Los Angeles Preps: Hakeem Olajuwon

Taft's C.J. Blackwell glad to be back

December, 14, 2010

WOODLAND HILLS -- Welcome back.

It had been a while since C.J. Blackwell was in the familiar surroundings of the Southland, years and years in fact. He did, after all, spend quite a bit of his youth growing up in Georgia, fine tuning his basketball skills on the other side of the country.

Palm trees and the beach, the Lakers and Staples Center, along with traffic and the crowded freeway systems around these parts were the furthest things on the mind of the Los Angeles native. Blackwell went about his business accordingly, plain and simple.

This past summer, however, when the opportunity to return to his roots finally presented itself, he jumped at the chance. Months later, with a spot secured in the starting lineup at Taft High, it’s as if Blackwell never left the place he used to call home.

“It’s nice to be back, no doubt,’’ said Blackwell, an 18-year old senior who was born in the greater Los Angeles area and moved to the South to be with family before he was 10. “I think I’ve been able to fit in at Taft, all of my teammates are cool. We think we can do some big things this season, that’s our main goal, our only focus.’’

The arrival of Blackwell could not have come at a better time considering the Toreadors lost a pair of key players from last season’s team that advanced to the City Section championship game, where it lost to Los Angeles Westchester, 70-60.

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LA North, LA South & OC: Southland talent present on Sweet 16 women's teams

March, 24, 2010
Like the men’s side, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament is light on local teams but not local talent. Several players with ties to Southland high schools have reached the Sweet 16.

Probably the most familiar name belongs to Oklahoma senior center Abi Olajuwon, the daughter of former NBA most valuable player Hakeem Olajuwon.

Abi played for Marlborough High in Los Angeles, where she led her team to three state titles and was a McDonald’s All-American in 2006.

During her first three seasons in Oklahoma, she played in the shadows of Courtney and Ashley Paris, the twin daughters of former San Francisco offensive lineman Bubba Paris. With the graduation of the Paris sisters last season, the 6-foot-4 Olujawon focused on filling their shoes and lost 30 pounds in the offseason.

She has started all 35 games this season, averaging 10.5 points and 7.2 rebounds.

In a second-round victory Tuesday against 11th-seeded Arkansas Little Rock, Olajuwon had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the third-seeded Sooners, who will meet second-seeded Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon.

Morghan Medlock is a starting forward for fourth-seeded Baylor, which knocked off No. 5 Georgetown on Monday. Medlock, a 6-1 senior, starred at Narbonne High in Harbor City, then played at USC for two seasons before transferring to Baylor. Medlock, who averages 9.8 points and 7.6 rebounds, scored 11 in the victory against Georgetown.

Baylor will meet top-seeded Tennessee on Saturday.

April Phillips, a starting forward for third-seeded Xavier, also hails from Southern California. Phillips, a 6-foot senior who starred at Long Beach Poly High, had two points and two rebounds in a second-round victory Monday against sixth-seeded Vanderbilt. Xavier will take on No. 7 Gonzaga on Saturday.

Top-seeded Stanford is anchored by starting point guard Jeanette Pohlen, a Brea Olinda High graduate who had 11 points, four rebounds and seven assists in a second-round win Monday against No. 8 Iowa. The Cardinal will meet No. 5 Georgia on Saturday.