Player of the year and first-team story
By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
The final chapter of Grant Jerrett’s career has yet to be written, but if it’s anything like the first two, the La Verne Lutheran High School basketball star will earn himself a special place in area basketball history. Jerrett, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game this season. With him leading he way, Lutheran beat a who’s who of Southland basketball powers this season and in the process won a second consecutive state championship. For those reasons, Jerrett is the Tribune’s Player of the Year. (To continue click thread)
COACH OF THE YEAR: Eric Cooper, La Verne Lutheran
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Grant Jerrett, La Verne Lutheran, Jr.
Forward: Chris Reyes, Damien, Jr.
Forward: Nick Colletta, Glendora, So.
Guard: C.J. Cooper, La Verne Lutheran, Sr.
Guard: Daniel Rodriguez, Bishop Amat, Sr.
Guard: James Northup, Bonita, Sr.
Forward: Brian Johnson, Northview, Sr.
Guard: Jordan Butler, Bonita, Sr.
Guard: Alvin Tan, Los Altos, Sr.
Guard: Treavon Francis, Northview, Jr.
Guard: Bruce English, La Verne Lutheran, Sr.
“I feel really honored to get this award,” Jerrett said. “I’m really proud of it. You guys could have picked a lot of other people, but you decided to pick me and I’m thankful for that.”
Indeed, there were several strong seasons by players across the area like Glendora’s Nick Colletta, Damien’s Chris Reyes and even Jerrett’s Lutheran teammate C.J. Cooper. But in the end, Jerrett’s ability to consistently come up big at the most important time of the season put him above the rest.
The season didn’t start as planned for the Trojans, but that had more to do with off-the-court circumstances than on. Jerrett’s teammate Kevin Payne lost his father in a tragic auto accident. Xavier Jones, Lutheran’s other big defensive force, had a life-threatening heart issue. Star point guard Eric Cooper Jr. had knee problems that kept him out a large chunk of the year.
Through it all, though, Jerrett was the steady rock that held the Trojans together. He scored in double figures in all but one of Lutheran’s games, and that’s because he was lifted early after scoring six points in the team’s 50-point rout of Boys Republic.
“It was definitely more of a family than a team this year,” Jerrett said. “We go through a lot of stuff and we really bond a lot. It really helps us out because we feel really comfortable together.”
Despite all the top-notch talent on the team, Jerrett entered the season as the headliner. With a scholarship to Arizona already in tow, all he had to do was focus on helping Lutheran win games and showcase just how much he had improved from his sophomore year to his junior.
The real evidence didn’t come until late in the season when the Trojans started playing Southland heavyweights in the playoffs. Against Price in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A playoffs, a game Lutheran lost, Jerett put up 26 points and nine rebounds.
Like the rest of his team, Jerrett had to wait around a week to find out if the season would continue with a berth in the state playoffs.
The Trojans got in, but as the No. 11 seed. It didn’t matter, though. Jerrett averaged nearly 20 points and 12 rebounds per game in state. He came up big against Southern Section champion La Canada with 22 points to help his team win the Southern California Regional. A week later, Jerrett had 16 points in Lutheran’s state championship win over Bishop O’Dowd.
“They moved us from Division 5 to 3, which was a big leap, but we looked forward to it because we had better competition in the playoffs,” Jerrett said. “Coach (Eric) Cooper told me to be a leader out there and be aggressive, so I took what he said and put it out on the court. Once I did that, it helped me out a lot and helped my team.”
With two state titles and a ride to Arizona already in the bank, all Jerrett has left to do next season is add to his legend. Another offseason of growth could produce scary results, and considering the other players Lutheran has back, more big things are expected.
But Jerrett isn’t ready to call it a dream career just yet.
“It’s getting there,” he said. “I never imagined I’d be where I’m at right now. No predictions for next year, but I already can’t wait.”
Neither can we.
Joining Jerrett on the All-Area team is teammate C.J. Cooper, who averaged 14 points per game and 5.7 assists. Cooper hit the game-winning shot against University City in the first round of the playoffs. He also had 30 points against Harvard-Westlake in the playoffs.
