Veteran sportswriter Roger Murray retires after 47 years of service in print journalism. Surely he’ll be missed.

I had the pleasure of working with Roger Murray for two years in my tenure as preps editor, but Roger made an impact on me long ago. Nine years ago, to be exact, Murray walked into the Tribune office and said hello to a then-17 year old cub reporter. I was star-struck when I saw him stroll into the sports department, former Star-News prep editor Keven Chavez also having that impact on me. I thought to myself, “How cool that he would be nice to me.” I always wondered what it would be like to meet the people you grew up reading like Chavez, T.J. Simers, Shav Glick, Mike Downey, Bill Plaschke and, of course, Roger Murray (did you know he rubbed elbows with the late Shav Glick and was good friends with the legendary Jim Murray?). Always kind and courteous, Roger offered a wealth of experience and advice to aspiring writers anytime possible. He’ll truly be missed, and I’m sure a lot of coaches feel the same way. Longtime Monrovia baseball coach Brad Blackmore used to play for Roger, and I believe he also covered Randy Bell when he was the Wildcats’ quarterback. Roger would always say being a sportswriter beats working for a living, and he’s right about that. We’re some lucky guys, and even luckier to have worked alongside a living legend.

Managing editor Steve Hunt, once the longtime prep editor and sports editor of the Tribune, talks about his time with Roger Murray

By Andrew J. Campa, Staff Writer
Over the past 34 years, there have been fewer constants than the steady reporting of veteran journalist Roger Murray. The Whittier Daily News prep sports editor, however, earlier this week decided it was time for a change. (To continue reading, click thread)
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Boys Soccer: It’s no time to panic for St. Francis … yet.

Above: The good ‘ol days with St. Francis keeper Jordan Bell.

I got a lot of heat last week for ranking St. Francis (2-8) the area’s No. 1 team in the West San Gabriel Valley. Things always look different depending on where you sit, huh? I stand by my choice, and here’s (another) chance for you all to comment on how oblivious I am to sports: St. Francis will be the No. 1 team come Wednesday’s rankings.

The answer is simple, and I really wish some of you understood the logic behind it. St. Francis hands down has the toughest schedule in the San Gabriel Valley, better than Monrovia’s, better than La Caada’s and better than Baldwin Park’s. St. Francis was the only team in our area to play in the prestigious Southern California Classic, known as the West Coast Classic a few years ago. It was a tournament I heavily covered in my four years at the Register, and it was easily the best high school soccer tournament in the nation when I covered it back in the day. For you soccer aficionados, the West Coast Classic can rival that of the prestigious Dallas Cup, and so on. (Not even the soccer-heavy city of South Bradenton, Fla. puts a tournament of the Classic’s caliber).

Take a look at St. Francis’ schedule. The Golden Knights played four teams ranked in ESPN’s FAB 50 rankings: Santa Barbara, Santa Margarita, Brophy Prep and El Camino Real, at one point ranked the No. 1 team in the nation. You can try to question the legitimacy of the FAB 50 rankings (after all, yours truly was a weekly voter), but nevertheless all are soccer powers in their respective region.

Just for fun, let’s say St. Francis didn’t play in the Classic and take its Mission League schedule alone. It’s arguably the toughest high school soccer league in the CIF-Southern Section; the Trinity League is up there, too. Yes, so far the Golden Knights are off to a rocky start in league (0-2) with losses to Harvard-Westlake and Chaminade. “Of course there’s a concern,” St. Francis coach Glen Appels said. “But we’ve been right there. The truth of the matter is with the young guys we just have to get on the right side. I don’t think there’s any panic at this point. This is a huge week for us.”

Huge week, indeed: St. Francis takes on host Notre Dame today; at Alemany on Wednesday; and the big show on Friday at 5 p.m. against visiting Loyola. That the Golden Knights are the defending CIF Southern California Regional champions is of little to no pressure.

“That was just part of a larger picture,” Appels said. “I don’t think when the season started anyone said they wanted to go out and win the regional championship, but that was a bonus. What we want to do is make a nice run in the Mission League and be successful in the playoffs, and I don’t think that’s pressure either. It’s more of an expectation.”

That’s St. Francis soccer for you: An expectation to be great is the driving force, not pressure.

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Boys Basketball: Kenyatta Smith is the real deal

You knew Flintridge Prep’s Kenyatta Smith was going to be something special this year. As a sophomore last year, the 6-foot-5 lanky center showed promise of being a true post player with an intimidating presence.

I got a chance to see him play last week and I’ll tell you what: He’s the real deal. Smith is now a 6-foot-7, 265 pound virtual wall. Smith not only gets his touches and points, but the mere fact he’s standing in the paint goes to the Rebels’ advantage. His mere presence means opposing teams have to alter their shots, and driving inside? Forget about it.

