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Greene’s Sharp Shooting Puts Him in Step : Basketball: Lone returning starter looks to pace defending-champion Dons in Rancho Santiago Holiday Tournament.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It’s fairly easy to detect what kind of shooting night Rancho Santiago guard Glenn Greene is having. Just watch his first steps after the shot.

When things are going poorly, Greene seems to hardly lift his feet as he moves on with the game.

But when he connects, his first steps down court have more of a bounce to them.

Greene has mostly had a spring in his step since November 1990, when he became a starter as a redshirt freshman for the Dons.

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Greene is the lone starter back this season from Rancho Santiago’s 1990-91 state championship team that went 35-2.

This season, Rancho Santiago is 10-5 and Greene, who is 6-feet tall, is averaging 12 points per game at off-guard.

Rancho Santiago plays Washington Wenatchee Valley at 8 p.m. today in the first round of the Rancho Santiago Holiday Tournament.

Even if Greene misses a few consecutive shots these days, he doesn’t get too down. He just shakes it off and plays harder on defense.

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Why? Because Greene has more experience than he would like sitting on the bench.

As a senior at Mater Dei High School in 1988-89, he hardly played enough to even get a shot off, let alone react to it.

Greene had transferred from Los Amigos to Mater Dei as a sophomore and was the ninth man on the Monarchs’ sophomore team. He started on the junior varsity the next year. He was the Angelus League’s co-most valuable player on the JV level.

But he returned to the end of the bench as a senior. He worked hard in practice guarding teammates, including Dylan Rigdon (currently a redshirt at Arizona) and David Boyle, who is starting at Cypress.

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But in games, Greene had to wait for the front-line players to build enough of a lead so reserves could be trusted not to squander it in the remaining minutes or, in some cases, remaining seconds.

“I was the kind of player that the crowd chanted for to be put in with about two minutes left,” he said. “But I always thought that was embarrassing. I knew I was a better player than that.”

But Greene’s plight in high school is a fairly common one at Mater Dei, one of the most dominant programs in Southern California.

Vince Hizon rarely played there as well, but went to Cypress and was the 1990 Most Valuable Player of the Orange Empire Conference. Hizon is now a starting guard at Biola.

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Greene played at Orange Coast for part of the summer after he graduated from high school in 1989, but switched to Rancho Santiago before school started. He said the Dons’ up-tempo offense and and pressure defense would better suit his style of play.

“The first thing I noticed about Glenn was his athleticism,” Rancho Santiago Coach Dana Pagett said. “He has good speed and quickness and nice release on his shot.”

Greene sat out the 1989-90 season as a redshirt, working hard on defense during practice and trying to improve his overall game.

But he was still depressed about not getting to play in games. It was even more frustrating because the Dons went on to win the state title, and Greene’s contributions were limited to practice.

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“I look at it now and it was the best thing that I could have done because I got stronger,” he said. “But at the time, I was wondering why I bother practicing hard if I didn’t get to play.”

Greene moved into the starting lineup for the first game last season and hasn’t left it since. He averaged 10 points per game and excelled on defense, where he was the Dons’ player of the year.

Some of Greene’s best defensive work came in Rancho Santiago’s semifinal game against Compton in the state tournament at UC Irvine. He was assigned to cover Compton guard Steve Logan, who led the state in scoring with a 37-point average.

Greene pressured Logan constantly from the start and did a nice job of denying him the ball. Logan had only six points at the end of the first half. Meanwhile, Rancho Santiago had opened a 54-34 lead by the break.

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Logan got loose in the second half and finished with 36, but many of those points came well after the outcome was decided.

“I always took pride in playing defense,” Greene said. “In high school, I worked with (assistant) coach Dave Taylor and here with (assistant) coach Don Frank. Those are the two guys who really helped me a lot and allowed me to elevate my game.”

Tournament Notes

This is the 15th Rancho Santiago Northwestern Mutual Life Holiday Classic. Rancho Santiago and Long Beach, which played for the state title last March, are in the tournament. The first-round pairings: Saddleback vs. East Los Angeles, 2 p.m.; Long Beach vs. Santa Monica, 4 p.m.; Los Angeles City vs. Mt. San Antonio, 6 p.m., and Rancho Santiago vs. Washington Wenatchee Valley, 8 p.m. The semifinals are 6 and 8 p.m. Friday, and the title game is 7 p.m. Saturday. Rancho Santiago defeated Los Angeles City, 109-84, in last year’s title game.

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