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Eric Sondheimer

Walker Is Agoura's Undisputed Leader

September 26, 2003|Eric Sondheimer

Bryan Walker of Agoura High didn't win the starting quarterback position until late in the summer. After two games, he's so entrenched that if the son of John Elway suddenly showed up, the only duty available would be benchwarmer.

In the season opener against Ventura Buena, Walker passed for 393 yards and two touchdowns. In the second game against Camarillo, he completed all 11 of his passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns.

"I can't believe him," said assistant coach Myron Gibford, who has been coaching since 1961. "All of a sudden, this kid has blossomed."

At 6 feet 2, 185 pounds, with a 3.9 grade-point average and 1260 SAT, Walker fits the profile of a college prospect, except few knew about him before the season.

He played 24 minutes last season as a junior backup to Dustin Croick. As a starter for the freshman and sophomore teams, he was 18-2 with two league championships.

But he had to beat out junior Cory Smits during the summer, and it was touch and go.

"It was kind of even at times," Coach Charlie Wegher said. "But toward the end, [Bryan] really improved. He's really a hard worker and seems to play better under the pressure of a game."

Last season, Walker didn't just stand on the sideline feeling sorry for himself because he didn't play. He'd listen to the offensive calls sent in by Wegher and then make his own imaginary defensive reads.

"I did the best I could to pay attention," he said. "It's hard when it's Friday night, you're getting ready to play but won't unless something bad happens. You have to be patient and wait for your turn. What I tried to focus on was working as hard as I could to do the best I could."

What Agoura discovered in Walker is someone with the intelligence and leadership skills to direct a run-and-shoot passing attack that relies on the quarterback to read defenses and pick out open targets.

"You're looking at the defense 100% of the time and expecting your receivers to go where they're supposed to," he said.

While conventional wisdom has Westlake Village Westlake as the overwhelming favorite to win the Marmonte League, don't count out Agoura (2-0), which has great chemistry thanks to having many seniors who have played together since eighth grade.

"Everybody is friends," Walker said. "With that friendship, it makes it a lot easier to play on the field. You're buddies with your linemen, so they're going to want to protect you."

Wegher used to play quarterback for Westlake and Cal State Northridge. He never went through a game with a perfect completion percentage, which explains his admiration for Walker's 11-for-11 effort.

"That was pretty amazing," he said. "What do you say?"

You say good job to a player who waited for his chance and is starting to fulfill his potential.

*

North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake will have three sons of former NBA players in its basketball program this season.

The sons of ex-NBA players Orlando Woolridge and Brian Taylor have been joined by the son of Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy.

James Dunleavy, a 6-foot freshman, has one brother in the NBA and another at Villanova.

"He's a true ninth-grader with a lot of enthusiasm who hasn't matured yet," Coach Greg Hilliard said.

As far as having three ex-NBA players looking from the bleachers, Hilliard said, "I think if anyone wants to get together a father's game, we're looking pretty good."

*

For once, City Section basketball players can walk with a swagger when encountering their counterparts from the Southern Section because they are on a talent upswing.

Jordan Farmar of Woodland Hills Taft has been called the "best true point guard' in the nation by North Carolina-based recruiting expert Bob Gibbons.

"If you were picking a boys of summer team, no point guard did better than Farmar," Gibbons said.

Farmar will sign with UCLA in November, along with 6-foot-9 center Lorenzo Mata of South Gate. Also, 6-5 Josh Shipp of Fairfax is visiting Westwood this weekend and could be a rare third City Section signee for the Bruins.

USC has commitments from guard Gabriel Pruitt of Westchester and 6-7 forward Nick Young of Reseda Cleveland.

That's an all-star City Section team that could go around the country playing anyone and everyone.

*

Joe McNab, the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, deserves an award for not being afraid to ask for help.

With his team tied at 7-7 last week against Westlake, McNab went up to USC Coach Pete Carroll and asked, "You got any suggestions?"

Carroll chuckled and decided to remain quiet. Westlake went on to score 24 consecutive points in a 31-7 victory.

*

There's one positive to the Angels' season ending this week: Manager Mike Scioscia will get to watch his son, Matt, play high school football.

Matt is a starting linebacker on Encino Crespi's freshman team. He also plays basketball and baseball.

*

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

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