In the era of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, no high school basketball team in America has more social media star power than Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.
With four sons of former NBA players in the starting lineup, plus a fifth starter known for his crowd-pleasing dunks, Sierra Canyon has been generating the kind of paparazzi and TMZ-like media exposure not seen since the Ball brothers were playing at Chino Hills.
Drake has been to a home game. So has Kanye West.
Fans come out to gaze at Scottie Pippen, Kenyon Martin, Duane Washington and Tellis Frank sitting in the stands. All played in the NBA. On the court, those fans keep their eyes on their sons — Scotty Pippen, K.J. Martin, Duane Washington Jr. and Terren Frank — plus Cassius Stanley, the junior dunk machine.
When Sierra Canyon won a playoff game last week at Temecula Rancho Christian, dozens of fans stayed afterward hoping to get a moment with the players. They didn’t want an autograph — they wanted a selfie, the social media craze embraced by teenagers.
“It’s not really autographs anymore,” said Jerome Stanley, a sports agent and the father of Cassius Stanley. “It’s, ‘Can I take a picture of you?’ Ten years ago, when phones became cameras, autographs disappeared. You send it to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia immediately. Your grandmother or aunt in Lubbock, Texas, says, ‘Wow, he’s with Kanye?’ Then they send it on a group text to 12 people. 'Wow, he’s standing next to Scottie Pippen, your favorite player.’ It’s pretty much killed the autograph.”
Sierra Canyon was well prepared for the arrival of its NBA-connected players, who are transfer students. In the previous two seasons, the Trailblazers had Remy Martin (now at Arizona State) and Cody Riley (UCLA). Then Marvin Bagley III, now at Duke, showed up and he was the No. 1 junior recruit in the nation. The school increased security and made space for additional media passes in response to the heightened interest.
This season, Sierra Canyon set aside 15 spots under its baskets for media entities showing up with video cameras trying to capture a moment that can go viral on the internet. Overtime and Ballislife are among the new media who don’t really care much about who wins or loses the game. They want the dunk that will generate thousands of views or the celebrity sighting in the bleachers that can be their TMZ moment.
Sierra Canyon has been delivering this season. The Trailblazers are 22-3 and set to play unbeaten Torrance Bishop Montgomery at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Cal Baptist in the Southern Section Open Division semifinals.
Among the players, Washington is the nephew of former Lakers star and coach Derek Fisher, who is his father’s younger brother. He came from Michigan this season and has signed with Ohio State. Pippen, a junior, came from Florida and is a top guard. Frank and Stanley transferred from Studio City Harvard-Westlake. Martin arrived from West Hills Chaminade.
Since Stanley became eligible on Jan. 1, the Trailblazers have been gaining momentum and building chemistry under coach Andre Chevalier. They lost to unbeaten Bishop Montgomery 65-62 on Jan. 5, Stanley’s second game back.
The private school has had its share of celebrity children attend as students, including the Jenner girls, Kendall and Kylie, as well as the children of Sean Combs, Dr. Dre and Anthony Anderson.
Head of school Jim Skrumbis said the increased attention has not resulted in any issues affecting fans, students or parents.
“People have been respectful of their space and they’ve been great,” he said of the parents.
Stanley said the four NBA parents are no different than anyone’s parents attending games.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “Just because you were an NBA father doesn’t make you support your kid anymore or less. All fathers are the same. They’re passionate and happy when things go well and not when they don’t. Scottie’s son is just his son. And Kenyon’s is just his son. It’s more outside forces looking at them in a different way.”
Skrumbis is one of the few on campus not participating in the social media onslaught.
“I have no social media presence whatsoever,” he said.
So don’t expect for him to ask for a selfie with Drake should he make an appearance at another game.
“I would be the last person,” he said.