UNTINGTON BEACH — The word was out quickly on Ocean View's high-scoring post player, Dan McDonald, at last week's Reebok/Above The Rim Prep Classic in Del Mar.
So before their consolation game with Ocean View, Las Vegas Bishop Gorman's players spent much of the pregame warm-ups trying to identify McDonald.
"When they saw him run out there without his warmups on, they were all laughing," Ocean View Coach Jim Harris said.
Harris said Gorman, like most other opponents who have laughed at McDonald's 6-foot-1 frame, regretted it once the game began.
"Three minutes into the game, they were double-teaming him," Harris said.
Double-teaming a 6-1 center? However absurd it sounds, few teams have been able to stop McDonald, who has become the biggest of Orange County's \o7 little big men\f7 .
In an era when people expect to see tall point guards, not to mention centers, McDonald, and a handful of other centers, appear to be lost in a size revolution. But check McDonald's statistics and suddenly size doesn't seem all that important.
Through 17 games, McDonald is the county leader in points scored (452) and is averaging 26.6 points. He's also pulling down 8.1 rebounds a game and has 85 steals, which has him on pace to break the school record of 117. How much has McDonald's size hurt his team? Ocean View is 10-7, including a 4-1 record in the Above The Rim tournament, where McDonald averaged 29 points and made the all-tournament team.
Buena Park's 6-2 post players Courtney Smith and Towan Oliver don't seem to be having much trouble dealing with players four and five inches taller than them, either. Smith is averaging 17 points and Oliver 15 points and six rebounds for the 8-8 Coyotes.
So has Smith's and Oliver's lack of size hurt Buena Park against bigger teams?
"It's not how big you are, it's how big you play in there," Buena Park Coach Ed Matillo said. "To me, size is simply overrated in basketball. You can be small and effective as long as you have it inside."
Matillo said one of the better post players he ever had was two-time All-Freeway League center Angel Barrios, who stood 6-1.
"These smaller kids, their work ethic is tremendous," Matillo said. "If you're small, you can make yourself play big. I can remember Angel getting big rebounds late in games over guys 6 foot 5. Nobody was better inside than Angel, and nobody had a bigger heart."
Except maybe McDonald, who has astounded Harris and his opponents with his lack of respect for taller players.
"Once he gets the ball in the key, I don't think anyone can stop him," Harris said. "He's too explosive and too strong. And once he gets the ball near the backboard, he's got magic hands."
Is this the same player who averaged 10 points last season as a wing player?
"He averaged 10 points, but he really didn't know how he was doing it," Harris said.
This year, McDonald knows how he's doing it--with a jump-stop post move he learned over the summer--and he said it's really no secret. In fact, he's so proud of his move that he's willing to tell everyone about it.
"The key is my footwork," said McDonald, who says he has had his shot blocked fewer than 10 times this season. "I sort of throw the ball behind the defender, then I take a jump stop and I'm already at the basket."
McDonald said the move has been so effective against bigger players that he has rarely had to step out of the key and shoot a jump shot. He's shot only three three-pointers all season--making two--and rarely takes a shot from beyond 15 feet.
"I don't really get a chance to shoot outside, but I don't care," McDonald said. "I'd rather play inside, given the choice."
Early in the season, McDonald said, he started playing on the wing, but he's slowly gravitated inside and now he's strictly playing the post on offense. Ocean View has players taller than McDonald, such as 6-4 Eric Peterson, but no one with his knack for scoring in the lane.
"If you play him with a small or quick person, he's too strong," Harris said of McDonald. "If you play him with a big guy, he's too quick. If you put two people on him, he'll find someone else and get him the ball."
Against Brentwood, McDonald scored 44 and he even had 30 against Westchester, ranked sixth in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. One of his low-scoring games of the season came against Mater Dei in the Tournament of Champions, but McDonald still managed 17 points.
McDonald's jump-stop move has been so successful, Harris is trying to get his team to copy it.
"It's unusual on the West Coast," he said. "It's more of an Eastern move. It's really nothing more than a two-foot jump stop, but Dan adds to it with his ability to finish.
"It's like a hook shot. Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) made the hook shot famous and Dan McDonald is making this move famous because he does it so well. We're going to try and keep it in the program by teaching it to all the kids."
But what happens on the other end of the court, where McDonald isn't able to use his move?
"On defense?," McDonald asked. "We play a lot of zone."