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Prep Review : From One Sought-After Recruit to Another . . .

As Orange County’s highest scoring basketball player, he was recruited by schools from across the country before finally choosing to stay close to home to play at USC.

The Tom Lewis story again?

Well, yes and no.

That description also fits Orange County’s premier high school basketball player of the 1970s, Mark Wulfemeyer, and although they played different positions and have different skills, who better than he to offer the county’s premier player of the 1980s, Tom Lewis, a little advice about playing basketball in the big time?

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Wulfemeyer came out of Troy High School in 1974 as a guard with a reputation as great as Lewis has now, but because of injuries, a fledgling baseball career and other distractions, Wulfemeyer’s college basketball career never developed as he initially had hoped.

Considering that he had a career prep average of 27.5 points per game and a remarkable 36.5 points his senior year alone, Wulfemeyer certainly knows the pressures of big time college recruiting.

Wulfemeyer, 28, who lives in Lake Forest with his wife Leslie and their 5-year-old son Mark, has never met Lewis but saw him play once when Lewis was a junior. Still, he offered a few tips to the Mater Dei star.

The waiting is the hardest part: “You’re just not going to be able to come in and put up 25 to 30 shots a game or whatever you took in high school,” Wulfemeyer said.

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“You have to learn the system. You can’t take off-balance shots or shots not in the playbook. The other players on your team and the one’s you’ll play against will all have been (high school) All-Americans, too.”

Be hungry like the Wulf’: Wulfemeyer, who shot as much as 33 times a game in high school, said going to USC and learning a new offense was an adjustment.

“For Lewis,” Wulfemeyer said, “it all depends on where they play him. If they move him to guard, he’ll have to learn to handle the ball a little better, and if they play him at forward, he might have to put on some weight. He should worry about just getting some playing time first and then about starting.”

Be true to your schoolwork: Wulfemeyer said that adjusting to more rigorous academic standards might be more difficult than any on the court.

“You’ve got to go to class and turn in your assignments--they don’t fool around there because of the NCAA requirements,” Wulfemeyer said. “If you don’t pass your classes, you’re not going to play ball.”

Guards just want to have fun: “Make sure you have fun because your college years go by so fast it’ll make your head spin,” Wulfemeyer noted. “Don’t worry about the NBA or playing in Europe until the time comes.”

Smoke gets in their eyes?: Fountain Valley senior right-hander Bob Sharpnack acknowledged that he often has an advantage over a hitter even before he throws the first pitch because of his reputation for having a great fastball.

“You can tell when a batter is scared--you can see it in his eyes, plus his body will be much more tense,” Sharpnack said.

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Does a smart pitcher such as Sharpnack take advantage of this? You bet. Sharpnack said the first pitch he’ll throw to a afraid hitter who appears to be afraid is a fastball at the wrists.

That’s not throwing at him, but rather to back him off the plate--and to give him something to think about.

Also, Sharpnack has proven to be an especially tough pitcher to bat against at night, if only because most county baseball fields aren’t really that well lit.

“I’d still rather pitch in the daytime,” Sharpnack said. “The sun keeps me warm and loose, and I have to be that way to snap off a real good fastball.”

The long and rocky road: Whenever the Newport Harbor High School baseball team wins a big game, the players go out for ice cream at a Haagen-Dazs shop on Pacific Coast Highway at Newport Beach.

It’s all because Wayne Heck, Newport Harbor coach, runs the place.

“I feel like I’m really blessed,” Heck said, “because I’m doing the two things I’ve always wanted most in life: running my own business and coaching baseball.”

The school is equally blessed, considering Heck has the Sailors in position to make the Southern Section playoffs for the first time since 1969.

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“It hasn’t been easy being a walk-on coach,” Heck said, “but it’s been getting easier every year. We’re getting some real good athletes out for the team now because of our success.”

The season before Heck arrived, Newport Harbor had a heck of a time competing, considering that it won all of one game.

Since then, the school had seasons of six wins, nine wins, and is currently 10-10 and in third place in the Sea View League--as good of a reason for celebrating at the local Haagen-Dazs as any.

Stop in the name of love: University and Corona del Mar will play for the Sea View League boys’ tennis championship Tuesday on the Sea Kings’ courts, but both teams were nearly guilty of looking ahead to that match in their league matches last Wednesday.

Unbeaten University needed Karsten Hoffman’s come-from-behind, 6-4 win in the last set for a 15-13 win over Newport Harbor. Corona del Mar trailed, 14-10, in its match against Estancia before rallying to tie, 14-14. The Sea Kings won the match on the basis of games won, 105-89.

Both the Trojans and Sea Kings rested their top players in those matches, which both teams had expected to be uneventful preludes to Tuesday’s match.

Don’t you forget about me: A distinguished spectator at Friday’s baseball game between Katella and Esperanza was Noel Sweeney, who retired last year after 18 years as the Knights’ coach.

Sweeney, who watched the game from his beach chair in the left-field corner with his wife, Marie, and his dog, a boxer named Alphie, is currently a substitute teacher at Katella and is still involved in coaching at the lower levels.

“I’m enjoying (retirement) and have no complaints,” said Sweeney, who was Katella’s only baseball coach until he stepped down and Tim McMenamin took over.

“I’m still helping out at the freshman level, but I’m not involved in making the decisions. I don’t miss that part of coaching. I’ve had my day in the sun--it’s time someone else had his day.”

Prep Notes

Villa Park placekicker Brad Dennis, who had 9 field goals and 26 extra points for the Spartans last fall, has signed a national letter of intent to attend Oklahoma State. Dennis becomes the third county kicker to sign with a Big Eight school, joining Chris Drennan (Cypress) at Nebraska and Rich Frank (Cypress, Fullerton College) at Iowa State in the conference. . . . UC Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan, reflecting on the Tom Lewis Signing Derby: “In the end, I think we finished second to USC. I honestly think I was the one that convinced the kid to stay in California.” . . . Joe Ferrentino, a quarterback and safety at Loara High school, has accepted a football scholarship to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. . . .


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