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Point guards stand tall in high school basketball

While dunking post players can get the fans on their feet, many prep coaches says a ball-distributing point guard is the key to getting wins. And Southern California boasts a number of them.

January 27, 2011|Eric Sondheimer
  • This season, Taft is favored to win another City title with point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, a 6-4 senior who signed with Colorado.
This season, Taft is favored to win another City title with point guard Spencer…

Each September, on the first day of the new school year, high school basketball coaches scan the hallways hoping there's a new kid walking around who's 6 feet 8 or taller.

That's their dream scenario, thinking a big man will immediately elevate their program.

They might want to change their wish list. A top point guard, not a center, is the key to producing a winning team.

"The most important position on a basketball team is the point guard," said Etiwanda Coach Dave Kleckner, whose team is 21-0 and led by 5-9 senior point guard Jordan Daniels.

"When you have a good point guard, you're very fortunate and lucky. He's a coach on the floor. He's the one who brings the ball up against pressure that gets you into offense. Defensively, he initiates our defense by picking up the ball, applying immediate pressure, which can either slow a team's transition or disrupt their set offense."

Yes, it's always thrilling to watch a big man reject a shot or put down a dunk. But check out the championship teams and see why they end up cutting down the nets. It's the point guard.

Woodland Hills Taft has won two City Section Division I championships, and it happened because of elite point guards. Jordan Farmar helped deliver the title in 2004 and Larry Drew Jr. did the same in 2008.

This season, the Toreadors are favored to win another City title with point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, a 6-4 senior who signed with Colorado.

"There's an old adage coaches say: 'We want a point guard who can shoot but not one who shoots,' " Taft Coach Derrick Taylor said. "Spencer fits that.

"When we need points, he can score, but he looks out for the team first. He controls rhythm, he gets us into our sets, he gets the right people the ball where they have a chance to be successful. His leadership skills have really jumped off the charts."

Etiwanda's Daniels has been invaluable with his quickness and passing, but in Kleckner's scheme, he's also required to play tough defense.

"The most important role of a point guard is team management," Daniels said. "You have to know what's going on in every aspect of the game. You've got to know what the defense is in. You've got to know what your team should be in. You've got to know clock management. You've got to know what the coaches want. You really are a coach on the floor, an extension of the coach, and it's a big role to play."

Point guards are mostly known as facilitators, enjoying an assist as much as scoring a basket, but at Bellflower St. John Bosco, Cezar Guerrero has become a scoring machine out of necessity. The team needs him to score, and that's what he does. But he still finds time to get the ball to teammates when facing the inevitable double teams. He's had games of 46 and 41 points this season against Santa Ana Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran.

"He's doing a phenomenal job for us because every team is gunning for him," St. John Bosco Coach Chris Madigan said. "If he has a chance to score, I don't want to take away his ability to score."

Everyone seems to have a different opinion on who's the best point guard this season, but if winning matters, then you have to look at Daniels, Dinwiddie and Long Beach Poly's Alexis Moore, a USC signee, as the best in fulfilling their assignment.

"I believe I know how to run the show and get wins for my team," Daniels said.

Guerrero and Chris Anderson from Anaheim Canyon are also enjoying outstanding seasons.

College recruiters should be excited because there are a group of young point guards starting to blossom, such as freshmen Parker Cartwright of Los Angeles Loyola, Ajon Efferson of Taft and Chris Martin of Los Angeles Price.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latsondheimer

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