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HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETE OF THE WEEK

Ollie Gaining Ground on a One-Time Lead Husky

December 25, 1991|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For now, North Hollywood High's Damon Ollie is best known in basketball circles as Dana Jones' Younger Brother.

With half-brother Jones in his second season at Pepperdine, Ollie is quickly making a name for himself as one of the most promising high school prospects in Southern California.

Ollie, a sophomore forward who is averaging 15.9 points a game, scored 52 points and grabbed 46 rebounds in three North Hollywood tournament games last week and was named the tournament's most valuable player. He is quickly becoming the kind of dominating player that his brother was at North Hollywood two seasons ago.

Jones, a former Times player of the year, averaged 23.4 points and 12.7 rebounds a game in three seasons at North Hollywood. His 29-point, 29-rebound performance in a 76-71 victory over Fremont in the City Section 3-A championship in 1990 helped North Hollywood earn its only City basketball championship.

Ollie will not be satisfied until, like his brother--who got him interested in the game--he has a City championship.

"That's my goal," Ollie said, "To win a City championship."

Ollie has helped North Hollywood to a 10-1 record this season, and a strong bid for a City title seems inevitable. The Huskies, who lost to Fremont, 70-37, in last year's 3-A title game, have four returning starters. Ollie, the newcomer--but the only player to have scored in double figures in each of the Huskies' 11 games--is like the icing on an already sweet-tasting cake.

"Damon basically does what he has to do to win a game," Coach Steve Miller said. "His focus and concentration are tremendous for a kid his age."

Ollie is just 15, but he stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 210 pounds. Those who know the game of basketball can see that Ollie is no youngster on the court. Just ask Grant Coach Howard Levine, who watched Ollie score 19 points against the Lancers in North Hollywood's 65-49 semifinal-round tournament victory.

"He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time," Levine said. "He grabs a rebound (the same way) we teach our guys to (rebound), but he does it naturally. Damon isn't playing like a sophomore. Damon is the guy to stop on North Hollywood."

Before deciding on North Hollywood, Ollie considered attending Los Angeles or Campbell Hall highs. It was because of Jones that Ollie ended up a Husky.

"I thought it would be a better experience for me since my brother went there," Ollie said.

Ollie and Jones, who share the same mother, rarely see one another now that Jones is away at college. But their admiration and devotion to each other remain steadfast.

"I'm proud of him," Jones said. "I think people are starting to realize that he is his own person. He's not following in my footsteps. He's making his own footsteps."

Jones got a firsthand look at his brother in action earlier this month when North Hollywood played Fremont in the Simi Valley tournament. The Huskies lost, 66-62, in the semifinal round, but Jones wasn't disappointed by what he saw.

"He was pretty impressive," Jones said. "He surprised me (by) the way he did things. He's better than I was in the 10th grade, I think."

Miller would agree with his former star in some respects but not in all.

"(Ollie is) much more advanced at this stage than his brother but not at defense, or at blocking shots," Miller said. "He doesn't jump as well (as Dana). He's just bigger."

Jones, now 6-6 and 190 pounds, was 6-3 and skinny in his sophomore season at North Hollywood, unlike his bulky linebacker-like sibling.

Although different physically, mentally they are a match.

"Both brothers have the most incredible feeling for the game," Miller said. "You can't teach the kind of stuff that they do."

Nearly two years ago, Jones blocked a last-second layup attempt to preserve the Huskies' come-from-behind victory over Hamilton in a 3-A quarterfinal.

Four days ago, Ollie blocked a shot by Chatsworth's Brady Mertes, a 6-8 center, with 40 seconds left to preserve the Huskies' 60-58 victory in the North Hollywood tournament championship.

Ollie probably will tire of the constant comparisons to his brother, but for now, that's what motivates him.

"If I don't do good, everyone will say I'm nowhere near as good as Dana," Ollie said.

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