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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

Transferring Lessons Learned the Hard Way

January 13, 2002

At a time when high school transfers are rising at an alarming rate, and administrators, coaches and parents are bickering over who's to blame, Perry Klein and David Wooley offer lessons from the past.

They played during a time when transfers were largely restricted. Gaining athletic eligibility after switching schools occurred only if you moved, created a false address, obtained a special permit or lied about who you were living with.

Klein was known as "Mr. Transfer" when he went from Palisades to Carson to Santa Monica in a 10-month period during the 1988-89 sports seasons.

He passed for nearly 4,000 yards as a junior quarterback at Palisades in 1987, then moved into a two-bedroom apartment near Carson High because he wanted to win a City championship and play for his quarterback coach, Steve Clarkson.

"I lived there by myself," he said. "You can imagine what I had to deal with. It was pressure and stress that was really undue."

Carson won the City title in 1988 and Klein got a scholarship to California. In the spring, he returned to his parents' home in Malibu and played volleyball for Santa Monica.

Klein, 30, said he doesn't regret trying to fulfill his high school football aspirations by transferring but has second thoughts about the way he went about it.

"The reason it was easy for me to do was I didn't have loyalty to a particular school," he said. "I was the one who initiated it. People think parents are the ones pushing their kids to do these things. When you get to a certain age, you make decisions yourself. I didn't think of the other ramifications."

His mother and father occasionally stayed with him at the rented apartment, but mostly he was on his own as a 17-year-old.

"I took a lot of [criticism] for what I did," he said. "I was pretty high profile.

"At the time, I was like, 'Whatever.' That reputation followed me to college and always had a negative connotation."

In college, Klein transferred from California to C.W. Post, an NCAA Division II school in Brookville, N.Y., and was a fourth-round draft choice of the Atlanta Falcons in 1994. He never made it in the NFL.

Now living in Pacific Palisades, he works for his father selling computer chips and has a 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. His wife, Cari, coached Los Angeles Marymount to the state Division IV championship in girls' volleyball the last two years.

It won't be long before he tries to decide what high school his children should attend. He has no intention of letting them move from school to school even if it's a lot easier to transfer today because of open enrollment, a 1994 state law that gave students the right to transfer without moving.

"I would love my son to go to Palisades High, but if he's an aspiring film maker, I'm going to try my best to get him to Crossroads, but I'm going to do it early," he said. "I wouldn't want my son to go through what I went through."

He said he doesn't want his wife to suffer the same anguish some of his coaches experienced.

"I wouldn't want her to lose any kids," he said. "The worst part is when a coach and player have a great relationship and the player leaves to go to a school to be seen or be on a [top] team."

Wooley was a youth basketball player living in Van Nuys in the early 1980s, a time when Granada Hills Kennedy had one of the best programs in the City Section because of Darren Daye and Stuart Gray. Both of those players went on to play at UCLA and in the NBA.

"I was 13," Wooley said. "I wanted to go to Van Nuys, but Van Nuys wasn't a basketball power."

He decided to attend Kennedy by using someone else's address so he could play with his club teammates who lived in the Kennedy district.

Soon, Kennedy was getting transfer students from Los Angeles Verbum Dei, Detroit and elsewhere.

A guard named Zach Lieberman was gaining attention, because he had attended Van Nuys Montclair Prep and Woodland Hills Taft before enrolling at Kennedy. Lieberman's father was accused of trying to recruit players for the Golden Cougars.

Wooley was briefly declared ineligible but eventually played for Kennedy, never becoming a standout.

"I was trying to find my way as a youth," he said. "It gave me a sense of power in my life. That's what's troubling me now.

"I see kids being guided and recruited. I'm coaching at the youth level and have a 10-year-old who coaches already are asking, 'What is he going to do for high school?' The kid is in the fifth grade.

"I don't want him to go through what I went through. We got treated like stars. It's not real life. After the game is over, nobody cares."

Wooley spends his free time coaching 9- and 10-year-olds for the Guardian Hoop Club, a youth basketball travel team. He sees high school players transferring for promises of college scholarships or exposure and wonders if they are being deceived.

"All the transferring can't do anything once the game starts," he said. "Either you can play or you can't."

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Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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