sanders and Andre English to Ribet's La Canada campus.

Moore, a 6-foot-2 forward from Gardena, is the Fighting Frogs' leading scorer, averaging 18 points and eight rebounds a game. Duncan, a point guard from Los Angeles, averages 16 points. Sanders, a 6-3 guard from Los Angeles, also averages 16 points while English, a 6-5 center, scores about six.

The players car pool to school each day.

"He (Miller) said I would have the opportunity to come here and better my education as well as play basketball," says Duncan, who transferred from Inglewood High. "I didn't want to leave at first. I had all of my regular friends and I was playing at a big school. But I figured it was worth it to tear away from that."

Sanders says he came to Ribet for the education and the opportunity to play varsity basketball as a freshman.

"If I had gone to another public school, I probably would have sat the bench," says Sanders, who scored 35 points in the Fighting Frogs' first-round playoff victory over Claremont of Garden Grove. "It's 40 minutes back and forth each day, but I felt, with my parents, that it would be better for me in the long run."

Several opposing coaches likely hold the opinion that what's good for Ribet isn't necessarily good for the Heritage League or Small School basketball.

Ribet already had plenty of talented players before Miller arrived with some that were even better.

The Fighting Frogs had won or shared three consecutive league titles before this season and advanced to the Southern Section semifinals last year.

Miller, however, is unfazed by his critics.

"I'm not going to cheat our kids out of doing their best," he says. "We want our kids to achieve something.

"They (opponents) didn't feel sorry for Ribet when they were beating Ribet by 70 points when it first opened."

The Fighting Frogs don't figure to find themselves on either end of a blowout against St. Margaret's, which is led by 6-7 center Ryan Westendorf.

If Ribet wins the Small Schools championship, the Fighting Frogs will advance to the state tournament. If they lose, they still will have enjoyed the best season in school history.

This year's team could, therefore, find itself the focus of one of Miller's practice-day lessons or homework assignments.

"I like to show my players examples of people that are being successful and people that are being failures that could have been successful," Miller says. "I try to make it as realistic as possible so they can understand what they can do so they don't make the same mistakes.

"If it just helps one of them, it's worth it."

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