Bill Mazurie could very well have been hurling sliders from a mound instead of executing defensive slides on a basketball court.
Growing up, Mazurie, a starting guard on the Capistrano Valley High School basketball team, was better at baseball than he was at basketball.
In fact, if injury had not thrown him a curve his sophomore season, he might still be concentrating on baseball. Instead, he'll be in a basketball uniform for the Southern Section 5-A championship game between Capistrano Valley (23-4) and Irvine (24-5) at 6:15 tonight at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Toward the end of his sophomore year, Mazurie, then a pitcher-shortstop, discovered he had bone chips in his elbow.
"All I know is it just had cracking noises in it, and (the doctors) went in and got one piece out, and it was a pretty big piece from what they said. I haven't played since," Mazurie said.
With no regrets, Mazurie stepped off the mound to focus his attention on basketball.
"The practicing from 2 until it got dark at 6, just shagging fly balls and hitting, after a while it gets so boring," he said. "I like the fast-pace game, and that is how basketball is so much different . . . always fast-paced and moving and so many things to do.
"Since I don't chew tobacco, I'm missing out on one of the major baseball events."
Mazurie, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, has found Capistrano Valley's fast-break offense to his liking.
"We are an up-tempo type of team," Cougar Coach Mark Thornton said. "We like to run, we like a lot of full-court pressure. Being quick, he is very good at the type of play we try to instill. He's a very good open-court player.
"He shoots 'the three' quite well, but a lot of his points come off steals and going to the basket with a steal."
Mazurie scores about 14 points a game while shooting 56% from the field. He is capable of scoring more; he has scored more than 20 points a game five times this season. But with 6-foot-5 Scott McCorkle (24 points) and Kris Kostoff (15 points), he scores just enough to keep the defense honest.
"A lot of times, with a kid like McCorkle, you see box-and-one, but I think teams realize we have a couple of other kids who can score a lot of points, so they just don't do that to us," Thornton said. "They have to play us honest. If they put junk defenses in, one of our other kids will step forward and score a lot of points."
Though he contributes on the scoreboard, Mazurie's real value is on defense, where he is averaging three steals a game.
"He always guards the point guard on the other team and does a pretty good job, so his defensive play is probably more important than his scoring for us," Thornton said.
Mazurie is a happy-go-lucky kid off the court. But on the court, he is cool under pressure.
"He shoots about probably 80% from the foul line, but if you get him down the stretch, where the game is on the line, he probably shoots 95%," Thornton said.
"He doesn't get bothered by too many things. He knows what he wants."
Mazurie knew he wanted to play college basketball. So he signed early to play for Cal State Northridge, a Division II school that will move up to Division I his freshman year, he said.
"A lot of Orange County players are going Division I," he said. "They are going to big schools and find they can't play there. (At Northridge), the opportunity was there. I would be able to play my freshman year and wouldn't have to redshirt, and I know I am not going to be any pro star. I just want to play where I am able to play and not fool myself into going big time."
It was the same pragmatism that brought Mazurie to Capistrano Valley his senior year after three years at Foothill High School. He wanted to play for a championship team, not just a contender, and his family wanted to live closer to the beach, so they moved into the district.
To get acclimated with his new teammates, he played 48 games with the team during the summer, which made him feel as if he was "just another one of the boys."
His only regret about the move is the basketball court he left behind. Not at Foothill, but in his bedroom.
"I had an inside basketball court where you could literally play three-on-three half-court basketball," Mazurie said. "We would have three-on-three matches. It was almost regulation. It wasn't a Nerf hoop. We had a little ball, just a little smaller then the girls' ball."
He and some of his Foothill teammates would get together and play in his bedroom late into the night or until neighbors complained.
"I can dunk on a good day. In my room, I was a dunking champion."