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High School Sports

Column: Here’s to the prep athletes who stick with the same school, through thick and thin

Daiyan Henley
Daiyan Henley (11) was a helper to Crenshaw’s football program when he was in elementary school, and now he’s the Cougars quarterback.
(Robert S. Helfman)

It’s time for a change in philosophy before the true mission of the high school sports experience disappears forever.

Clearly, a travel-ball mentality is seeping into the system: Individuals matter over team; building all-star teams through player movement is more important than loyalty; exposing players to college recruiters is a higher priority than teaching life lessons.

It’s time for journalists (including me) to stop fawning over transfers as if they were knights in shining armor. Of course, the dilemma is that transfers are news and can’t be ignored,  considering the impact they can have.

For years, my idea in dealing with transfers was to write about schools bringing in one transfer after another, thinking a little peer pressure might be applied by fellow league members to stop the revolving door.

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Instead, the opposite has happened — public and private schools are welcoming and embracing transfers with no questions asked. Boosters excitedly tweet the arrival of the latest “savior.”

It’s gotten to the point that there are so many transfers — 15,882 in California in 2015-16 — that newspapers such as the Daily News and the Orange County Register are running “impact transfer” lists. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify top athletes who haven’t transferred.

There’s certainly no help coming from college recruiters in trying to reverse this trend. One of the best basketball players in the nation has been to four schools in four years and colleges still want him badly.

It’s time to start reversing this cycle, even if it’s in a small way. My contribution will be to start seeking out and exposing top high school athletes who stay for four years. They’re the ones who arrive on campus as freshmen, embrace their community, earn respect among classmates on the field and in the classroom, don’t flee when the going gets tough and prove that you can succeed without having to switch schools.

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There’s Chase Garbers of Corona del Mar, a senior quarterback committed to California. He has stayed at his neighborhood school for four years.  “I’m sure he was [approached] by the powers that be,” Coach Dan O’Shea said. “He was dedicated to playing football at his local public school and playing with his friends.”

There’s Andrew Tovar, a senior at L.A. Cathedral. He showed up when there already was a top quarterback as the starter. Then came an injury and he was thrown into the lineup as a freshman. Now he has 97 career touchdown passes but no scholarship offers. He’s facing a challenge from a promising freshman quarterback, Bryce Young, who already has a college scholarship offer and passed for three touchdowns in his debut last week.

Tovar is not backing down — he’s just going to keep working harder. “He’s mentally tough and will rise up,” Coach Kevin Pearson said.

There’s J.T. Shrout, a junior quarterback at Newhall Hart. He’s 6 feet 3 and could be starting at several schools. But he has chosen to wait his turn while being a backup to senior Nick Moore in an era when no one wants to be a backup. “I think it builds character,” his father, Jim, said. “In today’s world, everybody is looking for a way out. To me, it’s a life lesson.”

There’s Ryan Stevens, a sophomore quarterback at West Hills Chaminade. When junior Brevin White showed up last spring from Mission Hills Alemany, everyone told Stevens to leave. He declined. He had a 4.4 GPA and wasn’t about to run from competition. Last week, he played extensively with White. “I have a great passion for football,” he said.

There’s Daiyan Henley, a senior at Crenshaw. He was a ball boy for the Cougars in elementary school. He has been the team’s starting quarterback since his sophomore season.

Through good times and bad times, he stands in the huddle proud to be a Cougar. When he gets knocked down, he gets back up. There has to be a lesson in there somewhere. There has to be something inspiring about a kid living out his dream every Friday night at the school he grew up rooting for.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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Twitter: @latsondheimer


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