Her Coach Said She'd Be the Best and He Was Right

Times Staff Writer

Since Larry Holmes, coach of the Walnut High School girls basketball team, first saw Kristy Greenberg shoot a basketball nearly four years ago, he has been telling everyone that she would become the finest player in the school's history.

"There was no question in my mind that she was going to be the best (girls) basketball player ever in Walnut High. It was obvious," said Holmes. "I knew it as soon as she stepped on the court."

The Mustang senior guard has lived up to Holmes' glittering expectations.

In three years on the varsity, the 5-9 Greenberg has shattered a host of Walnut records, has made the All-Sierra League first-team every year and been named the leagues's most valuable player once. She is also expected to achieve All-CIF honors this year after being a third-team selection as a sophomore.

Many Overlook Her

But Greenberg, who has led Walnut to three consecutive CIF playoff bids, including the 3-A semifinals this season, has remained one of the most overlooked players in Southern California.

Greenberg illustrated her talents in the playoffs by leading Walnut, the only unranked team that finished second in league play, into the semifinals.

"Kristy is one of the most underrated players in CIF," said Palmdale Coach George Corisis, who coached Greenberg at the Blue Star West Camp over the summer. "Some girls play basketball just to play. But some of the elite players play to win. Kristy plays to win."

Greenberg almost single-handedly eliminated Palmdale and two-time All-CIF player Linda Staley in the second round of the playoffs by scoring 8 of her 18 points in overtime to lead the Mustangs to a 59-57 victory.

'Super Ballplayer'

"Our pressure man defense is very good, but (Kristy) handled it very well," Corisis said. "We played our defense as well as we could play it, but Kristy, who was under tremendous pressure, was still able to put up a 15-footer and make it. She's a super ballplayer."

Although her playing days at Walnut ended when the Mustangs were eliminated in the semifinal by Brea Olinda, ranked 17th in the nation by USA Today, Holmes believes that Greenberg is finally getting the attention she deserves.

"I've always felt that she's been overlooked," said Holmes, who coached Greenberg on the junior varsity before he moved to the varsity coaching position last year. "If you're looking for a great overall player, I don't think anyone's better than Kristy.

"Sure, I've seen girls who can rebound better, have better point production and maybe have a better outside shot, but Kristy does all those things well."

Many School Records

Greenberg is modest when it comes to talking about her achievements. But the quiet 18-year-old doesn't need to say much--her records tell the story.

Greenberg set the Walnut records for career points (1,291), career rebounds (697), season scoring (547), assists (177) and career free throw shooting percentage (75%). She is second in field goal percentage (43.8 %).

"That's quite an accomplishment," Holmes said. "It's not as though she's been breaking those records at a weak school. She's doing it at a school that's consistently in the CIF playoffs and is one of the league's top teams.

"She's a good player at a good school. I'm sure she's going to be a quality college ballplayer wherever she goes."

Although contacted by Division I colleges, Greenberg, who is also a two-time all-league first baseman on the Walnut softball team, said that Chapman College, a Division II program, probably will be her choice. She is also considering Whittier, UC Irvine, Arizona State, Idaho and Louisville, where her uncle, Denny Crum, coaches the men's team.

Wants to Play as Frosh

"It would be nice to play for a Division I school, but I'd probably have to sit on the bench my first two years," Greenberg said. "So why not go to Chapman where I can play my freshman year?"

Playing is what Greenberg loves, and consistency is her trademark.

"Kristy is the most consistent player I've ever seen," Holmes said. "She's Miss Consistency day in, day out, practice in, practice out.

"Kristy does everything you expect from a ballplayer. She dribbles well, can shoot outside or inside and rebounds well. I don't think there's a single part of her game that is below the other parts. She's just a good all-around player."

As a sophomore, Greenberg quickly established herself as one of the San Gabriel Valley's top players under Coach Loralee Miller, averaging 14.5 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. She was named the league most valuable player and was placed on the All-CIF third team.

Not a Solid Year

Expectations ran high as Greenberg entered her junior year, but Greenberg and Walnut had problems.

"We had a few attitude problems on the team and that really bothered me," Greenberg said. "It just wasn't as fun as the year before. No one was getting along and we had a lot of personality problems."

Although Greenberg averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds, Walnut lost to Riverside Poly in the second round of the playoffs, and she was disappointed with her performance.

"I wasn't really happy with the way I was playing," said Greenberg, who was snubbed by the All-CIF selection committee and lost out to Michelle Richard of Hacienda Heights Wilson in the league most valuable player voting. "I didn't feel I was good when I was on the court. I just felt kind of mad all the time."

Better This Year

Greenberg returned to form for her final year, averaging 18.8 points and 9 rebounds.

"She was a more well-rounded ballplayer this year," said Holmes, whose team was 25-4 and finished second to Wilson in the Sierra League with an 8-2 record. "If I wanted her to shoot the ball, she could have scored 30 points a game. If I wanted her to get 15 rebounds a game, she could do it. But I didn't rely on her to do that.

"I'm a real big fan of the team concept, and boy, I'll tell you, she fits right into that. She was the perfect ballplayer for the team I wanted."

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