Smith finished with five blocked shots last week in a 49-45 win over Maranatha. What an intense game, just ask Maranatha coach Tim Godley. Smith’s third block came with 4:54 left in the second quarter and Maranatha’s Robert Schneider driving in. Smith calmly extended his arms high and swatted the ball with such force it hit one of the officials standing on the baseline. That brought the home crowd to its feet. Smith did it again with 1:19 left in the second quarter, this time blocking Andrew Elffers’ shot and the ball hitting the other official. He finished with 15 points and six rebounds and dunked twice, the first coming in the first half with a thunderous two-handed slam.

There are a select few prolific players in our area you’re going to want to see this year, and Smith is definitely near the top of the list. If you’re free Saturday afternoon you’re going to want to check out Pasadena Poly (12-2, 1-0) at Flintridge Prep (11-4, 2-0) at 4 p.m.

The 2:30 p.m. game between the girls will also be a good one. The Panthers are 10-2 overall and 2-0 in league and the Rebels are 13-4 overall and 3-0 in league.

Talk about a showdown, that’s for sure. And yes, we plan on covering the game.

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Rio Hondo League opens today: Monrovia at Temple City; Pasadena hosts Arcadia in battle of the Pacific

We will have a reporter covering one of the Rio Hondo League boys basketball openers tonight: Monrovia at Temple City. We will also cover the Arcadia-PHS boys basketball game, slated for 7 p.m. at Pasadena. The Apaches are much-improved but face a big test with the Bulldogs who seem to be getting in their groove now after a good showing in the Mission Prep Christmas Classic and the Oaks Christian Tournament. Also in the Rio Hondo League, La Canada hosts San Marino and Blair visits South Pasadena.

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Girls Basketball Scandal: Everyone speaking about the coach who suited up and played in a JV game

Just days after a story published in this newspaper confirming the firings of the entire San Gabriel High School girls basketball program’s coaching staff, Manny Flores, the former head varsity girls basketball coach, responded to allegations in a series of e-mail exchanges that there was an attempt to cover up a freshman coach’s decision to play in a junior varsity girls basketball game last month.

Flores did not dispute allegations that Jannie Han, 21, played during a nonleague junior varsity road game Dec. 9 against El Monte, but he did take issue that there was an attempt to cover it up, which led to the firing of Flores, Han and JV girls basketball coach Mark Ho.

“I did not try to cover it up,” Flores wrote. “(Their) decision to do what they did was and is still a shock to me. I was shocked to see my coach playing in a game. It was disheartening because she was a responsible individual.

“Maybe I handled it the wrong way by waiting a day, but I was trying to find out why they did what they did, but I got no response. I do not have any hard feelings towards San Gabriel for their decision to let me go because of that. But to say I tried to cover it up, no way. I do not stand for things like that.”

San Gabriel principal Jim Schofield confirmed the firings on Monday but would not discuss the details, citing privacy issues. Jennifer White recently was hired to coach the varsity girls basketball team and San Gabriel football coach Keith Jones and assistant football coach Jude Oliva will help coach the junior varsity girls. The school is waiting on fingerprint clearance for its new freshman girls coach.

El Monte junior varsity girls basketball coach Steve Shimada said he couldn’t tell when Han went into the game, which the Lions won, 37-15.

“I was only interested in what we were doing, even though we had the game in hand,” Shimada said. “We tried to figure out who it might have been, but it wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind, that a coach would be playing in a game. I’ve never heard of something like this.”

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Small school’s big time game: ‘Natha vs. Flintridge Prep

Above: Maranatha freshman Jeremy Major is fun to watch.

Maranatha’s Jeremy Major and Flintridge Prep’s Kenyatta Smith will meet today at 3:30 p.m. in an exciting nonleague boys basketball game at Flintridge Prep. Major, a speedy freshman guard averaging 6 points per game, will test the Rebels’ inside presence, anchored by the 6-foot-7, 265 pound center Smith, who is only a junior. I will be there and we’ll have a photographer there, too. I hear it came down between St. Francis and Maranatha as to where Major would attend school. I saw him play against St. Francis in the La Canada Tournament last month and he was every bit as advertised. I hear the same about Smith, who put on some muscle and is no longer the lanky kid from last year. Flintridge Prep is 9-4 overall with wins over St. Francis, Sierra Canyon, Monrovia and Temescal Canyon in the prestigious Torrey Pines Tournament. The Rebels played Montclair Prep tough in a 53-50 loss early last month. Should be fun to see how they’ve progressed this year.

