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CITY SECTION BASKETBALL PREVIEW

Hunters Might Be the Hunted

Boys: Already loaded, Canoga Park gets boost from unknown that could put it over the top.

November 24, 1996|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CANOGA PARK — It's no secret that Canoga Park High ranks among the top two basketball teams in the region this year. Basketball aficionados are keenly aware.

Sure, everybody knows David Redmond, a nationally touted 6-foot-7, 220-pound center, transferred from Birmingham in the spring. And Carloes Harper, last season's City 3-A co-player of the year who has signed a letter of intent with Cal State Northridge, is back from the 22-5 team, along with Anthony Ellison, a slender 6-4 senior who can play any position on the floor.

Yet, believe it or not, it's an unknown player who could put the Hunters over the top this season.

"He's my secret weapon and you're going to give it away," Coach Ralph Turner said.

Absolutely. His name is Jeff Turner (no relation to his coach) and before last summer, he had never played organized basketball.

The 6-4, 180-pound senior swingman is as raw as he is talented, a lifelong street player who is ready to bust a move every time he touches the ball.

"I like his aggressiveness more than anything," Coach Turner said. "You know, a lot of these guys go hard, but they take a minute off. He never takes a minute off. He's going hard every minute he's on the court."

Turner spent the better part of the last three years in Atlanta, Ga. He enrolled at Canoga Park as a freshman, was displaced by the 1994 earthquake and moved to Atlanta with his aunt and uncle. His mother and step-father are in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Germany.

Turner returned to Canoga Park in March, just a few weeks after the Hunters' double-overtime loss to Van Nuys in the City 3-A final.

He was quickly befriended by Harper and Ellison, who introduced him to Coach Turner. And the rest, they hope, is history in the making.

Although he could single-handedly carry a team, Turner said he's not looking to be the star. He simply wants to help set the table and "pick up the slack they might not pick up."

To be sure, the rookie phenom could provide the glue the team lacked last year and will surely need to compete at the City 4-A level.

"[Jeff's] even said, 'I'm gonna do my best to make sure this team doesn't fall apart,' " Coach Turner said.

Turner's been playing on blacktop ever since he can remember, against guys 10 years his senior. It's there he learned to act rather than react, be the aggressor, not the victim.

And always play hard.

"Playing street ball, I come back with scars all over my body," he said. "Matter of fact, I just got some stitches on the top of my head."

Turner's first high school game will be the opener against Chatsworth, Dec. 2.

By then, everybody should know about him. And if they don't, they will.

"I'd rather him play for me than him play against me, that's for sure," Coach Turner said. "He's gonna cause a lot of problems for a lot of teams."

As if Canoga Park needed another weapon.

Other players to watch:

* Backcourt: Established guards are at a premium this season. Perhaps the best of the bunch are Fahim Hassinkhail of Birmingham, Leon Pimky of Granada Hills and Jerome Grant of Cleveland.

Hassinkhail, who averaged 4.6 assists last season, and Grant, who averaged 4.5, are the playmakers. Pimky, on the football team up until a week ago, averaged 9.3 points last season.

Among others who show promise are three from Chatsworth--6-2 Harold Shevin, a transfer from Taft, 6-1 Keith Stevens and 6-2 Monte McFarland--all returning starters.

El Camino Real's 5-11 Elan Buller, a transfer from Oak Park, is getting a few compliments, but played very little last season. Still, Coach Neils Ludlow said Buller is the best point guard he's ever seen at the school.

* Frontcourt: The best big man in the Valley area--after the Collins twins at Harvard-Westlake--is David Redmond, a 6-7, 220-pound senior who can do whatever he wants on the court. The question is, does he want to? Teammate Carloes Harper, who answers all questions with a solid, consistent game averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds a game, may help Redmond reach his potential. Anthony Ellison, a power forward, may wear different hats this season. If the Hunters can't find a playmaker early, Ellison will take over the point, a position he is more than capable of playing.

Cleveland's 6-6 Donald Holt, who averaged 14.3 points and 8.1 rebounds, returns from a team that stole the West Valley League championship from Chatsworth last season and finished 15-9.

Van Nuys, defending City 3-A champion, returns one player with experience. Senior center Jorge Gurrola (6-7, 220 pounds), who missed the first half of last season with a broken hand, averaged seven rebounds a game down the stretch for the Wolves.

Mark Cumbess, a 6-2 senior forward, is the only returning starter for Monroe, defending East Valley League champion.

Ellis Richardson, a 6-3 senior who transferred to Poly from Birmingham averaged 17.9 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season. The Parrots, who should contend for the 3-A title, have 6-4 Jonny(CQ) Lopez and 6-5 Eric Owens at forward.

Forwards on the rise are Sylmar's 6-4 Daron Wilson, a senior who averaged 15 points and 9.7 rebounds, and 6-6 Jeremiah Turner, a sophomore who averaged 11 points and 10.2 rebounds.

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