Making a Name for Himself : Carlos Palomino Jr. Takes His Best Shots on the Basketball Court, Not in the Boxing Ring

Times Staff Writer

Carlos Palomino Jr. grew up with the knowledge that his dad's profession was different from that of other fathers.

Other kids knew it, too.

"There was always some kid in the neighborhood who wanted to find out how tough I was," Palomino said.

Being the son of Carlos Palomino, one-time welterweight champion of the world, was, at times, a burden.

The younger Palomino was assumed to be a fighter, as Jerry West's son might be expected to have a great jump shot, or Donald Trump's to buy property.

"When I was younger, kids would want me to fight just because my dad was a boxer," he said. "It was really dumb. Besides, basketball was my game.

"I want to be known as Carlos Palomino the basketball player, not because of my father."

Carlos Jr. is establishing his own identity as a 6-foot 1-inch junior guard at Los Amigos High School.

In the Canyon tournament last week, Palomino had the ball near midcourt at one point against Pomona's zone defense.

From the bench, Coach Famous Hooks hollered: "Carlos, you're not in scoring position!"

Palomino dribbled twice, then made a three-point shot from the top of the key.

Then, with 34 seconds left and the Lobos leading, 58-57, Los Amigos had the ball out of bounds at midcourt.

Hooks called to Palomino: "Loop around!"

Palomino did just that, taking the inbound pass on the far side of the court. He beat one defender along the baseline, pulled up in front of a second and made an 8-foot jump shot, which clinched the victory.

"Sometimes, Carlos just needs a little reminder," Hooks said.

Hooks has coached Palomino on the freshman and junior varsity levels and said from the first day of freshman practice in 1985 that he knew he had a special player.

"Carlos was good. You could see that right away, and he knew he was good," Hooks said. "And he's getting better all the time. My job is to give him some restraints and let him grow into that talent."

Carlos Sr. and Anita Palomino separated when their son was an infant and were divorced a year later. Carlos Jr. lives with his mother, but he and his father have remained close.

At age 4, Carlos Jr. told his father he was going to be another Evel Knievel. His dad laughed.

At 8, Carlos Jr. said he wanted to be a boxer. His father didn't find that so amusing.

"I knew a lot of boxers who had their sons in the gym with them all the time," Palomino said. "I didn't want Carlos to be involved. I wanted him to get a good education and do something else with his life."

Palomino told his son to wait until he was 14 or 15 years old before learning the sport.

"Eight years old is just too young. Their muscles and bones haven't fully developed yet," said Palomino, who began boxing in the Army at 21. He won the world welterweight title in 1976 and held it until 1979.

"I see a lot of kids that age and younger boxing. And by the time they're 15, they're burned out. That's true for most sports, especially boxing, where you're getting hit in the face."

But it wasn't just the age. Palomino hoped that his son would find other interests.

"Carlos had never seen me do anything but fight," he said. "I figured by the time he was older, I would be out of boxing and he would see me doing other things."

Palomino, now 38, retired in 1979 and, two years later, his son began playing basketball.

"I played a lot of sports, but I liked the constant action of basketball," Carlos Jr. said. "You have to be thinking out on the court, but you also have to use your instincts.

"Boxing was just too tough of a business. I saw how hard my dad had to work."

His father was relieved.

"I'm not sure what I would have done if Carlos would have started boxing," he said. "I don't think I would have been able to take it."

Carlos Jr., 16, hasn't been coached by his father, who never played basketball until his son took up the sport. But his father has helped with conditioning.

"He started on a work program, things like leg lifts, rope jumping and running," Carlos Jr. said. "It's helped my quickness, and I'm able to get up for rebounds. I still could be in better shape. Dad tells me that all the time."

Working hard is a family trait. Palomino's grandfather, a construction laborer and mechanic, didn't want his sons to play high school sports. He insisted that all five get jobs.

So Carlos Sr., who played baseball as a freshman at Westminster High, worked two part-time jobs until he was drafted by the Army in 1970.

"My dad felt that was the way you became a man," Carlos Sr. said. "He worked construction during the day and then moonlighted as a mechanic. I saw how much he worked and decided I wanted to get an education."

After the Army, Palomino attended Orange Coast College and Cal State Long Beach. He adopted his father's work ethic, which he has passed along to his son.

"When Carlos came to me and said he wanted to play basketball, I asked him why," Palomino said. "I told him nothing came easy and that success came with hard work.

"I didn't want him ending up a 25-year-old man hanging around gymnasiums, asking himself what might have been and kicking himself for the rest of his life."

Palomino's goals are well-defined. Getting an education and playing college basketball are the top priorities.

He says he would like to play point guard eventually. And, even as an off-guard, he shows some point-guard tendencies. Often he will pass up outside jumpers to get the ball inside for a better shot.

"I like being in control--handling the ball, running the offense," Palomino said. "I feel that's the role I will play in college. But Coach says I should stay at off-guard."

Hooks, too, says Palomino will play point guard on the college level, but not at Los Amigos. He's too valuable as a scorer.

Palomino is averaging 18 points per game for a team that rarely scores more than 60 points a game.

"My point guard doesn't score," Hooks said. "He handles the ball and plays tough defense. I think Carlos would be bored stiff with that."

Point guard or off-guard, right now it really doesn't matter to Palomino.

"I just want to make a name for myself," he said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World