Two legacies hope to build Crenshaw basketball team’s future
They got name.
Moriah Johnson’s father, Marques, was a five-time NBA All-Star and former national college player of the year at UCLA.
Geoffrey Allen’s dad, Lucius, won three national college championships with the Bruins and spent three of his 10 NBA seasons with the Lakers.
They got fame.
Moriah has top billing on “Baldwin Hills,” a highly rated reality show on Black Entertainment Television that centers on black youths in Los Angeles.
Geoffrey is a successful entrepreneur, running a business in which he purchases items wholesale and then sells them for close to retail on EBay.
And yes, they got game.
Moriah is a starting forward for the Crenshaw High boys’ basketball team and Geoffrey is a swingman, leading the Cougars into a quarterfinal of the City Section Division I playoffs. Sixth-seeded Crenshaw (19-3) plays at third-seeded Woodland Hills Taft (23-3) tonight.
“We’re going to try to put Crenshaw back on the map,” Moriah said.
The Cougars, who won 16 City championships in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, have not advanced to a title game since 2000 and might have slipped further toward anonymity without their celebrity father-son duos. Each son passed on the opportunity to attend swanky private schools in favor of Crenshaw.
The fathers are also part of the rebuilding process.
Marques Johnson spends a few days a week at his alma mater working with the big men on post moves. Lucius Allen infuses the spirit of John Wooden, painstakingly showing players how the legendary former UCLA coach made the Bruins wear their socks.
“You have to have the line straight across the toe, you have to have the socks pulled all the way up so they’re not going to get twisted and you have to have two pairs of socks on,” Allen recalled. “And they can’t be black.”
The players listen as if the words are coming from Wooden himself.
“Not too many teams have that insight as far as what UCLA and John Wooden did,” senior center Hassant’e Manning said.
Crenshaw Coach Ed Waters said he sees shades of the fathers in their sons. Though Geoffrey, a 6-foot-6 junior, is four inches taller than his father, he possesses excellent shooting range and blistering speed that rivals the player once known as “The Jackrabbit.”
Moriah, a 6-5 senior, reminds Waters of Marques down to his strut and uncanny leaping ability that helped make the elder Johnson a City Section player of the year before becoming part of Wooden’s final national championship team in 1975. Moriah soared to block a potential score-tying three-point shot last Thursday in the final seconds of the Cougars’ 79-76 playoff victory over Los Angeles Jordan.
He has also reached unforeseen heights of stardom on “Baldwin Hills,” playing the role as an upstanding teen bent on doing the right thing; he says in one episode that he plans to be abstinent until marriage.
“How he acts on camera, that’s exactly how he is in real life,” Geoffrey said. “He’s a real positive guy.”
Not that that keeps Moriah’s teammates from teasing him about the show. They sing the theme song during their breaks in practice and prod him about the girls he hangs out with.
The show has also generated a lot of attention for Marques, who is constantly stopped by teenage girls who want to know if he really is Moriah’s dad.
“That’s my claim to fame now,” he said, laughing.
Indeed, the basketball careers of Lucius, 61, and Marques, 53, can seem a lifetime ago to the younger generation.
Lucius, who has had back surgery and two hip replacements, struggles to beat his son in shooting contests.
Moriah seems incredulous that the father he watched effortlessly dunking during a YouTube clip is the same man who can no longer keep up with him in one-on-one battles.
“It’s kind of weird because in the backyard now, it’s a whole different story,” Moriah said.
Retorted Marques: “I’m 53 years old. Of course it’s a whole different story.”
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City Section playoffs
DIVISION I QUARTERFINALS
No. 8 Fremont (18-8) at
No. 1 Westchester (27-2)
No. 5 Sylmar (20-7) at
No. 4 Reseda Cleveland (19-7)
No. 6 Crenshaw (19-3) at
No. 3 Woodland Hills Taft (23-3)
No. 7 Washington (20-7) at
No. 2 Fairfax (24-3)