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When UCLA star guard Arron Afflalo was a 10-year-old youth, he was a stand-outbasketball player for Issy Washington’s Slam-N-Jam Development Leaguein Carson.
Washington was one of the first to recognize the skinny kid with the sweetshooting stroke early on.
Afflalo later mushroomed into a teen prodigy playing for the Southern CaliforniaAll Stars elite AAU club team and began to draw attention from major collegesthroughout the nation.
While attending Compton Centennial High School, Afflalo was a four-year starterfor coach Rod Palmer’s Apaches team. The team also featured USC startingguard Gabriel Pruitt and Jervaughn Johnson, now at San Diego State.
UCLA head coach Ben Howland made Afflalo his first recruit when he landedin Westwood from the University of Pittsburgh and the choice of the kid nicknamed “StraightA’s” has paid great dividends for the Bruins program.
The Bruins have reached the NCAA tournament in each of his three seasons andlast season lost to Florida for the National Championship.
Afflalo thought about leaving UCLA for the NBA after just his sophomore season,but decided to return because of the Bruins desire to win a championship forthe school.
He will lead UCLA into the Final Four again this Saturday, March 31 when UCLAplays Florida in a rematch of the title game a year ago.
He leads the Bruins in scoring averaging 16.9 points per game and became thefirst UCLA player to be named to the Associated Press All American team in12 years.
While UCLA has always been considered the elite championship team in collegebasketball winning a record 11 National Championships and appearing in theFinal Four a record 17 times, it had not always recruited Black players fromlocal urban communities.
Former Crenshaw star Marques Johnson was among the most successful, earningAll American honors and helping the Bruins win championships for coach JohnWooden before embarking on a successful NBA career. He is now a college basketballanalyst for Fox Sports Network.
Verbum Dei in Watts was responsible for sending UCLA such stars as David Greenwoodand Kenny Fields. Ten years ago, the Bruins successfully recruited Baron Davis,who grew up in South Central Los Angeles but attended Crossroads, an eliteprivate school in Santa Monica.
Westchester star Trevor Ariza only stayed for one season, and Fairfax starJosh Shipp has been a key contributor this year averaging 13 points and threerebounds. Another key performer for the Bruins has been freshman guard RussellWestbrook of Lawndale Leuzinger.
Much of this growing trend can be traced to Afflalo, who in addition to beinga tremendous basketball player is also a polished student in the classroom.
Afflalo has proved that it doesn’t matter where you grow up and attendschool but it’s what you do when you get there and there is no bettermodel to follow than the Compton kid known as “Straight A’s.”