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Top Man Among a Tall Bunch: Parks : Basketball: Former Marina center will probably be measuring stick for Orange County prep stars for many years.

January 22, 1992|TOM HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sometime, somewhere, a powerful center will emerge on an Orange County high school basketball court and develop a following of fans, scouts and media that is seldom seen.

Coaches will marvel at his talents and scoring efficiency, and the inevitable question will be asked: "How does he compare to Cherokee Parks?"

It's something that will be asked for years, whenever high school basketball fans gather for holiday tournaments or postseason play. Parks, a former Marina High School center now playing at Duke, will be the 6-foot-11 gauge by which future county centers will be measured.

Parks left his mark last season, during Marina's remarkable run to the championship game of the Southern Section Division 1-A playoffs.

During a two-week span, Parks averaged 27.8 points in dominating victories over Alta Loma, Capistrano Valley, San Bernardino and Mater Dei.

After Parks scored 30 points and blocked five shots against top-ranked Mater Dei, Monarch Coach Gary McKnight said, "Cherokee Parks is the best offensive player Orange County has ever seen at the center spot."

Some have compared Parks to former UCLA star Bill Walton, saying he was the best center prospect in Southern California since Walton played at San Diego Helix. While that's debatable, few would disagree that Parks is the best center produced in the county in the past 20 years.

In four years, Parks scored 1,964 points. As a 15-year-old, he was labeled a "can't-miss" Division I prospect by North Carolina's Dean Smith. He earned the nickname "The Chief" by excelling in the fundamentals--passing, shooting and rebounding--and did it with a style that none have equaled.

While Parks is unquestionably the best big man to play in the county over the last 20 years, others have made lasting impressions. Some of the rest:

LeRon Ellis, Mater Dei, Class of '87: He was once called a Renaissance man while at Mater Dei because he dabbled in cooking, auditioned for a drama production and read great literary works.

Ellis, son of former Laker center LeRoy Ellis, transferred to Mater Dei from Parkrose High in Portland, Ore., as a junior and carried Mater Dei to the State Division I championship his senior season.

He was agile enough to high jump 6-8 as a senior and also played on the Monarchs' water polo team. He later played for Kentucky and Syracuse and was a first-round draft choice of the Clippers this year.

Adam Keefe, Woodbridge, Class of '88: He will long be remembered as the guy who told Dean Smith, "No thanks, I'm going to Stanford." He was recruited by 150 colleges, but in the end, he found it difficult to say no to one of the nation's top academic universities.

Keefe scored 2,212 points in four seasons at Woodbridge, leading the Warriors to the State Division III championship as a junior. Few could match his intensity or desire, or his 3.8 grade-point average.

Keefe also developed into the section's best volleyball player as a senior, prompting former Corona del Mar volleyball Coach Charlie Brande to say, "If by chance he doesn't make it in the NBA, I'm sure there's a spot for him on the national volleyball team."

Wayne Carlander, Ocean View, Class of '81: During his senior year at USC, he was featured on a poster that pictured him in front of the statue of Tommy Trojan, along with a forklift operator, a groundskeeper, a carpenter and a painter.

The poster, titled "USC's Skilled Labor," was pushing Carlander for All-American honors. It was an appropriate shot. No one worked more efficiently at cleaning off backboards, getting garbage shots or hammering opponents.

At Ocean View, he scored 2,314 points and grabbed 1,325 rebounds in four seasons and was nicknamed "The Franchise." Carlander's 50-point, 25-rebound performance against Katella as a senior is one of the greatest in county history.

Tom Lewis, Mater Dei, Class of '85: Lewis was the subject of so much hype while at Mater Dei that some might have failed to notice what a great player he was. Only Troy's legendary guard, Mark Wulfemeyer, has scored more points in county history.

Lewis gained the spotlight as a prolific scoring sophomore and continued in the limelight through three seasons at Mater Dei, with assistant Pat Barrett serving as his mentor. He finished with 2,456 points, was named the Division 5-A player of the year as a senior and was the most highly recruited player on the West Coast.

Lewis signed with USC but transferred to Pepperdine after his freshman season. Today, he's an assistant coach at St. John Bosco after playing one season in Portugal and unsuccessfully trying to catch on with several pro teams.

Clayton Olivier, Los Amigos, Class of '80: Nicknamed "Big Red," Olivier was a dominating force in the county two years. As a junior, he averaged 27.8 points and scored 48 in one game. He raised his average to 30.5 as a senior.

Olivier combined raw strength at 240 pounds with a nice shooting touch to lead the county in scoring two seasons and twice was named the county's player of the year.

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