At one time, there was almost no room for Scott Ferguson in the Whittier Christian High School basketball program. When Ferguson was a 6-foot, 170-pound freshman, Bob Brown, then freshman coach, stretched the team a little to allow him to remain as a third-string center.
“Coach came to me and said, ‘We’d like to keep you if you want to practice and get better, but you might not get much playing time,’ ” Ferguson said. “My best friends were on the team, so I stayed and stuck with it.”
Two years later, after Ferguson stretched seven inches, he found plenty of room on the team and in the starting lineup. Now, the senior is preparing to play for the Southern Section 2-AA championship against Banning on Saturday.
“Freshman year, I wasn’t better than anybody else,” Ferguson said. “I tried hard to be just as good as them, but I wasn’t as coordinated then.
“In between freshman and sophomore years, I grew five inches. I figured I’d be totally clumsy and uncoordinated.”
Instead, he was starting at center on the junior varsity as a sophomore. But it took hours under a rusty steel rim in a schoolyard near his home everyday after practice, shooting, rebounding and shooting until he attained a touch.
“Then I worked all summer from when the season ended all the way through to the next season, just working on my game.”
Ferguson started as a junior on varsity and was named first team All-Olympic League.
“We were thinking of cutting him that first season,” said Brown, who is winding up his first season as varsity coach. “But he has a good understanding of the game and has a good shooting touch for a kid his size.”
Ferguson averaged 14 points a game on 63% shooting during the regular season to lead the Heralds (21-6) to second place in the Olympic League. He has averaged 20 points in the playoffs.
“Scott has played his best basketball of the year in the last four weeks--the last week of the season and the first three weeks of the playoffs--and that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing well.”
Whittier Christian swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs before beating El Segundo, 71-57, in the semifinals.
“So far we’ve matched up pretty well inside,” Brown said. “Banning has some size, about 6-2, but their starters are good athletes so they will be playing bigger than 6-2.
“But I feel good about our inside matchup. (Whittier Christian also has forward Paul McKinley, averaging 19 points.) Banning’s threat to us is that they have some real super quickness and they play a full-court press.”
Whittier Christian can also play a running game.
“During the season, they were packing in the zone,” Ferguson said. “A lot of my points lately have been coming off the transition, on the break or maybe filling in the lane.”
But the Heralds are looking to go inside to Ferguson more often.
“Some of the problems earlier were that we weren’t patient enough to work long enough to get Scott the ball,” Brown said. “We were relying more on our perimeter game than we should have been. His teammates have done a good job of getting him the ball in the areas he can score.
“He’s a very unselfish player. He will pass off when he can’t get a shot in the post. In fact, that was part of the problem earlier.
“He was probably a little too unselfish. I think there was a lot of times when he was catching the ball and looking to pass first. He’s been looking to score first lately and that’s a big help to him and the team.”