Over the last few weeks, Jamal Sampson and Cedric Bozeman have received a taste of what it's like to play against some of the top boys' basketball players in the nation.
On Sunday, the Mater Dei teammates returned from the National Basketball Players Assn. Camp in Washington, where they spent nearly a week playing against other top high school prospects.
It went pretty well for both of them, Sampson said.
"There were a lot of good speakers, including Colin Powell, who told us that besides basketball, you have to be prepared for life," said Sampson, a 6-foot-11 power forward. "I shook his hand afterward--it was kind of exciting. I wasn't expecting them to bring someone like him in. I was expecting just basketball people.
"Meeting a famous basketball player is good, but he's famous in world history. It's a better experience."
Much of the teaching included how the NBA draft works, and campers were told what NBA teams looked for in a prospect off the court as well as on it.
Sampson said Monday that his recruiting trips will include North Carolina, Virginia, Syracuse, Connecticut and, if Roy Williams remains its coach, Kansas.
Sampson and Bozeman leave today for the Nike camp in Indianapolis.
Said Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight: "I think it's good for them. I think they get to play against some of the better players in the country and it's a good learning experience. They don't come back with a big head or anything--they're good kids."
Sampson also was among 48 athletes selected to participate in the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival last month at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Sampson, playing for the West for a second consecutive season, sat out the first two games with back spasms.
But he played well in the final three games, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the gold-medal game against the North. The North won the game, 95-90.
Ocean View guard Marques Crane, originally slated to play for the West, scored 15 points for the North in the gold-medal game. Crane played for the North because it had a shortage of players.
The festival featured more than basketball games. The entry-level event to USA Basketball included seminars on representing the United States, the Olympic experience, drug addiction, gambling awareness and media training.
"We had two people speak to us about drug addiction, and the general manager of the 76ers [Billy King] talked to us about what the NBA is looking for in players besides their basketball ability," Sampson said. "So I learned a lot."
STAYING THE COURSE
While McKnight conceded that the recent loss of two assistant coaches--one who had been with the program for 18 seasons--was going to create "a huge void," he said fans should not expect drastic changes in the way Mater Dei's program is run.
Jason Quinn, who is replacing longtime assistant Dave Taylor, a defensive specialist, is a Taylor disciple.
"He'll carry on where Dave left off," McKnight said of Quinn, a walk-on assistant last year who played on the Monarchs' 1990 state championship team.
Second-year walk-on assistant Brendon Masterson developed offensive schemes last season with outgoing assistant Jon Tufo, McKnight said, so he should be ready to take over the offensive load.
And Chris Nordstrom, Mater Dei's freshman coach the last three years, has been promoted to the varsity level.
Tufo, who held his post three years, is leaving to go into the business world. Taylor is leaving to spend more time with his children, though he will remain the school's business manager.
"Dave and I go back until he was 10," McKnight said. "We've been together 32 years. I don't think you replace Dave, you just try to do the best you can. He has as good a basketball mind as anyone on any level."
McKnight said Taylor still may "come down and help out if we need to work on something. He and I are lifelong friends. I may get him back before he's done."
Capistrano Valley will be the fifth high school in four years for basketball player Patrick Lefler.
The 6-foot-3 senior guard started his career at Sonora and quickly transferred to Mater Dei. He spent his sophomore season at Esperanza, then left for a school in Northern California.
Now he joins a Capistrano Valley team that returns six of its top eight players from a season in which it finished second in the South Coast League.
"I've got six guys who I think would start at most programs," Cougar Coach Brian Mulligan said. "Pat's probably going to be one of those six. It's a good dilemma to have."