USC Proves Point With Orange County Players

Times Staff Writer

Ron Holmes, starting forward at USC and a former El Toro High School star, makes no attempt to refute the stereotypes of Orange County high school basketball.

He won't deny that it is a more conservative, slower-paced game, compared to the action in Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas. He admits county players are less flamboyant than those in the city.

But is Orange County basketball inferior? Holmes isn't so sure.

"It's definitely a different style of basketball, but I'm not saying the L.A. style is more effective," he said. "People have always tried to downgrade some of the players in Orange County, but it seems like most of the ones at Division 1 schools are successful."

In case you hadn't noticed, USC, which starts three Orange County players, is tied with Arizona for first place in the Pacific 10 Conference with a 10-3 record (16-6 overall).

Along with Holmes, the Trojans' second-leading scorer, USC starts forward Wayne Carlander (Ocean View) and center Clayton Olivier (Los Amigos).

Carlander leads the team in scoring (15.7 points per game) and needs 79 points to pass John Rudometkin's 1,484 points to become USC's all-time leading scorer. Holmes, a senior, is averaging 15.5 points and 4.1 rebounds and is the team's best free-throw shooter at 78.9%.

Olivier, also a senior, has averaged 7.4 points but has been limited this season because of injuries. Though he has started all but two games, he averages only 22 minutes a game.

All three were prolific scorers in high school, averaging more than 30 points a game, and they have combined this year to make a sizeable contribution to the Trojans' success.

So, if you're trying to convince USC Coach Stan Morrison that Orange County players are inferior, forget it.

"If you can get the best two players out of Orange County every year to go to the same college, you'll be in the Top 20," Morrison said.

He has a point.

Using players from Orange County's past four graduating classes, you could start a front line of Carlander, La Quinta's Johnny Rogers (at UC Irvine) and Santa Ana Valley's Tony Neal (Cal State Fullerton). The guards could be Mater Dei's Matt Beeuwsaert (Notre Dame) and Sonora's Jon Samuelson (Fullerton College).

Not bad.

Players off the bench could be Fountain Valley's Rolf Jacobs (Arizona), Ocean View's Jim Usevitch (Brigham Young), Edison's Richard Chang (California) and Servite's Scott Senik (BYU).

If not Top 20 material, then definitely good enough to be a competitive Division 1 team.

"There are fine basketball players in Orange County, and I'll defy anyone, anywhere, to find kids who play any harder than the ones at Mater Dei, Ocean View, Corona del Mar and Fountain Valley," Morrison said. "They really go to war."

USC is recruiting two more county players this year--Mater Dei's Tom Lewis and former Woodbridge center Marco Baldi, who transferred to Long Island Lutheran High School.

At least for Morrison, recruiting in Orange County has been a success. Carlander, for one, was an honorable mention All-American last season.

"Wayne Carlander had less of a transition problem (entering college) in terms of learning the fundamentals than any player I've ever coached," Morrison said. "He came in knowing the stuff because he was doing the same things in high school.

"I'm talking about the individual, one-on-one defensive skills, learning how to play without the basketball and basic passing fundamentals. Most kids go through those transition problems, but Wayne's adjustment was just mental. He had to learn our system."

Carlander is a complete player. He's led the team every year in field goal percentage and has been in the top two in rebounding. He's a very physical player with a soft shooting touch.

Holmes, who plays the wing position, is the Trojans' best athlete. He can score inside and shoot from outside, and he's usually the one finishing USC's fast breaks.

In Olivier, Morrison has a strong inside scorer who can be a force on the boards.

One of Holmes' and Olivier's weaknesses when they came to USC, however, was their man-to-man defense. Both came from programs that emphasized zone defense.

In Holmes' case, El Toro's varsity team had only eight players, so Coach Ed Felix didn't use a man-to-man for fear his players would foul out. At Los Amigos, Coach Gene Sutherland simply didn't have the personnel to play man-to-man.

"Your talent dictates how you play," Morrison said. "Orange County doesn't have any more a brand of basketball than Glendale. If you're at Crenshaw (in L.A.), there's a heck of a lot of talent, and they keep the pressure on you. If you're at Los Amigos, they don't have that kind of depth and quickness, so they won't be able to sustain that kind of pressure.

"Cleveland High in the (San Fernando) Valley plays a running game, but they're also very good at the half-court game. They have a fine blend of size, quickness and depth. Mater Dei can play at any pace.

"The way you play is dictated by the kinds of players and the number you have. But at the collegiate level, if you can only play slow or only go fast, you are in major, major trouble."

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