Basketball is a big man's game, but try telling that to The Times' South Bay All-Star team.
Without a true post player, the all-star squad reflects the trend toward quicker, smaller lineups that emphasize the three-point shot. The 10-player team consists of eight guards and two forwards. The tallest players are Inglewood forward Paul Pierce and Serra guard Ricky Price, both 6-foot-6.
That might leave this team vulnerable on the inside if it ever had to take the court. But it wouldn't be lacking athleticism or scoring punch, with five players boasting averages of more than 20 points a game.
Mira Costa guard Shane Willis is the only repeat selection. Inglewood, with Pierce and guard Sam Turks, is the only school with more than one all-star.
Rounding out the squad are guards Phil Belin of Peninsula, Morgan Ensberg of Redondo, Kareem Mutrie of Bishop Montgomery, Jason Pickett of Banning, Neil Thakur of Chadwick and forward Charles Perry of Carson.
The players, along with their parents and coaches, will be guests of The Times at an awards breakfast at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Guest Quarters Hotel in Santa Monica. Winners of the South Bay player and coach of the year awards will be announced at the breakfast.
A closer look at the all-stars:
Phil Belin (Peninsula)--Although only a sophomore, Belin blossomed into the Panthers' best player after transferring from Chadwick. The rangy guard was a force on defense, leading the team in blocks and steals. He also was the top scorer, averaging 16 points a game. Belin teamed with another sophomore, 6-6 center Andrew Klein, to lead Peninsula to a 21-7 record and second place in the Bay League behind Inglewood. With four starters returning, Peninsula should be even stronger next season.
Morgan Ensberg (Redondo)--The most consistent player on a balanced team, Ensberg helped Redondo (21-8) to its winningest season in several years with his scoring and tenacious defense. He made nearly 40% of his three-point shots and averaged 14.6 points. The two-time All-Ocean League selection was at his best in the clutch, winning five games with last-second shots in the past two seasons. Ensberg was named to the Southern Section Division II second team after helping Redondo win two playoff games and advance to the II-A quarterfinals.
Kareem Mutrie (Bishop Montgomery)--One of the area's premier point guards, Mutrie led the Knights to third place in the competitive Mission League and a berth in the Division III-AA playoffs. He averaged 19.9 points and 8.7 assists, and was named to the All-Mission League first team for the second season in a row. Mutrie's other honors include selection to the Division III first team and the all-tournament teams at El Segundo and Anaheim Katella. He signed a letter of intent with the University of San Diego in November.
Charles Perry (Carson)--A steady, all-around player, Perry helped the Colts reach the City Section 4-A Division semifinals before they were disqualified for using an ineligible player. He averaged 15.1 points and seven rebounds, and was his team's most accurate shooter, making 56% of his field goals. Perry was named to the All-Pacific League and 4-A Division teams.
Jason Pickett (Banning)--The area's leading scorer, Pickett averaged 26 points a game in helping the Pilots to their second consecutive City Section 3-A Division title. A streak shooter with great range, he carried Banning in several games. Not surprisingly, he was a unanimous selection as 3-A Division player of the year. Pickett remains one of Southern California's top unsigned players because of problems with the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
Paul Pierce (Inglewood)--Widely regarded as the top junior in the state, Pierce led Inglewood (30-4) to its most successful season since 1980, when the Sentinels went unbeaten with a team that included future UCLA standout Ralph Jackson and NBA player Jay Humphries. Pierce has attracted recruiters from around the country who covet his rare combination of inside strength and outside shooting. The forward averaged 23.2 points, 11 rebounds and two steals in leading the Sentinels to the Bay League and Division II-AA titles. He was runner-up to St. John Bosco's Jelani Gardner for Division II player of the year and was named to the elite 10-player All-Southern Section team.
Ricky Price (Serra)--After his much-publicized transfer from St. Anthony, Price entered last season with the biggest buildup of any South Bay player. He signed with Duke in November and was chosen the West Coast's top college prospect in a poll of college coaches. The guard didn't disappoint, averaging 25.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and three steals in leading Serra to the Camino Real League title. The Cavaliers' season ended in the Division IV-A semifinals. Price was his league's unanimous choice for most valuable player and was named to the All-Southern Section team. He was selected to play in the prestigious McDonald's All-America game and won the dunk contest. He was also named to USA Today's All-American first team.
Neil Thakur (Chadwick)--The area's top three-point shooter, Thakur made 110 of 282 attempts (39%) on a Chadwick team that set the Southern Section record for most three-point baskets in a season with 294. A four-year varsity starter, he averaged 24.8 points. He scored 30 points or more in eight games, including 33 in a close loss to Division IV-A champion Verbum Dei. Thakur was the Prep League most valuable player and earned Division V honors for the second season a row. A versatile athlete, he was twice named all-section in football as a wide receiver. He hopes to continue his education and athletic career at Yale.
Sam Turks (Inglewood)--In two seasons as Inglewood's floor leader, Turks helped the Sentinels to a 50-14 record, two Bay League titles, a Southern Section crown and a 10-2 postseason mark. He didn't repeat as league MVP because of Pierce's emergence as a dominant force, but Turks received the secondary award of most outstanding player from coaches. Turks averaged 16 points, nine assists and three steals, repeating as a member of the Division II team. He was MVP of the Pacific Open and named all-tournament at Pacific Shores and Artesia.
Shane Willis (Mira Costa)--Willis was named Ocean League most valuable player after leading the Mustangs to the title. Although not the favorite, Mira Costa lost only one league game by relying on the outside-inside combination of Willis and Phil Fonua, the team's 6-2, 265-pound junior center. Willis averaged 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, and played a big role in the Mustangs' march to the Division II-A quarterfinals. The University of Hawaii-bound guard repeated as an All-Division II selection.
BOYS' ASL-STAR TEAM
Name: Phil Belin School: Peninsula Year: Soph. Points: 16.0
Name: Morgan Ensberg School: Redondo Year: Senior Points: 14.6
Name: Kareem Mutrie School: Bishop Montgomery Year: Senior Points: 19.9
Name: Charles Perry School: Carson Year: Senior Points: 15.1
Name: Jason Pickett School: Banning Year: Senior Points: 26.0
Name: Paul Pierce School: Inglewood Year: Junior Points: 23.2
Name: Ricky Price School: Serra Year: Senior Points: 25.3
Name: Neil Thakur School: Chadwick Year: Senior Points: 24.8
Name: Sam Turks School: Inglewood Year: Senior Points: 16.0
Name: Shane Willis School: Mira Costa Year: Senior Points: 21.
South Bay Boys' Second Team
Player School Yr. Ht. Avg. Todd Ammons Chadwick Jr. 6-3 20.4 Leonard Butler Serra Jr. 6-6 14.0 Tony DiLeva Mary Star Sr. 6-0 17.4 Phil Fonua Mira Costa Jr. 6-2 14.7 Tony Harvey Carson Sr. 6-4 14.6 Lamarr House Gardena Sr. 6-5 17.0 Andrew Klein Peninsula Soph. 6-6 15.0 Matt Sabosky El Segundo Sr. 6-2 17.5 John Terry Narbonne Sr. 6-5 23.4 Damani Washington Redondo Sr. 6-4 15.1