Basketballs weren’t the only things bounced in Glendale-area gyms this winter.
Occidental College forward John Keister offered his version of the human dribble while Eagle Rock High’s Michael Epps bounced a couple of scoring records from the all-time Eagle books.
The determination of St. Francis guard Tom Parada barely fit inside his 5-foot-2 body. And Glendale College’s bespectacled Bruce Heicke played like an extra from “Hoosiers” despite looking like an extra from “Revenge of the Nerds.”
Now the notes, quotes and anecdotes from the season.
Most Valuable Posterior
Occidental College forward John Keister averaged a team-high 22 points a game and made a habit of frustrating defenders.
Keister’s most dangerous quality? Quick hands? A deadly jump shot?
His most valuable asset was, well, his keester.
Whether he was fouled or not, Keister would punctuate most shots by skittering across the floor on his derriere.
The flop would draw whistles from referees and frowns from opposing coaches, many of whom thought the Tiger should be spanked with a technical foul for excessive use of his tail.
“If you fall right on your butt bone, it hurts,” Keister said. “But if you fall on your cheeks, you’re fine. This year I’ve got it down.”
And What Do We Get If We Finish Last?
Hoover High Coach Kirt Kohlmeier promised his team a pizza dinner if it held a team to less than 45 points.
The Tornadoes, who finished 7-16, did just that against Arcadia, holding the Apaches to 43. There was a problem, however: Hoover scored just 41.
Kohlmeier still popped for the pizza.
Next, I’m Gonna Jam in Your Face, Beanpole
At 5-foot-2, St. Francis High guard Tom Parada was the shortest player in the Del Rey League.
Sometimes, he forgot.
Once, after a defensive switch, Parada wound up guarding 6-10 Loyola center Ryan Jamison, the tallest player in league.
“Everybody in the stands was laughing,” Parada said. “He was laughing, too. If he would have put it on the ground, I would have ripped him.”
Later, Parada lined up along the key next to Jamison on a free-throw attempt. “I looked up at him and said, ‘My board,’ ” he said.
But Jamison’s 20-inch height advantage won out.
Luckily, Their Car Had a Big Wheel
While driving to a game at Redlands, a group of Occidental College players were thrust into darkness in the middle of a fast break far more imposing than any they had encountered on the court.
Jay Caba was driving, Keith Berglund was in the passenger seat and Brett Dennis was sleeping in the back of the car. When Caba reached to adjust the radio, he realized that the car’s electrical system had failed. The headlights and dashboard lights were off. He was, in effect, at the helm of a Celica Stealth Bomber, cruising down the fast lane of the San Bernardino Freeway.
“We almost got reamed from behind,” Berglund said.
Caba guided his car across traffic to the right shoulder, narrowly missing several cars before smacking into a 6-inch-high curb, jarring Dennis from his slumber.
Finally, the group made its way to a gas station where they called ahead to Redlands and asked Occidental Coach Brian Newhall’s wife to pick them up.
Berglund said that it would have been much tougher to convince a rescue party to come if Dennis, a starter, was not along.
“If we didn’t have him,” Berglund said, “we would have been eating dinner at the AM/PM.”
Matijasevic Becomes a Hoop-Seeking Missile
Before Crescenta Valley High forward Paul Matijasevic took up basketball, he would spend his afternoons cruising around La Crescenta on his skateboard.
Matijasevic’s favorite game was to lie supine on his board and barrel down a steep street in a position aptly dubbed “the coffin.” Two years ago, he says, a friend followed him in a car and proudly informed the 6-foot-5 missile that he was traveling at 50 m.p.h.
If he could only get up and down the court that quickly.
Just a Little Spit and Polish, Brian
Glendale College Coach Brian Beauchemin did have something red at his feet when the Vaqueros played Mt. San Jacinto, but it wasn’t a red carpet.
While tangling with Glendale’s Dave Swanson, Eagle forward Otis Mixon was elbowed in the mouth.
And although he did not bleed profusely, Mixon was intent on showing Beauchemin the extent of the injury. He walked by the Glendale bench where Beauchemin was sitting, bent over and spat in front of the coach.
Beauchemin remained silent.
Later, after Mixon had collected his fifth foul, he repeated the act.
This time, Beauchemin calmly informed the referee that he “didn’t appreciate the spitting.”
“Mt. San Jacinto kids have always been bad actors,” Beauchemin said. “He had to do what he had to do, but I didn’t need the shoe shine.”
