Like a magician waving a wand, Darreus Rogers of Carson High creates magic when he sticks his large, powerful hands in the air.
"It's just a blessing from God," he says. "He left me with these great hands. I just work, get them stronger, catch 200 balls a day."
The All-City wide receiver who caught 18 touchdown passes as a junior has found a position that he intends to master.
"I play because I want to be the best," he said. "Being a receiver, it's all about making plays."
In Southern California, there are so many top receivers that it's difficult to single out one as the best. From Orange County to Ventura County, college recruiters are offering scholarships to receivers galore. There are Bryce Treggs of Bellflower St. John Bosco, Jordan Payton from Westlake Village Oaks Christian, Richard Smith from Long Beach Poly, Jaydon Mickens from Los Angeles Dorsey, Gabriel Marks from Venice, Darius Powe from Lakewood, Kodi Whitfield from Los Angeles Loyola....
Rogers is certainly in the conversation as one of the best. He committed to USC last spring, and at 6 feet 1, 197 pounds, with improving speed, he can be a quarterback's best weapon.
"He's a tremendous playmaker," Carson High Coach Elijah Asante said. "He can catch the ball anywhere on the field. He's very athletic. He has great jumping ability. He can dunk a basketball. He knows how to get open and get separation from defenders. And he has an incredible desire to win."
Said Rogers: "Speed is dangerous, but it's all about going after the ball and being physical. When the ball is in the air, I'm going to go up and get it."
Rogers was a quarterback and running back in youth football, then was switched to receiver when he arrived at Carson as a freshman. Now he loves the position, especially when he's going against a cornerback in a one-on-one situation.
"You're out there by yourself," he said. "It's you and the corner. The best man is going to win."
Lots of times last season, when Carson was able to reach the City Section Division I championship game at the Coliseum, the strategy was to throw the ball up and hope Rogers could come down with it. Similar to hustling for a rebound, grabbing the ball away from a defender is about who wants it more. And Rogers is always looking for ways to get better.
"I want to get smarter, I want to make good decisions, I want to work on my leadership," he said.
Those so-called "little things" that athletes do can separate the outstanding from the average.
Asante remembers the first time he witnessed Rogers' skills. It was his first practice as coach last season.
"He ran an out route and the ball was thrown way over his head and he went up and caught the ball," Asante said. "I couldn't believe how athletic a play it was. I said, 'Wow, this kid is special.' "
In practice, Rogers sets a good example for teammates, going hard and making every drill count.
"He's going to go from beginning to end," Asante said. "He's very humble about his accomplishments but very driven."