The best basketball player in Southern California not named Lonzo Ball might be Eyassu Worku, a 6-foot-2 senior guard from Los Alamitos whose parents came here from Ethiopia just before he was born.
He has a college career in front of him, having signed with UC Irvine, which means in coming years TV commentators will be asking, “Where did he come from?”
Irvine did its homework, watching him develop the last two years, and Worku has just begun to fulfill his potential: He has led Los Alamitos to a 20-3 overall record and 7-0 mark in the Sunset League. He’ll be playing Saturday in the Nike Extravaganza at Santa Ana Mater Dei against Fairfax in a 2:45 p.m. game.
Worku is averaging 25.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He has become the leading scorer in Los Alamitos history.
“Eyassu is every coach’s dream — someone who has natural talent, is coachable and outcompetes everyone,” Coach Eddie Courtemarche said.
Worku has an extra gear he can call on, like a running back who accelerates when he sees the end zone in front of him. He has tremendous body control, but is so fundamentally sound he knows to pull up for a jump shot at the free throw line instead of driving all the way to the basket and getting called for a charging foul. He can connect from three-point range and is unselfish.
“It’s been incredible to watch how he’s combined his talents and his skills to become so precise in how he prepares for games, attacks defenses and embraces big moments,” Courtemarche said.
Worku scored 31 points last week in a 56-54 win over rival Huntington Beach Edison, but it was his pass that set up the game-winning three-point basket by teammate Pepe Garcia. Worku delivered the ball after being double teamed.
The most interesting and curious question about Worku is how has Los Alamitos been able to keep him for four years?
He said several private schools made overtures trying to get him to transfer after his freshman season.
“My coach told me, ‘Try one more year,’ and my sophomore year really changed my eyes,” he said. “It was more than basketball. It was, these guys are my family and I play for these guys every single day. I’ve stayed focused. I’ve listened to my parents. I thought it was a good decision coming here.”
The Nike Extravaganza will feature four games Friday and nine Saturday. There are six players in the tournament who have signed or are committed to UCLA: Lonzo Ball, LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball from Chino Hills; T.J. Leaf from El Cajon Foothills Christian; and Ike Anigbogu and Jalen Hill from Corona Centennial.
Expect UCLA Coach Steve Alford to spend lots of time at Mater Dei watching games. If he happens to take a look at Los Alamitos-Fairfax, he’ll get to see Worku, a player he won’t be able to coach but will be hearing about for years to come.
Nike Extravaganza Schedule
At Santa Ana Mater Dei High
Windward vs. JSerra, 4 p.m.
St. John Bosco vs. Village Christian, 5:30 p.m.
Mater Dei vs. Las Vegas Centennial, 7 p.m. (girls)
Phoenix Shadow Mountain vs. Mater Dei, 8:30 p.m.
Colony vs. Sonora, 8:30 a.m.
Palm Desert vs. Corona Santiago, 10 a.m.
Ayala vs. Servite, 11:30 a.m.
Santa Margarita vs. Etiwanda, 1:15 p.m.
Fairfax vs. Los Alamitos, 2:45 p.m.
Westchester vs. Orange Lutheran, 4:15 p.m.
Corona Centennial vs. Concord De La Salle, 5:45 p.m.
Chino Hills vs. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, 7:15 p.m.
Mater Dei vs. El Cajon Foothills Christian, 8:45 p.m.
Tickets: $12 general admission; $22 reserve.