Above: The Flintridge Prep student section doing the A-Town walk … or cheering.
I’ve been all around and beyond, and I’ve waited until now to make my top 5 list of best venues to watch a basketball game in the West San Gabriel Valley. This includes boys and girls basketball. Next, I’ll post the top 5 places to watch baseball in the WSGV. San Marino tops my list right now, but Temple City is definitely lurking (every time I go there I feel like I’m walking on the set of The Sandlot).
1. Temple City — Every game I went to last year was jam packed. The student section is arguably the best in the West San Gabriel Valley. The fact that the Rio Hondo League always has a surprise up its sleeve only intensifies the crowd, not that they need the motivation. The band plays in the second tier stands, but the drum set always makes the place that much louder. It’s one of the fewest places that’s always filled to capacity. Every game there is always an experience, and you leave the gym with a ring in your ear. It’s that loud. That place also will have a special place for me. It was my first assignment as a freelance writer for the Tribune nearly nine years ago.
2. Keppel — If you read our story Tuesday about Keppel’s gym you’ll understand the aura that is Keppel basketball. It used to be that the gym always filled for the girls game, but with the boys making strides it’s no surprise to see the place packed from 5-9 p.m. during Almont League play. The place holds only 300 spectators, which means the noise is amplified that much more. Coaches like coaching there because it creates an exciting atmosphere, and unlike other venues, the student section makes up the majority of the crowd.
3. Monrovia — This is the last season the Wildcats play in what some would consider a run down gym. But truth be told. Monrovia plays in a gym that can rival Keppel’s game experience. The stands on the court go only five, maybe six rows high. Fans are so close to the action you can feel the sweat. There’s also a terrace that overlooks one end of the court. I’ve yet to see it fill up, but you know that when it does it’s something special. When I covered Monrovia’s girls basketball team last year the court stands were almost always full. I’ll check out the boys on Friday night when the Wildcats host Temple City to get a better idea of how things go when the boys play there.
4. Flintridge Prep — Every time I come to this gym I feel like I’m watching an old episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The court looks small and it has that prep feel to it. But the students there go crazy for basketball, and having 6-foot-7 center Kenyatta Smith the last three seasons help, too. It’s not just that the crowd makes it exciting to watch a game there, but the way the Rebels play make it exciting, too. They can play the half court and can also run it up and down with their guards, led by Edmund Chow and Jonathan Woo.
5. La Salle — You have to love the brick wall on the player’s side of the court. The grand stand on the other side is all spectators, giving coaches the opportunity to go all out without fear of parents giving them the evil eye. Don’t ask me why, but the place reminds me of Conseco Fieldhouse, perhaps it’s walking into the place and being right on top of the arena does it for me. You also have to love how the CIF banners are neatly decorated on one side of the wall. It’s a bit of nostalgia walking in there. I can’t explain it.
Also: La Canada, Pasadena, Muir.