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Friday, February 3, 2012
Nike Extravaganza has FAB 50 lineup

By Harold Abend

This weekend’s Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) features 14 games, with four POWERADE FAB 50-ranked teams competing Saturday.

The event begins with three girls and two boys games on Friday with an all-boys lineup on Saturday.

The highest ranked team in the event is No. 10 Mater Dei, the defending CIF Division I state champs. The host Monarchs, led by ESPNHS Mr. Basketball USA candidate Katin Reinhardt, meet defending CIF Division III state champion Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.) at 7:30 p.m. PT Saturday.

Lutheran’s Mr. Basketball candidate, Grant Jerrett, will be a game-time decision after rolling his already bothersome left ankle on Tuesday in an easy victory over Ribet Academy (Los Angeles).

At 6 p.m., No. 22 Long Beach Poly (Calif.) takes on Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.), which hopes to rebound from its 90-65 loss to Mater Dei on Wednesday night in which Reinhardt scored 25 points. Poly is No. 2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports behind Mater Dei.

In the nightcap at 9 p.m., No. 20 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), led by Mr. Basketball front-runner Shabazz Muhammad, takes on Whitney Young (Chicago). Currently unranked after opening the season No. 34, Whitney Young is a young team with nothing to lose, so it could be a trap game for Gorman.

Arguably the most intriguing game is the 4:30 p.m. contest between No. 48 Loyola (Los Angeles) and Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.), the top-ranked team from the CIF Los Angeles City Section. Loyola is currently No. 6 in the state and Taft No. 14.

Of the 28 head coaches plying their trade at the Extravaganza this year, not one can claim any more dedication to their profession than Jamal Adams of Loyola.

Adams, a 1990 alumnus of the all-boys Catholic school located near downtown Los Angeles, walked away from a six-figure salary on Wall Street to take the helm at Loyola. A Columbia graduate, he’s coached and taught Economics and African American history the past seven years. Rookie Taft coach Jason Hart also made a nice living in his previous profession -- point guard in the NBA for nearly a decade.

Both Adams and Hart understand dealing with high expectations.

Adams was the captain and Del Rey League MVP for a 1989-90 Loyola team that opened that season ranked No. 6 in the nation by Street & Smith’s. With all five starters back, including Cal-bound Ryan Jamison, expectations were high for the team, perhaps too high. The Cubs lost to Mater Dei in the CIFSS 5A final and lost to CIFSS 5AA champion Long Beach Poly in the Southern Regional first round. Loyola finished that season 23-5, ranked No. 14 by Cal-Hi Sports.

This year’s Loyola team has similar expectations, and as history would have it, Mater Dei and Poly are potential roadblocks to a championship season.

Julian Harrell, a 6-foot-5 wing and last year’s leading scorer, is back along with perimeter threat Jacob Hazzard to provide senior leadership. Sophomore point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, last year’s state freshman of the year, also returns from a team that lost 72-70 in the state regional to Mater Dei.

“I think playing Loyola, which is ranked ahead of us and gets a little more respect, will make our kids excited to play,” Hart said.

Loyola opened this season ranked No. 26 in the FAB 50 and No. 3 in the state and currently owns a 19-3 record, but they trail No. 47 Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.) by two games in the Mission League, which has produced three FAB 50 teams at various points this season.

“We’ve been playing hard all year but we ran into a tremendous Alemany team,” Adams said. “Now we just need to get back to playing our way -- up tempo and sharing the ball."