By Aram Tolegian, staff writer
Friday’s Hall of Fame All-Star Game means a lot of different things to a lot of different players. For Jerone Cox, it means an entire senior season rolled up into one game. Cox, a defensive back, was ruled ineligible for his senior season after CIF decided that his transfer from Duarte High School to Baldwin Park was athletically motivated. Thanks to the urging of Baldwin Park coach James Heggins, though, Cox was selected to play in Friday’s game and will get a chance to finish out his career on the big stage he never got to shine on last fall before heading to Eastern Michigan University on scholarship.
Below: Jerone Cox talking to a crowd of reporters on signing day after announcing his intentions to attend Eastern Michigan.
“I feel like the coaches made a good choice choosing me to play in this game,” Cox said. “There are a thousand other great players in the Valley, and they chose me. It was a great choice because I feel I’m one of the best players in the Valley.”
Odds are that Cox would have earned his way onto the East roster during his senior season. In two seasons at Duarte, he did everything from play quarterback to defensive back. He averaged 12 yards per carry when he played tailback as a junior.
His departure from Duarte coincided with the firing of popular football coach Wardell Crutchfield, which set off a flurry of transfers by players such as Cox and fellow standouts Jordan Canada, Demetrius Jackson and Wardell Crutchfield III decided to transfer.
Cox maintains that the recent rash of gang violence that plagued the Duarte and Monrovia area in recent years was the main reason for his desire to transfer.
“A Latino kid had just got shot in my neighborhood,” Cox said. “There was a lot of shooting back and forth between African Americans and Latinos. I didn’t want to put my life in jeopardy. A lot of innocent bystanders were being shot.”
Cox moved in with his father in Baldwin Park, but once Duarte appealed Cox’s transfer, along with the transfers of his former teammates, CIF ruled the move as athletically motivated partly because Cox’s sister was still attending Duarte.
CIF also denied eligibility to Canada, who went to South Hills, and Jackson, who went to Baldwin Park. Jackson will be eligible to play this fall at Baldwin Park and is expected to be one of the Valley’s top players.
“I’m like a father figure to these kids, and to watch your kids not be allowed to do something they love, it’s just tough,” said Wardell Crutchfield, who coached Cox at Duarte and is now an assistant at Baldwin Park. “The amount of work these kids put into it and them not being able to play, it was heartwrenching.”
Although distraught, Cox tried to turn the bad news into a positive. He still practiced with the Braves and helped them prepare by being a scout-team standout.
“It didn’t stop my work ethic,” Cox said. “I figured I would try and help the team by giving them a good look at practice.
“I also worked harder and studied harder. I ended up getting an 1890 on my SAT. My GPA increased from 2.3 at Duarte to 3.3 at Baldwin Park. I just looked at it like it was my redshirt year of college.”
What Cox does in his prep swan song on Friday is anybody’s guess, since the East coaches could use him in myriad ways. Despite being hobbled by a groin injury, Cox is already banking on getting extensive time at cornerback, which should lead to a ton of action against the pass-happy West.
“I plan on trying to prove my point that I’m one of the best corners in the Valley by not letting anybody from the West catch a pass on my side,” Cox said. “I’m going to do my best to help the East bring it.