Shawn DeLaittre calls it a war every time he plays basketball against his father. Elbows are exchanged and shortly after the first basket the intensity level--and voices--are raised. The competition may be good-natured but neither DeLaittre wants to go in for dinner with the taste of defeat lingering.
"It's like a tradition in the DeLaittre family. We can't stand coming in second place," Shawn said.
Backyard basketball also has been a DeLaittre family tradition since Shawn started playing when he was 6. Simi Valley High's 6-foot, 5-inch senior forward refined his skills and competitive spirit under his father's wing, which is still longer than Shawn's.
Larry DeLaittre is a 39-year-old junior high school teacher who starred at Simi Valley from 1964 to '67. Until the 6-10 Don MacLean, Shawn's teammate, passed him, Larry held the school career rebounding record with 1,001. He averaged 19.7 points as a junior and finished with a 15.3 average. He also ranks fourth--right behind Shawn--on the career scoring list.
In his third season on the varsity, Shawn has produced his most consistent season. He is averaging 22.1 points and has scored 20 or more points in 18 of the team's 27 games. He averages 8.6 rebounds and grabbed a season-high 18 in Simi Valley's 82-54 victory over Hoover in Friday's first round of the Southern Section 4-A Division playoffs.
At 6-7, Larry offers formidable competition for Shawn in the backyard. Or at least he did.
"I can't touch him now," Larry said good-naturedly of his son. "Every time I take a shot, it's going to come back in my face."
Perhaps that explains why Larry has shifted his role in Shawn's career to instruction.
"During games, he takes notes and when I get home we sit down and go over things," Shawn said. "He talks about the things he really likes and then I've got to listen to what he didn't like.
"Not too many kids are that lucky to have a dad to work with who was that good himself. He knows so much about the game. He's helped me with my one-on-one moves and post play. I'm really thankful."
Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking has much in common with the elder DeLaittre, a family friend for more than 10 years. DeLaittre assisted Hawking on a youth team that included each man's oldest son. Shawn DeLaittre and Butch Hawking are senior teammates at Simi Valley.
"Every kid gets comments from mom and dad when he goes home, but it's been a tremendous advantage for Shawn," Bob Hawking said. "Larry's been through it himself and knows what it takes to win. Shawn can lean on that experience."
DeLaittre has his sights set on one more experience before he leaves Simi Valley--a Southern Section championship. As sophomores, DeLaittre and MacLean led Simi Valley to the 4-A final but lost in the quarterfinal round last season. Excluding their own tournament and three Marmonte League championships, the Pioneers have won no significant titles during the MacLean-DeLaittre years.
"If I don't score any points the rest of the playoffs, I'll gladly give them up for the title," DeLaittre said. "I'll make that extra pass or do what it takes just to make sure we win."