Football: Monrovia’s stadium almost ready …. almost

After a series of covert operations from deep sources at Monrovia, we’ve obtained this photo showing the near-completion of Monrovia’s newly constructed football stadium. As you can see, the black asphalt (is that the right term?) is where the rubber track will be laid, and the concrete looks ready for the turf. The campus and the construction site, from what I’ve been told, has been completely off limits to students and personnel. Monrovia’s first scheduled home game is Sept. 17 against Arcadia, and Monrovia AD Randy Bell said he’s hoping the field is ready by then. If not, the Wildcats will turn to plan B, which is to play at a Rio Hondo League stadium. But from the looks of it, the hardest part of the construction is done, like the infrastructure. More on Monrovia in Tuesday’s paper and later on the blog.

Football: Muir’s Ken Howard eager to start the season

You can’t blame Muir football coach Ken Howard for being excited and eager to get the season started. The boys on Lincoln look mighty impressive. This is not the same Muir team that went through growing pains last season, and they’re ready to prove they belong among the best. Karl Holmes is a 6-3 wide receiver who was voted Top WR at the San Jose State camp and was among the top 5 at Cal Poly’s camp. He’s explosive, physical and has soft hands. He’s also a proven leader and showed as much during Wednesday’s fall camp opener. Jeffrey Davis will be somebody I’ll definitely keep my eye out on. He’s a 6-4 quarterback who gives the Mustangs much needed size in the pocket, especially when you have a towering offensive line that features Danny Huerta (6-0), Cameron Palmer (6-4) and Shawn Wilcox (6-4).

“I’m excited because we went to that game last year and nobody expected us to do well in that game,” said Howard, referring to the first-round game against Charter Oak in which the Mustangs nearly pulled off the biggest upset. “With all the weapons coming back, we’re the only ones that can stop us. It’s all up to us at this point. These guys are really that good.”

Muir was roughed up last season, but the Mustangs definitely used it as learning experience. Just watching Muir on the field you can tell they’ve definitely grown up.

“It’s maturity,” Howard said. “They grew up just like a lot of the guys on this team grew up from that one game These guys (Holmes and Davis) really want to bring this team together, and they’re showing that with their leadership.”

As Muir started camp Wednesday, you can tell they have added confidence.

“Over the summer they gained more confidence,” Howard said. “We want them to have a swagger about themselves, and they have it.”

Football: Camp begins this week for some, next for most

I will visit as many football camps as I can before I go on vacation from Aug. 20 to Aug. 30. Some coaches replied to my text asking when fall camps begin. Most begin next week, but some have already started this week, like Maranatha. The Minutemen have a unique setup going on, which includes a week-long stay on campus. No cell phones, no video games, no TV’s. Muir opens camp Wednesday with weightlifting beginning at 8 a.m. It concludes at noon, and the second session begins at 3:30 p.m. They’ll go at it til about 7:30 p.m. Text me or leave a comment and tell me why we should visit your camp. Below is a list of teams and when they open camp. If your team is missing it’s likely your coach hasn’t replied my text, but no worries, I’ll update when I get the dates and times squared away.

Bosco Tech: Aug. 16, 6 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Muir: Opens Wednesday. Weightlifting 8-12, 3:30-7:30
Monrovia: Aug. 16, 8 a.m. at Clifton Middle School
Pasadena: Aug. 30, 5 p.m.
Rosemead: Aug. 16, 8 a.m.
San Gabriel: Aug. 16, 8 .m.
San Marino: Aug. 16, 8 a.m.
Temple City: Aug. 16, 8 a.m.

Football: Dietrich Riley a legit D-1 player, notes Tolegian

There are only a few prep sportswriters who know as much about high school football like Aram Tolegian does, and I’ve worked alongside some real stud journalists. So if Aram says Dietrich Riley is “a legit, mature D-1 player” then you know Riley not only is the real deal, but obviously has elevated to a whole new level since graduating from St. Francis earlier this year. Aram spent Thursday morning at Citrus College with former Charter Oak stud and Super Bowl champ Jason David, who is spending Tuesday and Thursday mornings working out with future college standouts. Among them, of course, was Riley. Also there was former Muir standout Myles Campbell (waddup, Myles!) … Head on over to “In the Huddle” for video interviews and complete analysis.

