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Stars are bright, and mobile, in Coliseum League boys' basketball

There are plenty of talented players on Coliseum League rosters. But off-court issues and the lure of other programs sometimes make it difficult to keep them around.

February 02, 2012|Eric Sondheimer

It's 20 minutes before tipoff, and Locke High boys' basketball Coach Lloyd Webster has sent his stat keeper to Nickerson Gardens in Watts to retrieve one of his top players, who had to go home because of a family problem.

Meanwhile, tacos are going for $1 at the concession stand in an effort to raise funds to pay for a DJ. And a makeup game against Crenshaw is about to begin after it was postponed because of a bomb threat.

Welcome to life in the Coliseum League, where, as Webster likes to say, "We earn everything we get."

There's so much basketball talent in this part of Los Angeles that players keep switching schools and changing allegiances seemingly every other semester while looking for the best playing opportunity.

Private schools have been raiding the area. Guess who's the top player at Mission Hills Alemany. Former Dorsey standout Marqueze Coleman. Guess who's the top player at Bellflower St. John Bosco. Former Crenshaw standout Isaac Hamilton.

But don't feel sorry for Crenshaw, which is 18-4 and 8-0 in league play thanks to getting a couple of transfers from Dorsey: Brandon Baker and Andre Edwards.

Yes, life is constantly in flux in the Coliseum League

"People look for grass greener on the other side," Crenshaw Coach Ed Waters said. "In our case, it's worked out."

If each league in the City Section put together a five-man all-star team, the Coliseum League would be tough to beat with the 6-foot-5 Edwards; Baker, who's averaging 20 points per game; All-City guard Sheldon Wright of View Park Prep; 6-7 Donald Muepo Jr. of Dorsey; and 6-7 Daviyon Draper of Locke.

Coaches have to do their best work to keep players happy and focused. Take the case of Draper. He didn't play last season as a junior while Webster tried to help him with issues on and off the court.

"I remember his statement, 'Don't give up on me,' " Webster said. "He's made academic progress. His attitude has changed tremendously."

Draper might be the most underrated player in the Los Angeles City Section. He's had games of 27 points against L.A. Windward, 27 against St. John Bosco and 23 against Crenshaw.

He's a 6-7 point guard trying to convince recruiters he can play in college. He has been making up grades and preparing to become NCAA-qualified.

"He's come a long ways," Webster said. "He didn't realize how hard he had to work. He realizes he has to work to get the things he needs."

Said Draper: "He believed in me when I didn't believe in myself."

Draper lives with his grandmother and has had a hernia since his sophomore year. He said he missed an appointment in the summer of 2010 to repair it, and since then, whether because of insurance issues or time constraints, he's still playing with a hernia and not doing too badly, considering he's averaging 24 points per game.

The next big-time athlete for Crenshaw could be Edwards, a junior who showed up at the school because he's a receiver in football. He's a good leaper and makes three-point baskets.

It looks as if the key to success in the Coliseum League is trying to keep players who arrive as freshmen for four years. But because everyone wants to start and become a star, coaches are caught in a balancing act.

Watch out for Locke, though. The Saints are 15-7 and play in City Section Division III. Draper is becoming a leader, and the loud Locke drummers and energetic drill team sure know how to put on an entertaining halftime show. Even the DJ has to be impressed.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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