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High Schools | BOYS' BASKETBALL REPORT

Revolving Door Is Open at Fontana

January 27, 2003|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Fontana Coach William Harris might want to consider installing turnstiles outside the tiny gymnasium where the Steelers practice.

That might be the only way to keep track of how many high-profile players have come and gone over the last couple of years.

The team has lost two guards to Santa Ana Mater Dei, a forward to Rialto Eisenhower and a guard to Etiwanda.

It has gained four transfers from Rialto, three of whom have worked their way into the starting lineup.

And even though it's frightening to think how good the Steelers might have been had all their top players stayed, this group could emerge as one of the best in school history.

"Talent-wise this is quite possibly the best team since I've been here," said Harris, who has been with the program for nine years, the last two as head coach. "I have players who can make plays, and having that at the high school level is a dream."

Senior guard Daryl Diggins made perhaps the biggest play of the season Friday when he converted a spinning layup with 29 seconds left to give Fontana a 68-67 victory over Eisenhower. The victory ended the Eagles' 36-game Citrus Belt League winning streak and served notice that Fontana (19-1, 4-0) might be the team to beat in the Southern Section Division I-AA playoffs.

The Steelers, No. 6 in The Times' rankings, are the top-ranked team in San Bernardino County and have won 18 consecutive games since a four-point defeat to Villa Park.

Among their achievements are victories over No. 7 San Bernardino San Gorgonio and No. 8 Victorville Silverado.

"We are better than I thought we were going to be," said junior swingman Sean Green, who scored a game-high 20 points against Eisenhower.

Green, part-time starter Mike Robertson and reserve John Carter transferred from Rialto before this season. Diggins came before last season.

Diggins said he transferred because his dad lives down the street from Fontana High and he wanted to play with point guard Trayvon Williams, one of the top players in the Inland Empire.

Green said he came because he felt that playing for the Steelers would give him more exposure. Tulsa, Oregon and Nebraska, among others, are recruiting him.

Harris put it more bluntly: "They weren't happy where they were."

That was also the case regarding guards Wesley Washington and Trevante Nelson, who left Fontana after stellar freshman seasons and are now starring for top-ranked Mater Dei. Cory McJimson, a top forward, went to Eisenhower, where he led the Eagles to the Division I-AA championship game last season as a senior.

Eisenhower Coach Steve Johnson said the migration of players to and from Fontana hasn't been a cause for concern.

"I'm not worried about where they got this kid and where they got that kid," Johnson said. "We just have to go out there and play them with what they've got."

Still, success hasn't been immediate for many of the Steelers. Williams was suspended for two months last season for an undisclosed transgression. School district officials have refused to comment on the nature of the offense, but Williams said he was caught with a fake gun on campus.

Williams returned to play in eight games after his suspension, which included a weeklong stint in juvenile hall, but the Steelers suffered from other problems as well.

"Last year, the games didn't mean a lot to the players," said junior guard Ira Graham, the team's leading scorer. "They were into girlfriends and other things."

Fontana finished 11-13 overall and 5-5 in league.

Williams has returned to top form for his senior season, but the transgression has continued to keep college recruiters away. The 6-foot-5 standout, considered one of the top players in the country as a freshman, is considering enlisting in the military upon graduation.

"I'm kind of bitter about it," Williams said of his ordeal. "That was my junior year, one of the most important years of my life. I wish I had that year back, but it made me more focused and determined. I'm a lot hungrier.

"One of the things I really want to do is get a Citrus Belt League and [Southern Section] title."

With his new teammates at his side, that is a distinct possibility.

*

When Los Angeles Marlton's Frank Elizabeth pulled down an offensive rebound and made a four-foot jump shot with 44 seconds left Tuesday during a Magnet League game against Los Angeles King-Drew, it was a basket to remember.

That's because Elizabeth registered Marlton's only two points during an 87-2 defeat.

King-Drew led, 23-0, after the first quarter and 43-0 at halftime. Marvin Mills, who had 21 points, six assists, five rebounds and five steals, was among four King-Drew players in double figures. All nine Golden Eagles scored.

King-Drew played zone defense the entire game, and a running clock was used beginning in the second quarter.

*

With 14 victories, Malibu already has more wins than during any other season in school history.... The only remaining undefeated teams in the Southland are Brea Olinda (19-0), San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's (18-0) and Whitewater (12-0). Whitewater finished the regular season undefeated last year but lost to Riverside La Sierra Academy in the second round of the Southern Section Division V-AA playoffs.... Adrian Aye-Darko, a starting shooting guard at West Hills Chaminade, will be sidelined at least two more weeks after a magnetic resonance imaging test revealed that his sprained ankle had not fully healed. Aye-Darko suffered the injury during football season.

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