What’s eating Gilbert Arenas?
For the last three months, rumors have circulated that the All-City guard for Grant High will transfer to another school for his senior season.
“Those are just rumors,” said Arenas, laughing. “It’s funny because I’ve heard rumors floating around that I’m going to Crenshaw, Westchester, Canoga [Park].”
In the close-knit fraternity of high school coaches, it didn’t take long for the rumors to reach Grant Coach Howie Levine.
"[I’ve] been hearing the rumors for months,” Levine said. "[Arenas] told me they’re not true . . . and there’s no reason not to believe him.”
Arenas, a 6-foot-3 point guard who averaged 29.8 points and 5.7 assists last season, arguably will be the region’s top college prospect next season. He’s a polished gem who has drawn interest from USC, Kansas State and Notre Dame, among others.
Although Arenas dismisses rumors of him leaving Grant, he complains the Lancers compete in low-profile off-season leagues and tournaments. He desires better competition and exposure, the kind he’ll get when he plays against other blue-chip recruits in the Addidas New Jersey Invitational in July.
“There are so many schools I don’t even get a chance to see or to play against,” Arenas said.
Arenas’ father, Gilbert Sr., has discussed these concerns with Levine. But the elder Arenas says there are no plans to send his son to another school.
“At this point, it’s rumors,” Gilbert Sr. said. “Things don’t happen until it happens.”
There are signs, however, Arenas might enjoy playing somewhere other than Grant. He played on a summer-league team Monday that included four Sylmar players.
“I felt so comfortable with them,” he said.
City Section players can play with any team from June 1 to Aug. 31.
Sylmar Coach Bort Escoto finds all the transfer talk amusing.
“Is [Arenas] any good?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’ve heard those rumors like every one else has heard those rumors,” Escoto said. “Everyone knows about it. [But] if I believed every rumor since I’ve been at Sylmar, I would have an all-star team.”
If Arenas transfers to Sylmar, Escoto could have the City Section 4-A Division contender he has dreamed about since taking over the Spartan program in 1994. Seven players, including five starters, return from Sylmar’s 3-A Division championship team.
"[Sylmar] would be a dream school to go to,” Arenas said. "[But] I think my dad is in the state of mind that he doesn’t want to move back and forth, especially going into my senior year.”
Although Sylmar recently filled its open-enrollment slots, there are several ways Arenas could transfer.
He could move into the Sylmar district. Or he could--if he qualified--be accepted into the school’s math-science magnet program, which has eight openings. If accepted into the magnet program, Arenas could attend Sylmar without living in the school’s boundaries. Magnet students receive transportation to and from school.
Levine, who is concerned he might lose Grant’s all-time leading scorer to a rival, is stuck in a wait-and-see mode.
“I think we’ll have a better idea of where things stand [this summer], but we’re not going to know for sure until September,” Levine said.
But the writing is on the wall.
“I’m going to keep playing with [Sylmar] and hopefully that will change my dad’s mind,” Arenas said.
Perhaps it already has.
“We’re going to sit down and we’re going to analyze and come to some conclusion,” the elder Arenas said. “Sylmar is strong, I can tell you that.”