It Was Just a Trip Down the Road for Naulls : Basketball: After a standout career at Beverly Hills High, he was courted by several universities, but decided to walk on at UCLA.


More Beverly Hills High graduates attend UCLA than any other four-year college or university, but for an athlete, the move is rare, if not unheard of.

In 1988, Willie Crawford, a standout football player for the Normans, received a scholarship to attend UCLA. But because of legal and disciplinary problems, he never played a down for the Bruins and later transferred to Houston.

Michael Moore has been more of a success story. The 1989 Southern Section athlete of the year has been a baseball and football standout at UCLA.

But Jonah Naulls is taking what appears to be an unprecedented step. He is the first Beverly Hills basketball player in memory to compete for the Bruins.

A 6-foot-5 guard, Naulls is a freshman walk-on. Although he did not play in the Bruins' first seven games, he did score four points in 20 minutes during an intrasquad game Nov. 7.

"He's been really good for us in practice, especially with (Ed) O'Bannon out and other guys getting (injured)," UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said. "He's got a nice shot, he learns, understands and works hard every day."

With unlimited squad sizes and free substitution, walk-ons are often successful in college football. The best example at UCLA is Rick Neuheisel, who now coaches the Bruin receivers. He walked on in 1979 and ended up quarterbacking the Bruins to a 45-9 Rose Bowl victory over Illinois on Jan. 2, 1984.

However, Harrick said the chances of a walk-on having similar success in basketball are "virtually impossible."

"We don't make a lot of mistakes (in recruiting)," Harrick said. "There are some guys who don't play in the summer (that) you miss on, but not too many, especially in our own town."

UCLA's most prominent basketball walk-on in recent seasons was Keith Owens, who not only ended up receiving a scholarship but earned a spot on the Laker roster as well. But Harrick cautioned against drawing comparisons between Owens and Naulls.

Still, Naulls is enjoying his situation.

"It's a great experience," Naulls said. "It's definitely not like high school where you're used to going out and dominating. Now you have to play as hard as you can to survive."

A two-time Times' All-Westside selection, Naulls averaged 25.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and four assists as a senior, including a 42-point, 15-rebound effort in his final game, an 87-81 loss to Torrance in the first round of the Southern Section playoffs.

"He was the best shooter that I coached," said Jack Dyck, Naulls' coach at Beverly Hills. "He's the kind of kid that's good to have on a team because his senior year he was the best player on our team and yet he was one of the hardest-working kids. You never had to worry about him taking it easy in practice. He was very conscientious."

Naulls was recruited by Washington State and Baylor and had contact with Michigan and California, but he wanted to stay close to home.

Louisiana State Coach Dale Brown also phoned Harrick about Naulls and asked him if he was recruiting the guard. When Brown was in Los Angeles for the John Wooden Award presentation in April, he invited Naulls to visit LSU, an invitation Naulls turned down.

So Naulls had a meeting with Harrick and was invited to walk-on.

Playing for the second-ranked Bruins has been a learning experience for Naulls.

"I've improved in every facet of the game, mainly defense," Naulls said. "I didn't learn how to play defense in high school. It wasn't really stressed."

Naulls is a second-generation Bruin. His father, Willie, was a three-season starter at center from the 1953-54 season to 1955-56. He still holds the school single-game rebound record with 28.

The elder Naulls played 10 seasons in the NBA with the St. Louis Hawks, New York Knicks, San Francisco Warriors and Boston Celtics, with whom he was a member of three NBA championship teams.

Jonah said his father did not influence his decision to come to UCLA, but he did help in his career.

"He taught me how to shoot, dribble and that kind of stuff," Jonah said. "He never forced me into playing basketball. I didn't play basketball until seventh grade when all my friends were playing. But if I asked for help, he'd help me."

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