Glendora’s Nick Colletta makes the team after leading the Tartans with 24 points and 7 rebounds per game. Still only a sophomore, the 6-foor-4 forward has potential to be on the team the next two seasons. Damien’s Chris Reyes led his team to a 26-4 record, share of the Sierra League championship and averaged 17.7 points per game, 10.3 rebounds and 4.6 blocked shots per game.
Bishop Amat’s Daniel Rodriguez wrapped a banner career at the school with a stellar senior season. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 20.3 points per game, 11.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Bonita’s James Northup led the Bearcats to an undefeated season in the Hacienda League and 26-4 record. Northup averaged 16.1 points per game, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds.
COACH OF THE YEAR STORY
By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
State titles are nice, but scholarships are even better.
That’s how La Verne Lutheran coach Eric Cooper views things and he’s doing a nice job of collecting both for his improbable powerhouse program.
In less than five years, Cooper’s Trojans have become the marquee boys basketball program in the area. The ascent has become eye-popping with state championships in two different divisions in each of the past two seasons.
But as the banners, plaques and accolades continue to pile up, Cooper is mostly concerned about one number — the amount of scholarships his players are receiving.
“Wins are not why I do this,” Cooper said. “I’m in this to help these kids get scholarships and get better in life. I don’t get any monetary amount for winning games. I do want to win a championship, those last nine games. The whole season is made up to win those last nine games.”
The Trojans didn’t win their final nine games, but they did win their last five, which was good enough to crown them CIF State Divsion 3 champions. And for that reason, Cooper is the Tribune’s Coach of the Year.
“I’m very honored,” Cooper said of the award. “I know it takes a lot of thought to choose from all the great coaches we have on this side of Los Angeles. It’s definitely an honor to be selected.
“But at the same time, I’m more proud of the kids than I am myself. I can’t shoot a shot. They’re the ones that had to go out and do it. It’s just a testament to how those kids have been brought up.”
Lutheran went 26-5 this season and won the Arrowhead League. The Trojans entered the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs as one of several teams with a strong chance to win the championship.
It wasn’t to be, though, as Lutheran was sent packing by Price in the semifinals. The Trojans would have to wait around another week to hear if their season would continue in the state playoffs.
Lutheran soon got the good news it made the state tournament, but the bad news was that the Trojans were the No. 11 seed out of 15 teams and that meant having to play every game on the road.
“I didn’t care,” Cooper said of Lutheran’s seeding. “I was shocked we got in. I was happy. If you think about our school, we’re not playing home games anyway. We play either at Chaffey College or University of La Verne, so I felt like it really didn’t matter.
“We could have been the last seed, it didn’t matter.”
Cooper’s right, it didn’t matter. The Trojans began the state playoffs with a road trip to San Diego to face University City. Lutheran won on a late 3-pointer by C.J. Cooper, that seemingly ignited the Trojans’ postseason run.
Lutheran then won easily in road games at Orange Lutheran and Harvard-Westlake to set up a battle with Southern Section Division 3AA champion La Canada at USC’s Galen Center.
The Trojans got that win, too, and were on their way to Sacramento the following week to play Bishop O’Dowd for the state championship. Lutheran ended up bringing home a second straight state title by beating Bishop O’Dowd, 54-49.
Sacramento proved to be the end of a long and emotional road for Lutheran, which had to overcome several off-court setbacks, like the tragic car accident death of guard Kevin Payne’s father, a serious heart problem for forward Xavier Jones and a knee injury to guard Eric Cooper Jr.
All of the issues meant Cooper had to be more than a coach and his players had to be more like a family than a team. The Trojans did just that.
Despite making the jump from Division 5 last season to Division 3 this year, Lutheran’s state title should be no surprise to anyone who heard Cooper say the Trojans would be something special following last season.
“I didn’t look at it like I called my shot or anything,” Cooper said. “I was just saying what I thought. Some people could have thought differently. I think next we’re going to be good, but that’s just me.”
And as for those all-important scholarships, Lutheran already has Tribune Player of the Year Grant Jerrett committed to Arizona along with Cooper’s son Eric. Guard C.J. Cooper is headed to UTEP, while Bruce English is going to Loyola Marymount. Forward Alec Terry is going to Xavier on an academic scholarship and there could be two other Trojans signing soon.