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First Gilbert Arenas, now a Keppel kid, what gives?

My boy Jonathan Abrams at The New York Times writes about Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards getting suspended after a decision to bring several guns into the Wizards’ locker room and then later display them in what he called a misguided joke. Abrams goes on to write that NBA Commissioner David Stern was not at all amused by Tuesday night’s antics and suspended Arenas indefinitely rather than wait for investigations of the gun matter to be completed by law enforcement authorities. And just yesterday, we hear about a Keppel student who was arrested after allegedly bringing two handguns to school. The discovery occurred shortly after 1:25 p.m. at Keppel High during a routine check by a drug- and gun-sniffing dog, police and Alhambra Unified School District officials said. The assistant principal searched the student’s backpack and found an unloaded .44-caliber revolver, the sergeant said. School officials detained the boy until police arrived. While searching the student, police found an additional handgun concealed in his waistband, Black said. The second gun, a .38-caliber semiautomatic handgun, was loaded. What is going on here? Why on Earth would someone think it’s a good idea to bring a gun to a place where there’s no reason to need one. It’s mind boggling to think what the thought process might be when something like this happens. Thankfully nobody was hurt in these two incidents.

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Fired San Gabriel coach denies cover-up, area athletic directors and coaches react to incident at San Gabriel.

Two stories will publish in Thursday’s paper regarding an incident with the San Gabriel High School girls basketball program, which I reported about in Tuesday’s paper. Thursday’s reports focus on allegations of a cover-up, which fired San Gabriel varsity girls basketball coach Manny Flores vehemently denied in a series of e-mail exchanges with the Star-News. Flores did not dispute allegations that Jannie Han, 21, played during a nonleague junior varsity road game Dec. 9 against El Monte, but he did take issue that there was an attempt to cover it up, which led to the firing of Flores, Han and JV girls basketball coach Mark Ho. “I did not try to cover it up,” Flores wrote. “Maybe I handled it the wrong way by waiting a day, but I was trying to find out why they did what they did, but I got no response. … to say I tried to cover it up, no way. I do not stand for things like that.”

San Gabriel Valley athletic directors and coaches also react to the San Gabriel incident in the second story:

“I was shocked to hear what happened and feel for the girls in the program. I hope that the girls come together and push through this incident and find a way to move forward.”
Keppel girls basketball coach Ib Belou

“I guess my question is ‘Was winning that important that you would sacrifice the program? To me there’s no valid reason, period. I don’t want to pass any judgment, but who would benefit from that?”
Alhambra girls basketball coach Therese Berner

“If a situation were to happen here I would act swiftly to remedy the issue.”
Maranatha athletic director and baseball coach Brian DeHaan

“What we’re trying to teach the kids is ethics. The CIF motto is sportsmanship and ethics. What they (the administrator’s swift action) did is exactly what they need to do — uphold the CIF standards and school standards.”
La Caada athletic director and girls basketball coach Tamar Hill

“I would have never imagined someone actually doing it. I’m still in shock hearing that it actually happened.”
Diamond Ranch athletic director Jason Fox

“It’s hard for me to understand why they would have done that and what was the thought process behind it. … to think an opposing coach would treat his own players that way is disappointing.”
El Monte girls basketball coach Brian Tabatabi

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Boys Basketball Rankings: PHS ready for Pacific battle


1. Pasadena (7-5)
Played toughest schedule

2. La Caada (11-2)
Tough test against Oilers

3. Renaissance Acad. (9-5)
Wins over Nogales, Damien

3. La Salle (7-6)
Enduring 4-game losing streak

5. Keppel (12-2)
Aztecs are much improved

6. Flintridge Prep (8-4)
Rebels playing tough schedule

7. Arcadia (7-6)
Could be league dark horse

8. St. Francis (7-5)
Payed Oilers tough

9. Maranatha (8-6)
Major is fun to watch

10. Blair (5-7)
Played in Oaks Chr. tourney

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Girls Basketball Rankings: La Caada is battle-tested

1. La Caada (12-3)
Amat, Serra gave tough tests

2. La Salle (10-3)
At Village Christian on Tuesday

3. Flintridge Prep (10-4)

Prep League play begins

4. Muir (3-6)
Uncharacteristic start

5. Pasadena Poly (8-2)

In Providence tourney finals

6. Alhambra (9-3)

Ready for Almont run

7. Pasadena (6-7)
Lost to Muir by only nine

8. Flint. Sacred Heart (8-8)

Knocked off La Salle

9. Mayfield (6-2)

Time to see if Cubs for real

10. Blair (7-8)
Are the Vikings back?

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