Three Transfers Don’t Slow Artesia


Three starters on the Lakewood Artesia High boys’ basketball team left the school in the past week, but Coach Wayne Merino doesn’t appear too worried.

The Pioneers opened play in the Southern Section’s Suburban League on Wednesday with seven-point victory over Bellflower and followed that with a 98-41 victory over La Mirada on Friday to improve their record to 13-5.

“The transfers haven’t been too much of a distraction,” said Merino, in his ninth year at the school. “I mean, sure, we miss them very much. They were a big part of this team. But the rest of the kids have bonded together and put a positive spin on things.”


The departed players are all seniors: 6-foot-4 forwards James Lee and Demetrius Robertson and 6-4 guard Dajuan Wilson.

All three lived out of the area and attended the school on permits. Lee is now enrolled at Locke and Wilson at Fremont. Robertson, who lives near Lakewood Mayfair, is still deciding on a school.

None of the players have gained athletic eligibility since leaving Artesia. Lee is seeking a hardship waiver and will have a hearing Thursday with the City Section Rules Committee. Wilson is awaiting a review of his grades and residency. When Robertson decides on a school, he will need athletic clearance.

Artesia Principal Yvonne Contreras said about 10% of 1,650 students at her school attend on permits.

“There are kids that walk through our doors all of the time that want to be the next Ed or Charles O’Bannon,” said Contreras, in reference to two former Arcadia players who helped lead UCLA to the national championship.

Merino, who guided Artesia to Division II State titles in 1992 and ‘93, said he was surprised by the transfers, because none of the players told him beforehand they were leaving.


“They told the principal they were leaving for personal reasons,” he said. “I’ve worked with these guys for years, and this is certainly something new for me and this school.”

Artesia still has talent. Junior forward Brian Hills scored 23 points Friday. Sophomore Deandre Moore is regarded as one of the top guards in the area and guard Jason Kapono is a freshman starter.