Ryan Hollins excited to play for Byron Scott in Cleveland, takes pride in Muir still dominating the Turkey Tussle.

CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE RYAN HOLLINS BASKETBALL CAMP

I had a developing story take most of my time Wednesday, which is why I didn’t post a follow-up to an interview I had with Ryan Hollins.

But I’m back.

Several coaches who took part in the Ryan Hollins’ three-day basketball skills camp stood out, among them: Thomas Scott, son of Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott. Thomas played at Pasadena City College and served as an assistant to Gamal Smalley, now the Muir boys basketball coach. Also in attendance was Horace Wormley. The 2002 Muir graduate went to PCC before earning All-American honors at Vanguard. He went on to play with the L.A. D-Fenders of the D-League and is now playing overseas in Germany.

But the one coach I did talk to was Don Grant, now the head coach at Chino Hills. He was intriguing to me because I learned he was the same coach who cut Hollins from tryouts his freshman year.

Grant coached at Muir from 1997 to 2003. He recalled Hollins’ eagerness to improve. He did, and with it came a growth spurt, too. Hollins was a 6-foot-4 freshman. Grant said it seemed like each month Hollins grew an inch, and by the time he was a sophomore, Hollins was an impressive 6-9, albeit a bit lanky.

“He averaged four points and jumped up to 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds per game his senior year,” Grant said. “His improvement was as drastic as I had ever seen as a coach.

“When he stopped growing he was able to gain body awareness and body coordination. He grew his freshman year — from the time we cut him to the time he finished. He grew to 6-9 his sophomore year and 6-10 his junior year and 6-11 his senior year.”

What made Hollins standout wasn’t just his natural athletic gifts. He’s humble and has his priority straight, a lot of which he owes to his upbringing.

“Ryan has some really good parents,” Grant said. “His dad and mom were always on top of his academics. Ryan had very good grades; only had one bad grade in his life, and it was a D, and his dad said ‘If you get another one you’ll never play basketball.’

“He was very mature. His perseverance and ability to work hard is why he is where he is. When a kid gets cut there’s a blaming game, but Ryan was like ‘Give me something I can work on and I can practice because I will make it.”

As I stated before, I’m a big fan of Ryan Hollins. It was his two free throws with 19.7 seconds that helped UCLA pull off a dramatic comeback against Gonzaga in the 2006 NCAA Regional semifinals. I told him and his parents as much when I met him Tuesday afternoon during the second day of his basketball camp. We talked about various subjects, many of which I wrote about in Wednesday’s paper.

Hollins, a second-round (50th overall) selection in 2006 by the Charlotte Bobcats, also played for the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves before he was traded this offseason to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We got to talking about other things, like playing for Byron Scott, his journey throughout the NBA and his ‘Stang Pride.

From The Sidelines: Talk about your career at UCLA, specifically that 2006 season when you guys surprised an entire nation.

Ryan Hollins: That 2006 year is something special. It was hard work paying off. We had an opportunity and we were ready to make a deep run. Everything didn’t go perfect that year, but we went on to make it all the way to the championship game. What a thrill.”

FTS: You made two huge free throws against Gonzaga with 19.7 seconds left to put the Bruins within one. What was going through your mind when you headed to the line?

RH: It’s crazy you ask that question because the funny thing is I can honestly say nothing was going through my head. My mind was blank. That game will always be special to me because it was a testament to hard work. You shot a bunch of free throws and you have the moment in your hand, and there I was doing it. We had a goal in mind. (UCLA) coach (Ben) Howland came here and we all sold ourselves to our teammates and became successful.

FTS: Byron Scott just recently was named coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. You gotta be excited to play for a Laker legend.

RH: Playing with coach Scott is going to be great. The fans are to still be behind us, and we’re looking forward to making a run. I know that coach Scott has done some good work with big men, like Tyson Chandler (in New Orleans). I definitely know I can submit myself to his teaching and learn the game and play the kind of game Chandler played.

FTS: I’m sure when you first stepped onto an NBA arena as a pro you must have been in awe of the feeling. I’m sure these kids are in awe just seeing you here on the same court with them. But I have to imagine you still have those rookie-like emotions sneak up on you once in a while when you look back on your road to the NBA.

