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He May Start Before He Begins : Though Not Yet a Sophomore, MacLean Leads Simi at L.A. Games

It’s been quite a high school career for Don MacLean--even though it hasn’t yet begun.

Already the center of attention for college recruiters, he won’t register at Simi Valley High until September.

Yet the 6-8, flat-topped athlete has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game to lead the Simi Valley High basketball team into the fourth round of the 128-team L.A. Games tournament.

“He’s an unusual athlete in that most 6-foot, 8-inch kids going into the 10th grade are kind of gangly and lacking coordination,” Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking said.

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“Don is an exception. If you were watching him from the cheap seats in a big arena, he’d look like a 5-11 guard. He can run the court, dribble the ball, shoot from the perimeter and he can drive.”

On the court maybe. But don’t look for MacLean to cruise by on the Ventura Freeway.

The 15-year-old MacLean, like sophomore teammates Shawn DeLaittre and Butch Hawking, can’t even apply for a driver’s license.

All three will play against St. Bernard at noon Saturday at Grant High.

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“These kids have been bred on winning,” Hawking said. “They don’t know how to lose.”

Hawking should know.

All three sophomores were elementary-school teammates on his Simi Valley Vikings, a youth team that travels the Southland.

During the five years he coached them--from second to sixth grade--the team won 56 games in a row.

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Last year at Sequoia Junior High in Simi Valley, DeLaittre and Hawking led their team to a 23-0 season.

Across town at Hillside Junior High, MacLean only lost two games: both to Sequoia.

And the winning continues.

Although they only practiced together once, the Pioneers defeated Redondo Union, 74-20, in the opening round of the Games.

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In a doubleheader last Sunday, the Pioneers eliminated L.A. Banning, 62-52, and Loyola, 40-38.

At one point in the Loyola game, the Pioneers were losing by 11.

“We had beaten Banning in the morning and came out a little flat,” Hawking said. “But, the kids showed they can come back.”

They are also just starting to come into their own.

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The 6-5 DeLaittre, whose father played basketball at Brigham Young, is averaging 12 points a game in the tournament.

And Hawking’s son, Butch, a point guard, has also played well.

But the sophomore trio is not the only reason the Pioneers have been successful according to Hawking.

Senior guards Todd Johnson and Mike Hankins return from the Pioneers team that finished 14-9 overall and second in the Marmonte League.

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Forward Tippy Wilcox, who was voted most valuable player on last year’s junior varsity team, and Corey Aurand are also contributing.

“The heart of our team is the seniors who understand our system,” he said. “The sophomores don’t even start.”

Indeed, although MacLean and DeLaittre give the Pioneers some size up front, both start the game on the bench.

“I’m just getting used to the system,” MacLean said after a summer league game Wednesday. “I’ve started a weight program and I’m trying to improve my inside game. The way for me to get better is to play as much as I can.”

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MacLean is likely to see plenty of action against traditionally powerful St. Bernard, which has beaten La Serna, 80-45; Rio Mesa, 57-48, and Morningside, 54-53.

“We scrimmage them every year and they’re always tough,” Hawking said. “They have guys with a lot of basketball savvy and jumping ability.”

If the Pioneers beat St. Bernard they will play either Santa Monica or Dominguez in the quarterfinals Saturday at 4 p.m. at Grant.

A win in the quarterfinals would probably set up a semifinal with Crenshaw, defending champion of the L.A. Games and the City 4-A, on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Grant.

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Hawking, in his 12th year as varsity coach at Simi Valley, cautions against expecting too much, too soon.

“We’re young,” Hawking said. “We’ve got a lot of things to accomplish before we can consider ourselves a contender.”

Hawking said he has discontinued his pursuit of coaching opportunities at the college level so he could coach this group of players through high school.

“It’s kind of been a lifetime goal to coach these kids,” Hawking said. “I’m not in a bad situation right now. These kids are highly motivated and want to succeed.

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“MacLean is a good example. He’s where he’s at now because he’s been very committed.


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