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The Trail Is Blazed for Baby Brother : Olympic Festival: Charles O'Bannon steps slightly off the path tonight, leading the West against the North.

July 28, 1993|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN ANTONIO — This is what footsteps are like when you are a baby brother, trotting behind an older sibling who is a star basketball player:

Endless--and big.

This is what life is like for Charles O'Bannon, who has grown up behind big brother Ed, a forward at UCLA.

In the eyes of many, Charles O'Bannon is destined to be as big a star as Ed, perhaps bigger, when he joins the Bruins as a freshman forward this year. But in Charles' mind, he will always walk in Ed's footsteps.

"(Ed) will always have the advantage over me," Charles said. "He's been through it all, and every new experience for me, he has experienced before. It seems like I won't get to his level."

Nonetheless, Charles will accomplish something Ed has never done by leading the West team against the North tonight in the U.S. Olympic Festival's gold-medal men's basketball game at the HemisFair Arena.

Ed O'Bannon has never played in the Olympic Festival, let alone won a gold medal.

The festival should be a good tuneup for college for O'Bannon, because the players are some of the best college freshmen and sophomores in the nation.

The West team also includes Burt Harris, a sophomore guard from USC; Jerod Haase, a sophomore guard from Kansas; Darnell Robinson, a freshman center who will attend Arkansas, and Jerald Honeycutt, a freshman forward who will attend Tulane. The North team is led by Derek Anderson, a guard at Ohio State.

The West is 2-1 during round-robin play and the North is undefeated. O'Bannon is second on the West team in scoring, averaging 14.7 points, and rebounding, averaging 7.3.

"It has been a blast just to be a part of this elite group," O'Bannon said. "I am very honored."

The O'Bannon brothers were a phenomenon at Lakewood Artesia High, playing on the same team in the 1989-90 season, when they won the State Division II championship. After Ed graduated in 1990, Charles led Artesia to two more state championships.

Both were highly acclaimed recruits as high school seniors.

Charles, a 6-foot-6 small forward, probably will join Ed, a 6-8 forward, in the starting lineup for UCLA. Inevitably, there will be comparisons between the brothers, but that does not bother Charles.

"I really don't pay attention too much to all the critics and all the comparisons, because Ed and I are two different people and we play two different positions," Charles said. "It's very hard to compare us because of our two different styles that we play on the court. He runs the break better. I'm a better outside player. He's a better inside player."

Their differences are more like the flip sides of a coin. They are the same metal.

Both are academically oriented. Charles graduated from Artesia with a 3.67 grade-point average and Ed's interest in school was sparked during his first year at UCLA, when he suffered a knee injury and could not play basketball. Ed is an honor student at UCLA.

Both seem poised beyond their years, but Charles is the more outgoing.

"I think I'm the more risky one," Charles said. "I think I tend to try my parents a little more than my brother. He is more of a laid back and mellow kind of guy."

In high school, Charles and Ed were given curfews by their parents on weekends. Charles was always persuading Ed to stay out later than was allowed.

"I would do something crazy for a laugh, and he would be the one to tell me, 'Stop doing that. Quit being a clown,' " Charles said.

In one recent practice for the West team at the festival, O'Bannon stood poised at the free-throw line in a nearly empty gym.

"And this," he bellowed like an announcer, "is for the Pac-10 championship!"

His shot hit nothing but net and he spun around on one foot, pumping his fist.

"Yes!"

O'Bannon then flashed a smile.

Baby brother wins one.

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