RH: Everything goes so fast, but every once in a while you do have those moments. When you sit back and say you’ve made it to a certain point. I look around practice and the jerseys and really appreciate it and soak it all in. I’m still working harder to get better, and I’m not satisfied, if that makes any sense; I want to get better. But I am appreciative of where I am and that I can step onto an NBA arena and throw on an NBA jersey for a living.

FTS: Your basketball jersey No. 15 was retired here three years ago. It’s going up on the wall and will join the likes of Stacey Augmon (No. 32), Eric McWilliams (No. 33), Jacque Vaughn (No. 11) and Tye’sha Fluker (No. 50) as the only Muir basketball players to have their numbers retired. What do you think about that?

RH: It’s an honor, because at John Muir you know it’s not just another jersey being retired. There’s so much pride and tradition in Pasadena.”

FTS: Speaking of tradition in Pasadena, when you were here Muir was good in football and basketball. Football is still a power here, but basketball has given way to Pasadena. What are your thoughts on that?

RH: I know what’s going on. I know with coach Smalley things will turn around. I’m very confident in that. I see the interest he has in the kids and the tradition, he wants to keep it alive. And if he needs anything from me he definitely can hit me up.

FTS: Do you keep up with the Turkey Tussle?

RH: (laughs) Yeah, I still check and keep tabs on the Tussle. I’m kind of sick of wearing this red in this gym right now, but we’ll establish this as burgundy, not red. I’m happy to know we still have the (Liberty) Bell.

Basketball: Ryan Hollins enjoys giving back to Pasadena

Got to hang out for a few hours at the Ryan Hollins Basketball Skills Camp on Tuesday at Muir High. Here’s the story we ran in the paper, but later today I’ll post a Q&A with Hollins, who by the way is a really down to earth guy, which is good because when I think Ryan Hollins I think UCLA-Gonzaga in 2006, happy memories for all UCLA Bruins.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer

PASADENA – Ryan Hollins learned more than a decade ago the importance of perseverance. The lanky kid who attended Stacey Augmon’s basketball camp at Muir High School was in awe that an NBA player would take the time to show fundamentals to a group of kids in the same stuffy gym where he played high school basketball.

Hollins, 25, now finds himself making that same impact as he concludes his three-day Ryan Hollins Basketball Skills Camp today at Muir, where he talks to a large group of kids who keenly listen to every word.

Hollins is the epitome of perseverance, and he speaks from experience. The former Muir High School basketball star was humbled early in his career when he was cut from freshman basketball tryouts.

It wasn’t until his junior year that he made varsity, and before he landed at UCLA, Hollins first signed with St. Louis University. He later learned that the coach recruiting him to go there left for the University of Washington.

Two weeks ago Hollins was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cleveland Cavaliers, his fourth team in four years.

The 7-foot, 230-pound center keeps Muir close to his heart, which is why he chooses to hold his camp there and nowhere else. It’s in that same gym with seemingly endless championship banners where Augmon began his career before leading UNLV to a national championship and playing 14 seasons in the NBA.

“That was big in my life,” said Hollins, whose two free throws with 19.7 seconds left propelled UCLA to a dramatic win over Gonzaga in the 2006 NCAA regional semifinals before eventually reaching the national title game. “A lot of these kids, it’s their only chance to see something like this. I just enjoy seeing them run around and play basketball.”

Camp director Justin McCurdy said nearly 80 kids ranging from age 7 to 17 signed up, and added that he expects to end with 90 today. More than a dozen coaches – among them Thomas Scott, son of Lakers legend and Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott – split into small groups and two gyms. Also among the coaches was Chino Hills boys basketball coach Don Grant, the same coach who cut Hollins his freshman year.

“We cut him because you weren’t sure which direction he was going to go,” Grant said. “He went in the positive direction, and immediately after we cut him he asked what are three things he could do to make the team in spring. He set his eyes on the next tryout instead of bad-mouthing or pointing fingers. That’s when we knew he was special.”

Hollins, a second-round (50th overall) selection in 2006 by the Charlotte Bobcats, used that example when talking to the kids, many of whom tippy- toed as if to try looking at Hollins in the eye.

“Getting cut, kids take it as a bad thing,” Hollins said. “But that made me work even harder. When I talk to these kids, I can talk to the worst kid and the best kid because I was the worst kid once who sat at the end of the bench, and then the kid who was starting. So I can relate.”

