Soph Is Fairfax's Not-So-Secret Weapon

Times Staff Writer

Last week, after scouting Sean Higgins, the 6-7 sophomore basketball wonder for Fairfax High School, a Pepperdine University assistant coach asked a reporter to keep quiet about the young man so that more colleges wouldn't find out about him.

The Pepperdine coach had to be kidding. The word is out on Higgins, and the word is "outstanding."

Talent he has in abundance. On the Fairfax roster he is listed at forward, center and guard, and anyone who sees him play could tell at a glance that he is more than capable of playing any position.

In a recent 75-56 Fairfax win over Hollywood, Higgins scored 26 points (many with a soft outside shot unusual in a big man) passed and rebounded well and was a dominating force. The Pepperdine scouts were oohing and aahing over his performance afterward.

It's in His Genes

The slim 185-pounder comes by that talent naturally. His father Earle, 38, starred for Eastern Michigan University and later for the Indiana Pacers of the old American Basketball Assn. His mother, Vickie McIntosh, who has remarried since a divorce from Higgins and moved from Michigan to California with Sean, was an all-city forward at Detroit's Chadsey High School and was a top swimmer and tennis player.

He also comes by his height naturally. His father, who lives in Southfield, Mich., and is in charge of shipping and handling at an automobile plant, is 6-8. His mother, a computer programmer for a bank, is 5-10.

Sean, who turned 16 last December, and his mother settled in Burbank after moving west in 1979, and he later played basketball at Eliot Junior High in Pasadena.

When it was time for Sean to go to high school, he and his mother and stepfather had moved to Los Angeles. In an interview before the Hollywood game, Sean said he was told by the central office of the Los Angeles Unified School District that he was living in the Hamilton High School attendance area.

Last September he enrolled at Hamilton and was practicing with its team, he said. But at the end of the 10-week grading period, he said the Hamilton administrator's office told him that "I had to go to the right school." That turned out to be Fairfax, and he said he is glad.

"I fit in here and get along with everybody," he said. "The Hamilton kids on the team didn't want me to leave." It is understandable. Hamilton's tallest player is 6-5 senior Grant Porter.

Higgins said he likes the classroom situation more at Fairfax. "The teachers at Hamilton didn't show that much interest in me. Here I get a lot of individual attention."

After seeing what Higgins can do on a basketball court, Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani has been giving him his complete attention.

When the season began, Kitani, whose teams have won two consecutive Western League championships, had a 6-7 center, senior Bryan Robbs, who played earlier at Santa Monica High. He also had three star seniors returning from last year's 17-7 team: guards Jerome Jenkins and Dwayne Canada and forward Tony Thomas.

Higgins Practiced Harder

Kitani, 30, said that Robbs, who began the season as the starting center, got the flu in December and was replaced by Higgins, then a substitute. When Robbs recovered, he had lost his starting job.

"It was difficult for Bryan at first, but he understands," said Kitani, who added that when Robbs returned he did not practice hard while Higgins did.

"I try to be fair, but that's how life is," said the Fairfax coach. "The harder workers get the rewards." He said that recently Robbs has been practicing hard and has been rewarded with more playing time.

Higgins should have plenty of playing time for Fairfax during this season and the next two and could develop into one of the best prep players that Los Angeles has produced. He has been producing in basketball since he learned the game as a boy at a summer camp run by Andy Anderson, who coached Earle Higgins at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Sean has made the rounds of the best summer camps since that time and has been noticed by a lot of coaches. Jim Harrick, Pepperdine head coach, said he has had his eye on Higgins since he was in the sixth grade and attending summer camps with Harrick's sons.

Higgins not only seems mature beyond his years on the court--if not a man among boys, perhaps a giraffe among gazelles--but also seems to know exactly where he is going in life: to some Midwestern college to play basketball, to the NBA if the pros beckon and later to the broadcasting booth, where he expects to do "some color commentary."

He wants to play college ball in the Midwest because, he said, while California has nice weather, its basketball players generally regard the game as more of a pastime than a war.

"Most players here don't take basketball as seriously as those in the Midwest. Here it's just something to do; back there that's all there is to do."

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