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The High Schools : Inglewood Is a Site for the Eyes of College Basketball Recruiters

If UCLA basketball Coach Jim Harrick was allowed territorial rights in the Southland, the choice would be nearly automatic.

Four of Southern California’s best high school seniors live within a bounce pass of each other in the Inglewood area, and UCLA has pursued each of them.

Harold Miner of Inglewood High, Zan Mason of Westchester, Ed Stokes of St. Bernard and Mitchell Butler of Oakwood are among the area’s most heavily recruited players. And according to Butler, all live in the same general neighborhood.

How close is Miner, who will attend USC?

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“He lives about three or four minutes away,” Butler said.

What about Mason (UCLA)?

“About five or 10 minutes,” Butler said.

Stokes (Arizona)?

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“I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s about 10 minutes or so,” Butler said.

All 4 took divergent paths to their respective Pacific 10 Conference schools. Butler attends Oakwood, a private Southern Section school of 220 students in North Hollywood. Miner attends Inglewood, a public Southern Section school with an enrollment of 2,100. Stokes opted for St. Bernard, a parochial Southern Section school of 1,250 in Playa del Rey. Mason attends Westchester, a 4-A Division school in the City Section.

“Only in L. A.,” Butler quipped.

Add Butler: The UCLA-bound senior snapped out of what he called a slump in Oakwood’s 75-38 win over Windward on Wednesday, scoring 32 points and adding 16 rebounds.

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Oakwood, the defending Southern Section Small Schools champion, is playing at the 1-A level and Butler has not posted the same kind of numbers he did in 1987-88 when he averaged 31 points and 16 rebounds.

However, the promotion to the 1-A level, he said, is not the primary reason for his troubles. It was a move of another sort that threw him off balance.

“It’s a little tougher at 1-A, but I’ve been out of sync,” said Butler, The Times Valley Player of the Year last season. “It was the move to point guard as much as anything, having to distribute the ball and everything.”

Butler, who played mainly at center-forward last season, is in charge of running the Oakwood offense. That means playing while facing the basket and deciding when to dish it out or take it in.

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“Probably, over the last six or seven games, I’ve been a little too unselfish,” he said. “Last year, I’d normally just take it and go all the way. There will probably be a little more of that.”

Butler will play at off-guard at UCLA, so the experience has “been good for me,” he said.

Goodby jinx: Patricia Hayes was not quite sure she was welcome to attend Canyon’s opening-round game against Highland Hall in the Hart tournament.

Canyon Coach Greg Hayes was not sure whether his mother should attend, either.

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“She’s a jinx,” Hayes cracked. “She’s been coming to games for the past seven years and she’s never seen us win.”

Last year, Hayes added, “Nobody saw us win.” Canyon suffered through a 3-17 season.

“At the banquet,” Hayes said, “I introduced her and said, ‘She’s a jinx.’ Then we had all the lights in the hall flicker and the microphone didn’t work. The whole place went bonkers. We had fun with it.”

Jinx or no jinx, Canyon hammered Highland Hall, 81-21.

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“She sincerely is relieved,” Hayes said. “She joked about it, but it crossed her mind that this was beginning to be real.”

Hayes did little to make his mother feel at ease. Before the game he said, “If we don’t win this one, she’s not going to be invited back.”

Spartan struggles: Rio Mesa Coach Steve Wolf is counting the days until 6-foot, 6-inch junior forward Eric Thomas returns to the lineup. Thomas injured his left ankle in a game against Hueneme in the Hart tournament and will miss his third consecutive game tonight when the Spartans play Channel League foe Dos Pueblos.

With Thomas sidelined Wednesday, Rio Mesa narrowly avoided an upset by a mediocre Oxnard team in the league opener. The Spartans trailed by 9 points in the final minute of the third quarter before eking out a 45-44 win.

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“Lucky is an understatement,” Wolf said. “Oxnard outplayed us the whole game. We were lethargic on defense and they played like it was the most important game of the season.”

Thomas has yet to practice but Wolf hopes his player will heal in time for Monday’s game against Buena, Rio Mesa’s chief rival for the league title.

Happy New Year: Probably no one is more optimistic about the start of league play than Coach Mick Cady and the Notre Dame Knights, who tip off the inaugural season of the San Fernando Valley League tonight at Harvard.

“You have to be tested and we were tested early,” said Cady, whose team is a less-than-impressive 5-8. Notre Dame was tested by Loyola 3 times and failed each exam, losing 81-64, 60-58 and 65-62.

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In their defense, the Knights played most of the preleague season without starters Ken Hicks, who will attend Stanford next year on scholarship, and junior Errol Small. Both players, however, “are back at full strength,” according to Cady. Hicks came back from his injury to score 28 points against Banning and Small has averaged 12 points a game this season.

Considering Notre Dame’s talent, it could be a long season for league opponents.

“You have to put these things in perspective,” Cady said. “You can’t expect to lose two of your best players and expect to beat the Pasadenas and Loyolas. If we make the playoffs, we’re going to be hungry to make up for our preseason.”

That’s the ticket: Cal State Long Beach assistant Seth Greenberg said that the 49ers were lucky to land Cleveland forward Lucious Harris, who also was being courted by Kansas, Providence, Seton Hall, Nevada Las Vegas and North Carolina.

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“They were all right there,” Greenberg said.

Harris, who averaged 22.8 points and 10.4 rebounds in the Las Vegas Holiday tournament, said that a major reason he selected Long Beach was because he wanted to remain near his family.

“That played a pretty big role in it,” Harris said.

Greenberg called it one of the biggest steals of the recruiting year.

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“We were very fortunate that he decided to stay home and play in front of his family and friends,” Greenberg said.

Wait until Greenberg sees Harris’ ticket-request list: Harris, the youngest of the family, has 4 sisters and 3 brothers.

Add Harris: And then again, maybe Long Beach can use the extra bodies.

For last Tuesday’s game against Big West Conference archrival Nevada Las Vegas and Coach Jerry Tarkanian, a former 49er coach, Long Beach drew only 1,900 fans.

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Keeping up with the Joneses: With Dana Jones expected back in the North Hollywood lineup for tonight’s Valley Pac-8 Conference opener against Grant, the Lancers (8-2) will need a solid performance from Chris Cooke to defeat the Huskies.

Cooke, a 6-7 1/2 senior averaging 7 points a game, struggled in the Lancers’ first 6 contests but has scored 48 points in Grant’s past 4 games, all victories.

He scored a season-high 21 points and had 12 rebounds in the Lancers’ 69-63 victory over Poly in the championship game of the Birmingham tournament last week.

“It’s really just a matter of Chris keeping his concentration level up,” Grant Coach Howard Levine said. “When he concentrates on what he’s doing, his fundamentals stay sound and he’s a good ballplayer.”

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Staff writers Steve Elling, Vince Kowalick, John Lynch and John Ortega contributed to this notebook.


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