The camp started two years ago but failed to make an appearance last year because it couldn’t secure Muir’s gym. Hollins said he hopes to make the camp a yearly event. McCurdy said he hopes it can return yearly the first week of August.

Aside from learning fundamentals and playing scrimmages, Hollins secured high-profile coaches and athletes to speak to the group. Among them was UCLA coach Ben Howland, who made an appearance Tuesday. Former UCLA star and NBA veteran Earl Watson is expected to attend today.

Also today, Hollins (No. 15) will join Augmon (No. 32), Eric McWilliams (No. 33), Jacque Vaughn (No. 11) and Tye’sha Fluker (50) as the only Muir basketball players to have their numbers retired.

“It’s an honor, because at John Muir you know it’s not just another jersey being retired,” he said. “There’s so much pride and tradition in Pasadena. That’s why I come back and do this camp.”

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com

Football: Sharing is caring for Temple City’s McFarland


Above: Mike McFarland, above right, during fall camp when he was coaching at Pasadena last year.

Because I’ve come to realize the strongest fan base is in Temple City, I’ve decided to kickoff the week with a post about your Temple City Rams, specifically the new head honcho, Mike McFarland. Last year I had a Q&A with McFarland when he was hired to be Pasadena’s next football coach. He talked about putting his staff together and his philosophies, among other things. You have to understand one thing: anytime you get on the phone with McFarland you know you’re gonna eat up your minutes, but that’s a good thing. He can talk about a wide range of topics, and I clearly understood that when transcribing quotes from a recent interview. His interview easily went the longest (12 minutes). After talking about Temple City’s depth and experience, we talked about a few other subjects. Some of you have wondered what kind of coach McFarland will be, and I think his answers will give you a good idea of what you’ve landed.

From The Sidelines: Do you believe in the idea that as the football team goes, so goes the rest of the school’s sports program?

Mike McFarland: Honestly, no. A good football season can definitely boost morale and spirit on campus amongst a certain percentage of the student body. There’s always going to be a third that really care, a third in the middle that if you’re doing well they’ll jump on board and love it, and a third of the element that could care less no matter what happens. If you do have a successful football season it does start things out from a spirit standpoint on campus. You get some momentum. But if I’m a basketball coach or a baseball coach, football being successful isn’t going to determine my team’s success that year. So as a coach I don’t believe that. It contributes to the spirit, definitely, but i don’t think it’s going to tip the scales for the athletic program.

FTS: What are your thoughts on sharing athletes?

MM: I was a three-sport athlete. Tim (Sanderson) is a three-sport athlete, Andrew (Anda) is a two-sport athlete. That was a big focus from an administrative standpoint, emphasizing we do share athletes. I’m a big believer in that multi-sport athletes are maximizing their high school experience. It’s good for the development of these kids to be in different competitive situations under different coaches. I think it’s only provides positives. I’m all for it. It means you have to have great communication with your kids. It forces them to mature because they have to be able to make decisions in regards to scheduling over the summer and communicating those decisions to coaches and parents and be able to get themselves to these places. In my own experience It was a good aide being able to manage my time as a high school sophomore and junior, knowing I had basketball here and football here and beign able to juggle all that. We will make it a very successful situation.

FTS: Why are some coaches hesitant about letting their athletes play other sports, and, worse, adamant about telling them they can only play one sport?

MM: I just think there’s a (mentality) especially amongst football coaches that more is better. The elimination of the association rule in part is contributing to the (perception) of that. The answer is if a certain school is winning and going three hours a day we need to go three and a half. And if a school is practicing three times a week we have to (practice) four times a week because that’s how you get better. I think the domination of an athlete in a single sport is the idea that I need that person year round if he’s going to be a good player. It’s up for debate. I believe it is a negative for the development of the player and the person as a whole. If they have a desire to play multiple sports and if you negatively affect that desire by placing an ultimatum you’re doing a disservice to the overall development. If they end up playing multiple sports and doesn’t like it and decides to come back to football and baseball on their own, that’s great. The ability of that kid to make their own decision is the benefit in that, not the coach commanding them to make that decision. It’s one of those things where coaches in all sports get the idea that ‘I gotta have this kid’ or ‘if we’re gonna be any good we have to be together all the time’ and I don’t think that’s true at all.