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PLAYOFF PROFILES : Phillips Can Put On Clinic

February 15, 1996|DANA HADDAD

CANYON COUNTRY — Canyon High guard Larry Phillips last week had the perfect opportunity to put the slammer on what has been an injury-plagued, unfulfilled high school basketball career.

He stole a pass, headed alone toward the basket . . . and kicked the ball out of bounds, flubbing the chance for a dunk.

Phillips, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, says he can dunk, but nobody has seen him do it in a Canyon uniform.

Cowboy Coach Greg Hayes calls him "the most brilliant player nobody has seen," because Phillips has spent more time on the sidelines than on the court.

A three-year varsity player, Phillips has played in only 14 games since the end of his sophomore season. A string of injuries that began with a broken toe two years ago continued with a dislocated finger this season.

Phillips also has suffered a broken hand and a severed patellar tendon in his left knee, which required surgery and kept him out his entire junior year.

Although he is not among Canyon's scoring leaders, Phillips is a big reason the Cowboys are 17-8 and in the playoffs.

"He just makes a difference with his leadership and presence," Hayes said.

Said Ruben Castaneda, Canyon's scoring leader: "We lost some close games because we didn't have [Phillips] out there. He's a great defender and he sparks our team up. When he's out there, our whole team plays better defense and gets more intense."

Phillips, who is averaging a team-high 3.7 assists, played in four games this season before dislocating the finger. He returned to form quickly after rejoining the team for league play and led the Cowboys to a 7-3 record and a second-place tie in the Foothill League.

Phillips said he has never been frustrated by his injuries.

"They're unfortunate," he said. "They can put a big speed bump in your road. But you just gotta keep going. I've been cheated by the injuries in sports. But I haven't been cheated in life. Sports is just a minor part."

Hayes and Castaneda think Phillips would have been a great player had he remained healthy.

"If it wasn't for all these injuries," Castaneda said, "I really think he'd be awesome. I still think he can still play in college."

Said Hayes: "He has played superbly at times. His numbers don't do him justice."

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