REMEMBER ME? Washington forward Darnell Gant (Crenshaw HS), Cal forward Patrick Christopher (Dominguez HS) and UNLV forward Chace Stanback are several of former local area players participating in the NCAA Tournament with no local teams involved.
GUIDING THE WAY: Georgetown coach John Â Thompson III has his team in position to be a sleeper candidate for the Final Four and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar has his Huskies in position for a tough first round game today.
Photo Credit: Nick Koza for Sentinel
Familiar Faces Prepare to Go Mad
Several former area standouts are contributors on NCAA Tournament teams
Never in a million years would you have guessed that UC Santa Barbara is a NCAA Tournament team while UCLA isn’t.
And the demise of the Pac-10 was complete as the top teams in the preseason poll – Cal and Washington – qualified as an 8 and 11 seed respectively.
Welcome to this year’s edition of March Madness where teams like UCLA, Arizona, UConn and North Carolina are home. A scenario few could have predicted before the season started.
Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar saw his team pull off a quality upset over Cal in the Pac-10 Tournament championship game and as a reward, he faces Marquette today in San Jose – a very winnable upset.
But locally there are no teams to root for the first time in years. However, there are several local players around the country participating in March Madness, starting with the Pac-10 squads.
Washington has two local players in junior forward Darnell Gant (Crenshaw HS) and freshman forward Tyreese Breshers (Price HS). Both started in a combined 23 games and key reserves for Romar as they open against Marquette today in San Jose.
Cal’s local contingent is led by All Pac-10 senior forward Patrick Christopher (Dominguez HS) and senior Jamal Boykin (Fairfax HS). Also on the team is sophomore guard Nigel Carter (Dorsey HS).
Over at No. 8 Texas, freshman guard/forward Jordan Hamilton was one of the three rookies to make an impact on the roster. The former Dominguez HS standout and All-Sentinel Player of the Year averaged close to 10 points for the Longhorns this season.
No. 8 UNLV is loaded with former Los Angeles area standouts. Â Sophomore forward Chace Stanback (Fairfax HS/UCLA) found success in his first year playing for the Rebels, making the All-Mountain West Third Team and All-Defensive Team.
He is joined by his cousin, sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield (Westchester HS) and another former Fairfax standout in junior forward Matt Shaw. Freshman guard Justin Hawkins (Taft HS) is also a solid contributor for the Rebels.
San Diego State, who surprised UNLV to win the Mountain West tournament championship, got a major boost from freshman forward Kawhi Leonard. The former Riverside King standout followed up winning Mr. Basketball last year with being named to the All-Mountain West First Team and Freshman of the Year.
Also on the team is three-year starting guard D.J. Gay, formerly of Sun Valley Poly. Gay is one of the team’s top 3-point specialists and averaged 10.3 points on the season.
Other players on March Madness rosters around the country include Minnesota freshman Justin Cobbs (Bishop Montgomery), Tennessee sophomore Renaldo Woolridge (Harvard-Westlake), Georgetown freshman Hollis Thompson (Loyola before transferring to Concord De La Salle his senior year),
Although California did not have anyone on the McDonald’s All-American boys team for the first time ever, the wealth of players succeeding in colleges around the country speak volumes about the state’s reputation for developing talent.
John Thompson III remains the game’s most high-profile Black coach and he has a good No. 3 seed in his Georgetown squad. Although they are in the tough Midwest Bracket headed by No. 1 Kansas, his team is a sleeper for good reason.
The Hoyas have defeated two No. 1 seeds in Duke and Syracuse. They have one of the nation’s best and versatile big men in sophomore Greg Monroe. Â And in tournament play, coaching experience trumps players and Thompson has plenty, having reached the Final Four three seasons ago.
So although locally the Madness may be felt from a distance or in the several bracket pools you are in, there’s plenty to keep your eye on besides who wins or loses.