FEEDING THE BEARS
Offensive linemen John Welbourn of Peninsula High and Tate McCallister of Mira Costa, two of the South Bay's top college football prospects, have given unwritten commitments to attend California.
Welbourn, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound senior, made his decision after returning home from a recruiting trip to USC last weekend. Although he grew up a Trojan fan and his father attended USC, Welbourn said Cal made him feel more wanted. He visited Berkeley early in December.
"I was impressed with (USC Coach) John Robinson and I probably would have gone (to USC), but I didn't get the feeling I would be a high-profile player there," Welbourn said. "Cal really came after me. The other deciding factor was academics. They're not just a bunch of dumb jocks (at Cal)."
Welbourn, who scored 1,030 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, also visited Nebraska. He said he might cancel a scheduled trip to UCLA.
Some speculated that Welbourn would choose USC because of his friendship with Trojan freshman fullback Taso Papadakis, a former Peninsula standout.
"As much as I would have liked to play with Taso for three or four years, I couldn't let that cloud my decision," Welbourn said. "I talked it over with my family, and we all felt the best decision was to go to Cal."
McCallister, a 6-4, 265-pound senior whose line play helped Mira Costa win the Southern Section Division VII title, committed to Cal during a recruiting trip last weekend. He chose the Golden Bears over Oregon, which he visited two weeks ago.
"It was just the best combination of academics and a quality Division I program," McCallister said of Cal. "I really fell in love with it up there. I liked the coaches and the guys on the team. It seems like a place I could be comfortable at in the next four or five years."
Welbourn and McCallister were named to The Times' South Bay All-Star team, and Welbourn was selected area lineman of the year.
Prep seniors can officially commit to colleges starting Feb. 2, the first day of the national letter of intent signing period.
Redondo running back Bob Cracknell led the area in rushing last season with 1,709 yards, but interest from Division I colleges has been minimal.
If a late Division I offer doesn't materialize, Cracknell hopes to put his good grades to use by attending an Ivy League school.
Cracknell said he is looking at Columbia and Brown with the idea of playing football in a demanding academic environment. He recently broke 1,000 on his second SAT, the minimum score required for admission to an Ivy League school.
Walt Cracknell said his son is intrigued by the idea of playing on a team where all the linemen have SAT scores over 1,000.
Odds are they don't botch many blocking assignments.
SHOWDOWN BY THE SEA
First place in the Ocean League will be at stake when Redondo plays host to rival Mira Costa at 7:30 Friday night in a boys' basketball game.
Both teams feature outstanding guards.
Redondo is led by the senior threesome of Morgan Ensberg, Cecil Fletcher and Damani Washington, who combined for 48 points Friday in an 83-73 victory over Morningside. The Sea Hawks also have Tremaine Mayeaux, a talented sophomore who is beginning to come back from a leg injury suffered in football.
Mira Costa boasts perhaps the area's best guard in University of Hawaii-bound senior Shane Willis, who had 25 points Friday in a 51-44 victory over Culver City.
Superior depth gives Redondo the edge.
Bishop Montgomery's senior backcourt of Kareem Mutrie and Jayson Sanders has helped keep the Knights near the top of the Mission League standings.
Mutrie, who signed with the University of San Diego, scored a game-high 27 points and Sanders added 15 to lead Bishop Montgomery over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 65-56, Friday. The Knights entered the week 9-5 and 5-1 in the Mission League.
A rundown of the area's top guards would not be complete without an update on Inglewood's Sam Turks and Banning's Jason Pickett.
Turks returned from a bruised leg last week to score 11 points, including a key three-point shot late in the game, in Inglewood's 67-54 Bay League victory over Peninsula.
Pickett, meanwhile, continued his string of high-scoring games Friday with 44 points in Banning's triple-overtime 70-67 victory over Washington. Pickett made a three-point shot with 12 seconds left and followed his own miss with a basket at the buzzer to tie the score in regulation, 53-53. He also tied the score at the end of the first and second overtimes, making two free throws in the first overtime and a jump shot while falling down at the buzzer in the second overtime.
* Former Narbonne basketball standout D'Mitri Rideout is one of the top players for Ventura College, ranked No. 1 in the state by the JC Athletic Bureau. The sophomore guard is averaging 10 points and four assists. Ventura entered the week with a 24-1 record.