Marty Cotwright is living proof that hard work pays off.
The Los Angeles City College power forward went from role player his freshman season in 1992-93 to one of the most highly recruited junior college players in the country this year.
At 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Cotwright was sought after by some of the nation's top Division I universities. "Georgetown, Cal, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Purdue and Tennessee wanted me," Cotwright said. "But I chose New Mexico because I could go in and play right away for a top program."
During the 1992-93 season, Cotwright averaged 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Cubs, who finished the season at 15-15 overall and 6-4 in the Southern California Athletic Conference. LACC lost in the first round of the State Junior College championships to Mt. San Jacinto.
Cotwright played varsity for Westchester High from 1990-92, where the Comets were City Section 4-A Division champions both years. He was named the team's Most Improved Player, but never showed his full potential on the guard-oriented Comets. "I wasn't the focal point, but I did learn how to work without the ball," he said.
When he wasn't practicing on the courts last summer, Cotwright attended the West Coast Junior College Camp in Bakersfield and the Rick Ball Junior College Camp in Vincennes, Ind.
Cotwright's jump-shooting range increased to 17 feet and he developed a hook shot from eight feet out.
"Marty has good low-post moves and is very strong around the basket," Coach Mike Miller said. "Marty is a hard worker, a great team player and all-around super person."
Cotwright, who joins Jaiquin Moore as the only returners from last year's team, will be counted on to lead the team. And it will be the first time in Cotwright's basketball career that he will be the team's go-to guy down the stretch.
Kevin Griffis, who averaged 15 points and four assists and was named to the All-Conference team, was the Cubs' leader last season. Now Cotwright will inherit that role.
"(My teammates) are going to look to me for leadership," Cotwright said. "I have to play a seniority role."
And Cotwright, who was named as a preseason All-American by Sporting News magazine, will receive plenty of help from arguably the best freshman class in California.
Leading the pack are forwards Saipele Tuialii, who averaged 20 points at South Gate High, and Taryll Franklin, who averaged 17 points at Dorsey High. Mike Dorsey, who averaged 18 points for La Sierra High in 1991, and Markee Brown, the Cubs' defensive specialist, solidify a strong back court.
Raheem Muhammad of Julian High in Chicago and Leslie Bean of Fremont will split time at point guard.
Jacob DeWilde--who at 7-3 is the tallest junior college player in California--Derrick Higgins and Stacy Thomas should also make sizable contributions.
Cotwright knows that it may take the Cubs most of the season to gel with such an influx of talent. "We have some things to (work) out," Cotwright said. "But we will be ready" in time for the playoffs.
Los Angeles Trade Tech (25-9 overall, 6-4 in Southern California Athletic Conference)--Trade Tech posted more wins than any area team and was one win away from the State Junior College semifinals.
The Beavers lost to Columbia, 93-90, in the quarterfinals before setting a school record of 23 victories during the regular season.
It is unlikely that Trade Tech will be able to emulate last season's success without the services of All-Conference point guard Eric Fuller, who averaged 19 points and 10 assists.
"I don't think we can go as far as we did last year, but I think we can get close to 20 wins," assistant coach Ollie Jones said.
The Beavers will also miss the contributions of forward Ryan Mack, who averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Sophomore Terry Green, an explosive scorer with a 21-point average, returns for Trade Tech along with forward Greg McDowell, who averaged 12 points and nine rebounds.
Joining this year's squad will be 6-3 freshmen forwards Efrain Wesby and James Wade.
And Rufus Martin, at 6-3, is a highly touted prospect from the Trinity Park Basketball League in South-Central.
"He is very fundamentally sound," Jones said. "All he needs is experience."
East Los Angeles College (14-18 overall, 4-6 in Southern California Athletic Conference)--How does a coach replace the best player in the area?
That's the question Jorge Callines is facing after the graduation of conference co-MVP Isaac Burton, who is now at Arizona State. Burton took with him game averages of 24 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and three assists.
"You can't replace a player like Isaac," Callines said. "You just hope other players on the team will step up."
Still, ELAC will floor a solid starting five.
Returning from last year are point guard Danny Barajas, who averaged 10 points, and 6-4 Henry Washington, who averaged 12 points and eight rebounds. Also coming back is 6-8 center David Ng, who hopes to bulk up last year's averages of nine points and six rebounds after a summer of weight training.
ELAC captured 6-2 Lauron Williams and 5-11 Herb Bain from Banning's 3-A City championship team.
Carson's Chris Ramsey, a 6-2 shooting guard, who averaged 22 points last season, may be the Huskies' player to watch, Callines said.
"Chris is a great raw talent with a lot of athleticism, a lot like Isaac was when he first came here," Callines said. "If he grows a couple of inches and improves his outside shooting and ball-handling skills, he could be another Isaac."