How Not to Improve International Relations
The Occidental College women’s team traveled to Nassau for the Bahamas Goombay Shootout but found the facilities to be pretty rudimentary.
The team practiced on a dilapidated asphalt court outside the gym in which tournament games were played. Each practice drew a large audience of locals, many of whom toted reggae-blasting radios. But Coach Sue Semrau said that the onlookers were not there to check out the talent or gawk at Occidental players.
“I think they were just mad because we took their court,” she said.
And Beating You Badly by Our Calculation
Because he sustained an eye injury in a pick-up game last summer, Glendale College guard Bruce Heicke wears goggles while he plays. The specs make him look more like a slide-rule salesman than a scoring threat--giving Heicke an advantage over unwitting opponents.
“They think I stink and they don’t know I’m pretty good,” said Heicke, who averaged 14.9 points a game. “They say, ‘Hey, this white guy with goggles is beating me. This isn’t happening. This guy’s wearing goggles, his hair’s messed up, he’s crazy.”
His long set shots especially didn’t set well with defenders.
Once, an Antelope Valley player was particularly irked and sought crude revenge after Heicke had humiliated him.
“He told me to shut up,” Heicke said. “I looked at him and he said, ‘Yeah you, four-eyes.’ Then he spit on me.’ ”
Hey, Spielberg. . . What If I Had Made It?
St. Francis High forward Dominic Mumulo missed a layup with five seconds to play, costing the Golden Knights a first-round playoff game against La Canada. St. Francis lost, 64-63.
Mumulo’s father was videotaping the game but did not capture the ill-fated try because the crowd was standing.
The fact that the moment wasn’t saved for posterity was no reprieve for the younger Mumulo, however.
“I really wanted to see it,” he said. “I wanted to see how we unfolded.”
Some Timeout Advice: Hold On to the Ball
In its season finale against Pomona, the Occidental College team fell victim to a new NCAA rule which stipulates that a warning buzzer, and not a referee, summon a team from its huddle with 15 seconds left in a one-minute time-
out. At the one-minute mark, a final buzzer sounds.
With 1:20 to play and the score tied, 70-70, Pomona called a timeout and the Occidental cheerleaders took the court.
Occidental assistant Jim Kerman, who usually breaks the huddle at the first buzzer, was embroiled in a discussion with another assistant and missed the warning.
“We were yick-yacking back and forth,” Kerman said. “And the cheerleaders began this especially loud cheer where they will chant something and get a response from the crowd.”
The second buzzer sounded, and, before any Tiger took the court, a Pomona player scored an uncontested layup.
“We were freaked,” Occidental forward John Keister said. “Someone said, ‘Hurry up! They’re getting ready to throw the ball in!’ Just when I was getting up off the bench I saw them get the layup.”
No Dream Season
Regardless of whether his team was winning or losing, Crescenta Valley Coach John Goffredo had problems with insomnia during the season. On a good night, he would make it to 4 a.m. before he got out of bed in frustration.
“It’s tough to unwind,” Goffredo said in January. “You don’t want to give in. You try to sleep but you just can’t.”
There is some relief, Goffredo said: “They’ve got good movies on in the middle of the night and the newspaper comes around 4.”
A Jam Session of a Different Sort
La Canada High center Chad Givens, last year’s Rio Hondo League MVP, dominated many players his size and averaged 19 points and nine rebounds a game this season. Givens has the toughest time dominating a considerably shorter opponent--his cello.
“I dwarf the thing,” said Givens, who played in a string quartet last summer. “There aren’t that many 6-7 cellists out there.”
Gumbys’ Rule No. 1: No Sitting on the Bench
Riding the bench is seldom glamorous but a group of Occidental College players made the most of their reserve roles, forming an elite fraternity: the Gumbys.
“We’re called the Gumbys because we’re the biggest stiffs around,” Tony Berlin said. So stiff, in fact, that they rarely sat.
Before one game, the group vowed to remain standing until the Tigers built a 10-point lead. To everyone’s relief, Occidental opened with a 10-0 run. Keith Berglund said the group was constantly being reprimanded by agitated referees.
“They’ll come by and say, ‘Sit down, guys,’ And we’ll sit down and bounce up two seconds later,” he said. “It’s like the NFL spike rule: It has to be spontaneous standing.”
When he watches games on television, Berglund pays close attention to the bench.
“I try to pick up pointers,” he said. “For instance, they have certain handshakes for certain things.”