Don MacLean has come a long way from his sophomore season when as a lanky center he led an equally young Simi Valley team to the Southern Section 4-A Division final. Fuzzy-cheeked and baby-faced, he nonetheless buzzed through the competition like a player with years of varsity experience.
Two years, a million or so hours in the gym, a few more pounds and a bundle of points later, MacLean--now a grizzled senior--just continues to get better and better.
Saturday night against Thousand Oaks, MacLean had the kind of game that would prompt most opposing coaches to put his picture on the wall of the locker room. You know, the kind with a number below it, and a caption reading "If you see this guy, do not attempt to detain him yourself. Call authorities, or--better yet--someone seven feet tall, immediately."
MacLean, a 6-10 All-American, made 20 of 23 shots and scored 43 points as Simi Valley mugged Thousand Oaks, 103-71, in the Marmonte League opener for both teams at Thousand Oaks.
Call them Thousand Oaks, but they sure don't have a redwood tree in the middle like MacLean, who added 17 rebounds and three blocked shots.
MacLean was near-flawless as he made 12 of 13 shots in the first half, including 10 of 10 in the first quarter, when the Pioneers (10-3, 1-0 league) took a 31-20 lead. Simi Valley point guard Butch Hawking tossed the ball to MacLean repeatedly, finishing with 15 assists, two shy of his school record.
"I guess I've had better first halves in games that meant a little more than this one did," MacLean said. "What can they do when Butch keeps passing me the ball and they're trying to guard me with a guy that's 6-2?"
Thousand Oaks (2-7, 0-1) tried to guard MacLean with a front line of center Chris Leneman (6-3), and forwards Andre Smith (6-0) and John Bushart (6-2). MacLean outscored the trio by 26 points and barely seemed to be sweating when he sat down with five minutes left in the second quarter and 16 points to his name.
"It probably was one of my best shooting halves," MacLean said when informed of his scoring total. "I guess I could have really had a great half if I don't pick up that third foul."
MacLean was whistled for fouling Smith and remained on the bench for the last 5:07 of the half. When he returned to start the third quarter, Simi Valley had taken a 61-31 halftime lead. MacLean scored 15 more points in the third on 7-of-7 shooting as the Pioneers took a 90-54 lead after three quarters.
Guard Kevin Martin, a 6-2 senior, kept Thousand Oaks within a respectable distance with a team-high 30 points, including three three-point shots.
MacLean played only the first three minutes of the final quarter, made 1 of 3 field-goal attempts before calling it a night.
Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking just smiles when queried about MacLean's potential. Hawking first hooked up with MacLean before the latter was ladder-sized and has had a big hand in MacLean's development as a blue-chip collegiate prospect.
MacLean isn't about to bid by-by to that All-American pie.
"I don't think there's any way Don has reached his potential yet," Bob Hawking said, "and he knows that. He continues to make progress because he works as hard as anybody.
"Being a great player can be a problem with some kids, because they can become satisfied with where they're at. That's not the case with Don."
Even after playing in two tournaments last month against some of the nation's best players, MacLean still finds a way to get motivated for every game.
"All I know is that we lost three of our last four games and we had to get things back in gear," MacLean said. "We better start picking things up."
MacLean picked up plenty--by putting shots down.
Simi Valley forward Shawn DeLaittre, a 6-5 senior, added 19 points and Hawking finished with 16, including four three-pointers.