Mater Dei worthy of the hype

With a No. 1 national ranking and five athletes who have either signed National Letters of Intent to or have verbally committed with Division I schools, the Santa Ana Mater Dei boys basketball team have become the high school basketball version of The Beatles, employing an army of passionate Monarch fans and drumming up interest at every venue they play at.

The Monarchs made a stop in the IE Friday, heading to Upland High School to play the Highlanders in a Division I-AA second round game. The result wasn’t surprising, as Mater Dei rolled 85-52 against a game Upland team who, while brilliant in spurts, couldn’t quite keep up.

I sat courtside at that game and saw Upland senior post Zach Robbins, junior guard Chris Powell and freshman guard Myles Pearson hold their own against the Monarchs. But as curiousity would have it, I also watched the four Mater Dei Division I guys closely – the fifth, 6-foot-8 forward Andy Brown, who signed with Stanford, didn’t play due to injury – and formulated this analysis.

So Etiwanda, who will almost certainly play Mater Dei in the D1-AA semifinals Friday if it defeats Lynwood tonight, take note.

Tyler Lamb, junior forward: Lamb is the one that most of us are familiar with, as he starred at Colony for the first two years of his career. At 6-foot-5 with quick-twitch athleticism and a smooth perimeter jumper, the UCLA verbal commit is an almost impossible one-on-one matchup at this level.

But the thing I like about Lamb is his unselfishness. With the 6-10 twins David Wear and Travis Wear, Lamb doesn’t have to be “The Man”. And quite frankly, he plays like he cares less about being the man. He’s a jack of all trades, as he can guard the perimeter, poke out the occasional steal and rebound well in the post. But he can make the jaw-dropping athletic play, as he serving a dipsy-doo layup and a tomahawk layup against the Highlanders. He’ll score more next year, but is content to be a glue guy this season.

David and Travis Wear, senior forwards: I glumped the Wear brothers together because they are twins and I am lazy. However, the McDonald’s All-Americans showed a great deal of physicality and fluidity on the interior. Despite their heights, David and Travis were very arely out of control, showing good footwork while setting up in the post and on the spin move, which resulted in 12-foot jump shot opportunities and layup opportunities at the rim. David Wear also showed athleticism, being on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Lamb. They really didn’t shoot outside of 12 feet, but they really didn’t have to against Upland/

The brothers, who signed with North Carolina, also showed a great deal of maturity on the court. Whenever either of the twins were called for a foul (usually while defending Robbins), they would both quietly put their hands up acknowledging the foul and, on a couple occasions, even told the whistling referees “Good call.” In a sport where whining has become more and more commonplace, that was refreshing to see.

Gary Franklin, junior guard: This was the guy that stood out to me more than anyone. Franklin, a USC verbal commit, had his way against the smaller Upland guards, creating offense pretty much at will. He’s got good size at 6-3 and elite speed, as he blew by pretty much everyone on the court en route to 24 points. He also showed very good court vision, feeding the Wears in good position in the post and finding perimeter shooters for open 3-point attempts.

My only criticism really is that there seems to be a shot-put motion to his shot, especially from long range. That motion doesn’t seem to have any negative effect though, as he nailed four of seven 3-pointers.