BOYS' BASKETBALL 1993-94 / SMALL SCHOOLS : Shot in the Dark Produces Winner for St. Margaret's

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

On a certain strip of pavement next to a particular South Orange County beach, Damian Raibon can be found stroking free throw after free throw in the cool darkness of early morning.

The location has been concealed so this relationship between man and concrete will remain undisturbed to keep Raibon's undying concentration intact.

Raibon is dedicated to the game of basketball, so much so that even the presence of another human during his daily ritual can have adverse effects on the St. Margaret's High School player.

"I don't like to practice with people watching me," he said. "For some reason it makes me feel uncomfortable."

The daily trek from his house in San Juan Capistrano to the park overlooking the ocean began last summer, Raibon said. Two-hundred free throws and another 50 jump shots before 6 a.m. is the way he begins each day.

From there it's off to St. Margaret's, an Episcopal school with 828 students in grades kindergarten through 12th located off Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano.

At St. Margaret's, where Raibon has been enrolled since age 5, he is the pride of elementary students and faculty alike.

The 6-foot-3 guard-forward--or anywhere on the court that's within his range--is coming off a tremendous season during which he averaged 26 points and 12.9 rebounds. The latter was second best in Orange County.

And he is only halfway through high school.

Raibon's goals for his junior season may seem astronomical to some players, but they are completely realistic to him as long as Coach Rick Bauer leaves him in the game long enough.

"I would like to score 70 or 80 points in a game," he said. "But it's hard because when we really start beating someone, Coach Bauer takes me out."

Raibon said he has his eye on the 63-point game by Brian Wessendorfer, the St. Margaret's school record.

Whether he fulfills his goals before he graduates, one thing is certain: Raibon will bring his game up a level in college. Already, Virginia and a host of Big West Conference schools are getting ready to knock at his door when the the personal contact period arrives in July.

To be sure that his name reaches more East Coast schools, the Raibon family has hired someone to spread the word that a tiny school in Orange County has a huge talent in Raibon.

"Sometimes you get less attention than if I were to go to a bigger school," Raibon said. "I'm trying to get more recognition from the East Coast schools."

If Raibon continues his ascent, he shouldn't have any problem turning the heads of college recruiters.

As long as they let him practice by himself.

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