On Ocean View High's campus, everyone looks up to Mehkel Harvey. They sort of have to because of his size. Harvey is 6-foot-8.
Earlier this week at school, there was a rare sight, as someone else dwarfed Harvey. Mamadou Ndiaye, who's 7-6, crossed paths with Harvey. They gave each other a fist bump before Ndiaye ducked under the doorway into Ocean View's gym.
"I've met him before at a UC Irvine game," Harvey said of Ndiaye, who played for the Anteaters for three seasons before he declared in April for the NBA Draft. "I doubt that he remembers me."
While Ndiaye might not know who Harvey is, Harvey is making a name for himself in his junior season at Ocean View. Just as Ndiaye came on to the scene in Huntington Beach as a junior five seasons ago, when he played for Brethren Christian, Harvey is the city's next big man controlling the paint.
Harvey is not scoring as Ndiaye did, but he is rebounding and blocking shots at the same rate as the Senegal native. Harvey is averaging 14.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.1 blocks per game. The rebounds rank second in Orange County and the blocks No. 1.
Twice this season Harvey has finished with a triple-double, doing it the hard way by swatting 10 or more shots. Harvey is performing at a high level, and what is remarkable is the 200-pound center has bounced back from a left patella tendon injury that knocked him out last season.
This week marked an important one for Harvey. Around this time a year ago, his sophomore season ended. Four games into Golden West League play, Harvey went down.
"My patella ripped off the bone. My knee flexed too hard, and the bone was weakened from previous injuries," Harvey said. "I was just grabbing a [defensive] rebound. I feel it pop and I fell back. I couldn't get up.
"I just thought that my kneecap dislocated, until I got to the hospital and they took X-rays. I thought I was going to be back in time for [the] CIF [Southern Section Division 3A playoffs]. When [the doctor] started talking to me about surgery plans that same night, at that point, I'm just thinking about next year."
Seven months are how many Harvey said it took him to start playing again on the court. At the end of August, he said he took part in a three-on-three pick-up game at Ocean View with one of his coaches, Roger Holmes, and a few other guys.
"I was a little nervous," Harvey said, "but once I started to get going, I just couldn't wait to play five-on-five. I waited a couple of weeks before I did that."
Three months after playing for the first time since his surgery, in his third game with the Seahawks, Harvey produced a triple-double. And he didn't even know it.
His friend and teammate, Kamani Slusher, told him that he pulled it off. Harvey finished with 12 points, 21 rebounds and 10 blocks in Ocean View's 62-30 win against Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies in a pool-play game during the school's Jim Harris Memorial Tournament of Champions on Nov. 29.
"We saw each other in class and [Slusher] let me know, saying, 'Man! You got a triple-double! How are you feeling?'" said Harvey, adding that he was feeling pretty good. "Then I hear it in the announcements [at school], in third period. They were like reading off the stat lines, and they said, 'Mehkel Harvey with a triple-double.' [My classmates] were just like, 'Mehkel, that's crazy!'"
Seventeen days later, in a 68-50 pool-play win over Western at the Loatella Tournament at Loara High, Harvey got his second triple-double, 18 points, 11 rebounds and 12 blocks. There would be no announcement at school because there was no school the next day, the contest was on a Friday.
This Friday, Harvey came close to another triple-double. He had 17 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks, helping the Seahawks win at Loara, 72-62, to improve to 6-0 in league.
Ocean View has won its last 21 games in league, and it should claim its third straight title, second going undefeated. The crown Harvey and the Seahawks, who are 17-6 overall and ranked No. 12 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA poll, want to make a run at is the one they fell short of reaching last season.
Without Harvey, Ocean View made the quarterfinals, losing at home to top-seeded Rancho Mirage, 90-62. Many didn't expect the Seahawks to advance that far, but they went into Servite in the second round and won, 56-53.
That victory stands out to Harvey as his favorite athletic moment, and to Coach Tim Walsh that says a lot about Harvey.
"He didn't even play in that game. That's the kind of kid he is, a really good kid," Walsh said of the soft-spoken Harvey, who turned 16 in August. "He has no idea how good he could be. He's not even close to his potential. He has to keep growing. He's kind of grown into his body a little bit. His offensive improvement is going to continue."
Born: Aug. 1, 2000
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Weight: 200 pounds
Coaches: Tim Walsh, Roger Holmes
Favorite food: Pasta
Favorite movie: "Inception"
Favorite athletic moment: "Beating Servite last year in [the second round of the] CIF [Southern Section Division 3A playoffs]."