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Grant Jerrett can almost grasp elite status

Grant Jerrett of La Verne Lutheran stands 6 feet 9 and has a 7-2 wingspan. The junior's skills are catching up to his size — his coach calls him a 'future McDonald's All-American' — and this weekend he'll lead his team into the state finals in Sacramento.

March 25, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

Whether it's his 7-foot-2 wingspan that leaves an impression or his gigantic feet that require size 17 shoes, 6-foot-9 Grant Jerrett of La Verne Lutheran is an imposing figure on a basketball court.

A year ago, opponents initially might have been intimidated by his size, but he wasn't ready to take advantage. This season as a junior, he's a different player, with growing confidence and an improved set of skills that have put him on a trajectory toward All-American status.

"Is it scary?" Coach Eric Cooper asked. "Sometimes you're blessed, and we're blessed to have a kid like that. I feel it's going to be very difficult for other teams because of Grant Jerrett."

Jerrett, who has committed to Arizona, is just beginning to fulfill his potential, and his development is a major reason Lutheran will be playing in Saturday's Division III state championship game against Oakland Bishop O'Dowd (25-6) at Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento.

Last season, the Trojans (25-5) won the Division V state championship. They were moved up two divisions and didn't win a section championship, but they have relished the opportunity for a second chance in the state playoffs and have reached peak form. In the Southern California regionals, they knocked off section champions Orange Lutheran, North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake and La Canada en route to Sacramento.

Dealing with Jerrett has become a problem for opponents. He had 22 points against La Canada.

"His size really made a difference," La Canada center Matt Faber said. "The power he has to move you with or without the ball is unbelievable."

The challenge for Jerrett has been to stay patient. When you're tall, everyone expects you to be good immediately. He was frustrated at times last season because he wasn't doing things he thought he could.

Enter Cooper, who gave him a lecture.

"Grant, I want you to not care what any coach says. I want you to not care what any player thinks or what any newspaper writes. I want you to be comfortable with what I tell you to do and trust me until the end. If you trust me, I'll get you where you need to be at the end," Cooper told him.

Jerrett embraced his coach's commitment to develop him for the future, and it's coming to fruition.

"I've just been working on being confident in myself," Jerrett said. "Working on things that I've struggled with in the past, listening to Coach Cooper."

When Cooper told him to go inside more in the second half last week against La Canada instead of relying on his outside shot, Jerrett obeyed, and La Canada was toast.

"As he believes in himself and keeps having success, he'll get better and better," Cooper said.

Jerrett has already learned a lesson that can be passed on to other big men.

"The best thing for a player is to ignore expectations," Jerrett said. "Be who you are. Listen to your coach. Be humble and just play the way you've been trained to play. That's one of my main goals, to get better every day and every week and to never be satisfied."

The Division III final should bring out the Internet recruiting gurus en masse because Jerrett will be going up against 6-8 junior Brandon Ashley.

Jerrett and Ashley are considered among the best players in the state and early candidates for next year's McDonald's All-American Game — in which California has failed to be represented for two consecutive years.

Cooper has already called Jerrett a "future McDonald's All-American," and the way he has been playing, he deserves that kind of respect.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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