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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Double Team

Gilbert Arenas and Nakeisha Perkins Are Rewriting the Record Books in the Grant High Basketball Program

January 16, 1998|MICHAEL LAZARUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — Gilbert Arenas and Nakeisha Perkins, the best players on the Grant High boys' and girls' basketball teams, share the same gym in practice three times a week. The boys are on one side, the girls on the other.

That's about all they have in common, except both are rewriting the Lancer record books.

Donald Patterson, who graduated in 1996, and Kristin Kiley-Boynton (1995), were the top record-holders in the Grant program.

Not anymore.

Perkins, a senior and three-year starter at power forward, came to Grant as a solid rebounder and has slowly become a better scorer. She set the school career rebounding record last season and became the Lancers' all-time leading scorer last month.

Perkins is heavily involved on student council and other extracurricular activities and basketball is just another extension of her involvement in student life at Grant. Off the court, Perkins isn't afraid to express her opinion.

"The best parts about her is she is so consistent and a good leader," girls' Coach Steve Brumwell said. "I know I can depend on her. It's almost to the point where she's like another coach."

Perkins, 5 feet 10, combines with Angela Terry to form a formidable post game. Perkins is averaging 14.5 points and 14.9 rebounds, Terry 16.3 and 8.6.

Arenas, a flashy, still-growing 6-3 point guard, prefers to let his game to do his talking. He has already set the school career scoring record in a season and a half after transferring from Birmingham. Even after being held to 12 points in a victory over Reseda on Wednesday, he leads City players from the region with a 31.6 average.

He leads the Lancers in every offensive category and is becoming a better defensive player, averaging more than four steals a game. Arenas is one of the top juniors in the City Section and is receiving plenty of attention from Atlantic Coast, Big East and Big 12 Conference schools.

"I might use all five guys to guard him," Canoga Park Coach Ralph Turner said.

A reserved speaker, about the only thing Arenas needs to learn is how to express himself to teammates in game situations. In command of a young team that starts two sophomores, Arenas, who turned 16 last week, is trying find his place as a vocal leader.

"It's something we've been working on and he's gotten better," boys' Coach Howard Levine said. "He has to realize as the point guard, he has to be in charge."

Arenas' quiet demeanor comes partially because of unexpected success, at least for him. After a season as a part-time starter on the Birmingham junior varsity as a freshman, Arenas noticed a sudden jump in his game when he moved around the corner from Grant and transferred.

"I thought playing on the JV at Birmingham as a freshman was pretty special," Arenas said. "But I don't think I got good until I came [to Grant]."

Pressed to make an immediate impact after two senior starters left the team, Arenas responded by averaging 22.5 points and four assists.

Perkins also made her presence felt as a sophomore, averaging 14.5 rebounds her first full season on the varsity.

"I've always been a good rebounder," Perkins said. "I've slowly worked on my shooting,"

Brumwell figures she shot only 30% from the free-throw line as a sophomore. Now she's over 60%.

As divergent as the paths Arenas and Perkins take to become premier players, they agree records are secondary--the primary goal is to win a league title and take the Lancers deep into the playoffs.

Easier said than done. Last season, the boys' team finished 7-15, the first time in Levine's 10 seasons that Grant did not make the playoffs. Grant is 10-6 this season entering tonight's game against Sylmar and will probably battle North Hollywood for the East Valley League title.

The Huskies are a far greater challenge for Perkins. North Hollywood is 15-1 and has won 48 consecutive Valley Pac-8 Conference games. Grant (12-3) will play North Hollywood twice, the first time on Jan. 28.

Perkins knows the Huskies well. She played on a travel team this summer with Tashean Thomas, Markia Derby and Lindsay Sotero-Higa, all Husky starters.

"I gained a lot from that experience," Perkins said. "It helped give me a new perspective and helped me improve."

Arenas tested his mettle over the summer, playing for the first time against college players in pick-up games at Cal State Northridge.

"I stayed mostly on the outside," Arenas said. "I didn't want to get beat up because they were strong and physical. I managed to score a few points."

Each rarely sees the other's games. Both play on Wednesdays and Fridays. But Perkins knows Arenas' game well. She'll use Arenas in practice to better simulate top competition.

"I'll try stuff against Gilbert because I know he's a great player," Perkins said. "If it works against him, it will work against almost anyone I play against."

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