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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

His Growth Has Been a Process

January 28, 2005|Eric Sondheimer

Each weekday morning, Coach Russ May arrives shortly after 7 at Los Alamitos High to find Landry Fields waiting at his classroom door.

Fields picks up the gym key so he can practice shooting for half an hour before his first-period Spanish class.

Because school rules don't allow May to give Fields a copy of the key, other alternatives are under consideration to appease Fields' appetite for practice.

"We're going to set up a cot for him," May said.

If there's a player who is getting better every week and growing before people's eyes, it's Fields, a 16-year-old junior who looks no older than a freshman.

Teammates tease him about being in middle school.

"When is your eighth-grade class going to graduate so I can come and watch?" is the running joke.

With braces on his teeth and curly black hair, the 6-foot-3 Fields can be easily underestimated. But he made eight of nine three-point attempts in the first half of a game in Florida last month and is averaging 16 points for Los Alamitos, which is 15-5 and holds first place in the Sunset League with a 5-0 record.

"He's a phenomenal shooter," May said.

Fields is still adjusting to his changing body. He was a 6-foot sophomore guard when he scored 17 points against Pico Rivera El Rancho in a Southern Section Division I-A first-round playoff game last season.

He has grown three inches, with more to come. His father, Steve, is 6-7, played at Miami of Ohio and was a seventh-round draft choice of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1975. His older brother, Evan, is 6-5 and played at Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills. And his mother is 6 feet.

"That's my most difficult task, getting used to my body," Fields said.

He weighs 165 pounds, and with added strength, Fields should become more effective creating scoring opportunities with drives to the basket. There's no doubt he's willing to work as hard as necessary.

"He's the first guy to practice and the last guy to leave," May said. "When we condition, he'll finish first and wait for everyone to finish. He's a sponge in the classroom. I've never heard him say anything negative about anybody. He just wants to be a better basketball player."

Fields likes his early-morning shooting sessions because the quietness of the gym allows him to focus.

"It's peaceful," he said. "I learn so much thinking and visualizing my shots."

After practice in the afternoon, it isn't unusual for him to call some friends and go to a fitness center for more shooting.

"My motivation is to get better," he said.

He has made 60 three-pointers in 20 games this season.

Although other players have brought out their basketball talents earlier in their high school careers, Fields is in no hurry. He's making steady progress and enjoys spotting a rising star.

"I love seeing great players who are young," he said. "I like watching them because they're exciting."

Fields should look in the mirror, because he could be one of those up-and-coming players.

"My time will come," he said. "I just want to play every day and let God do the rest. You can't get impatient."

Fields is saving his best to take on his father in a game of one-on-one.

"We haven't played in a while," Fields said. "He always says he doesn't want to play me because he'd whip my butt."

His father seems up for the challenge. "I can take him down low," Steve said.

Of course, in another year, when Fields is 6-5 and closing in on 180 pounds, all bets are off.

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

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