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Talkin' a Good Game : Players use verbal exchanges on the court to motivate and intimidate. But it has also become a point of contention.

January 30, 1994|CHARLES SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After Markee Brown swished his third consecutive three-pointer in less than two minutes, he immediately turned to find his defender.

It was not enough that the Los Angeles City College guard knew he had taken over the game against Compton. Brown had to make sure his opposition knew it as well.

"You can't hold me," Brown insisted. "You can't stop me."

Game-time exchanges like this go on weekly between some of the area's best players.

They are the trash talkers--players who talk a big game and have the offensive skills to back up their boasts.

For Brown, trash talking comes as naturally as shooting the three-pointer. "Trash talking gets me motivated," he said. "I do it to psyche out my defender and take him out of his game."

Which is exactly what Brown did in the Jan. 19 televised home game against Compton. With the Cubs trailing, 49-44, Brown hit a three-pointer to open the second half and connected on three more during a 29-16 LACC run. The Cubs won, 106-101, in overtime.

On one occasion, Brown, who scored 29 points, arched a three-point shot, and then stood and watched. The ball entered the hoop and snapped the net. And then Brown let loose: "It's comin' again! All you can do is watch!"

As if his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame doesn't say enough, Washington High's Dayron Harris never passes up an opportunity to tell a defender of his abilities.

"I like to talk a lot because it keeps me motivated," said the senior, who averages 24 points and 12 rebounds. "You hit some shots, your confidence goes up and (the defender's) goes down."

Harris dominated a 4-A City Section consolation game of the Pacific Open Tournament at Santa Monica College on Dec. 20. In a 72-54 win over Serra High and guard Ricky Price, who will play at Duke next fall, Harris had a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds. Price, who scored 25 points in the game, blocked a short jumper by Harris early in the first half and the two began exchanging words. Harris answered by scoring the Generals' first 10 points of the second half.

"I know Ricky, and playing against people I know fires me up," Harris said. "We started talking and it elevated my game."

It's a language spoken on the court mainly to have fun, but there is an important rule honored by every good trash talker.

"If you're gonna talk it, you'd better be able to walk it," said Fremont guard Calvin Patterson.

And it isn't confined to the boys' teams. Chaka Smith, Jefferon's 5-9 senior guard-forward said she can't play quietly. "I just do it for fun. When people see girls talk, they might say, 'Ooh, she is hyped up.' I can't go on the court silent."

Not everyone agrees that it's a healthy part of the game.

Jordan High Coach Ed Kamiyama believes it is detrimental to performance. "I try to tell my kids that trash talking doesn't get you anywhere because you are concentrating on what your next words will be to the opposing player," he said. "I don't tolerate it from my kids."

Last year, Kamiyama's Bulldogs suffered through a 1-21 season.

This season, Jordan is 11-5 overall and sits atop the Southeastern conference with a 4-1 record.

Kamiyama says concentration is the reason for the marked improvement. "My team has stayed really focused this season by keeping their heads in the game," Kamiyama said. "If someone talks to them, that's fine, but I don't want to see their lips moving."

Players are becoming more vocal not only with one another but also with the officials.

"Players are starting to question the referees more," LACC Coach Mike Miller said. "I tell my players to shut up (about calls) and play, or else I pull them. Referees don't change their calls and don't want to be shown up."

Lee Joseph, special adviser to the Los Angeles Unified School District Athletic Department and a referee for 32 years, acknowledged the need to keep the chatter at a minimum: "Trash talking used to be low key in all ballgames, and a player would say something like, 'In your eye.' Today, kids are taking showmanship to another level. They are making remarks like, 'You can't hold my jock.' Some can take it, some can't. Those who can't get into fights. When a player challenges another player, it's all right.

"But when a player belittles another player, it is getting out of hand. . . .Most referees will tell the players to knock it off. If a player continues, he is given a technical foul. If the player persists, he is thrown out of the game."

For the most part, trash talking is condoned only by players like Crenshaw point guard Tommie Davis, who attests that it can be intimidating. "When I throw an alley-oop pass to Tremaine (Fowlkes) and he slams it, I may turn to the defender and say: 'Whatcha gonna do about that?' " Davis said.

Verbum Dei leading scorer Andre Miller, who averages 24 points, is one of the few area players who posts big numbers without the fuss.

"If someone says something to me, I show them by scoring points," Miller said. "It pushes me harder when someone talks to me, but I don't need to do it. I let my play speak for itself."

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