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City Launches Full-Court Press at Park

The well-maintained basketball courts at Liberty Park, where nets are changed regularly and the playing surface is smoother than most tennis courts, are drawing too many serious basketball players from out of town, the Cerritos City Council has decided.

The council voted 3 to 2 last week to divide the courts by installing benches along mid-court lines. The benches would permit only half-court games and, city officials hope, reclaim the four courts at 19211 Studebaker Road for city residents.

Mayor Paul W. Bowlen said he voted to install the benches “so your average Joe who just wants to shoot some hoops has some access too.”

As many as 200 players often gather at the courts on spring and summer evenings, park manager Ernest Vital said, and the wait for a game can stretch to three hours.

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Officials also said they were concerned about the potential for violence. Basketball rims were removed for two weeks after a March 2 shooting incident at the park. Officials said one player fired shots at another player in a parking lot after an argument on the basketball court. Neither was injured.

The benches, which will cost $2,500, are scheduled to be installed within a month.

Council members Grace Hu and Bruce W. Barrows voted against the proposal. Hu said she prefers installing a fence around the courts and requiring players to produce identification showing that they live in Cerritos.

Barrows, who has coached youth basketball in the city since 1978, said he would like to preserve Liberty Park as a training ground for local players.

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Artesia High School graduates Charles and Ed O’Bannon, now stars at UCLA, were once regulars at the park, along with USC alumnus Duane Cooper, now with the Phoenix Suns.

Among the half-dozen players assembled on the courts Friday evening were Ed Miller of Glendale and Rod Tolosa of Long Beach.

“I’d stay in Long Beach if I knew it was safe enough,” said Tolosa, 23. “People come here to play ball; there’s no gangbangers here.”

When told of the city’s plans, the 24-year-old Miller said, “Oh man, that’s sad.”

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