Los Angeles Preps: Washington

Jeff Woodruff new coach at Oaks

May, 2, 2012
Before hundreds of parents, players and fans, Jeff Woodruff was introduced as the next football coach at Oaks Christian in the school’s gym on Wednesday night.

Woodruff was an assistant coach at the University of Texas El Paso and spent four seasons as the head coach at Eastern Michigan. He was at UTEP for eight years and is considered a special teams guru.

He was the safeties coach and special teams coordinator before moving to tight ends and assistant coach in 2007.

“He has an excellent resume,” Oaks Christian athletic director Jan Hethcock said. “He’s done a lot of things.”

Hethcock said the search for a football coach at Oaks Christian was narrowed to six candidates and it took three days to whittle the list down to Woodruff. Mark Bates, an assistant under Bill Redell, who started the football program at Oaks Christian 12 years ago, was one of the finalists.

In addition to introducing Woodruff as the next head coach, Hethcock announced that Bates will be the associate head coach of the football team. It is the first time the Oaks Christian football team has had an associate coach.

Hethcock added that Woodruff brought a combination of qualities he was looking for in the next head coach at Oaks Christian.

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Dorsey's Brown bags UCLA offer

April, 25, 2012
Dorsey defensive back Daquawn Brown received a scholarship offer from childhood favorite UCLA this week, the latest indication that recruitment for the rising senior is heating up.

Oklahoma dropped by Dorsey on Tuesday. USC and Nebraska did the same on Wednesday. Brown has college coaches intrigued and looks to add to a list of offers that already includes Arizona State, Cal, San Jose State and Washington State.

"It's catching up to me," Brown said of his recruitment. "To be noticed by my favorite, ideal schools is an honor."

Brown said he will commit to the most "genuine" school, meaning the one that has his best interests, both athletically and academically, in mind. Brown has sought the advice of former Dorsey standouts Jeremiah Allison (Washington State) and Jaydon Mickens (Washington), as well as Oregon phenom De'Anthony Thomas, an inner-city legend who attended rival Crenshaw.

"We all grew up together, playing for the same teams in Pop Warner," Brown said. "They're all helping me."

Don't expect the 5-foot-11 Brown to make a college decision soon. He hopes to take all five official campus visits to get a feel for what each school has to offer, and he anticipates that a choice will likely come near signing day in February.

Stanton starting to carve out niche

March, 6, 2012
LOS ANGELES – In recruiting circles, Johnny Stanton from Rancho Santa Margarita Santa Margarita is well-known on the West Coast. As far as reputations go on the national level, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback from the 2013 class has some work to do.

Nevertheless, Stanton is one of the Southland's most promising prospects around. One need not look any further than his offers from Air Force and Washington for proof. He also recently received varied levels of interest from nearby schools such as UCLA and USC.

“I've been hearing from some teams, but I don't worry about that stuff, my goal is take care of business on the field and things will work out off the field,'' Stanton said.

He made a name for himself this past season with the Eagles. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 2,439 yards and 13 touchdowns in the air. Equally effective on the ground, Stanton gained 1,428 yards rushing and found the end zone another 21 times.

If he's able to duplicate that type of production during his senior year, chances are Stanton's name will mentioned in the same sentence as the country's elite signal callers.

“In my 40 years of coaching, I haven't seen many players like Johnny,'' Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch said. “We've had a plenty of scouts at our practices over the course of this season to see him and we're just now starting to hear from colleges from all over the country.

“What people might not know about him is that Johnny also has a very strong academic background, he's a Stanford-type of individual which always looks good in the eyes of college coaches and scouts. Remember, we're talking about a kid who is 6-2 and close to 220 pounds.''

Whether Stanton emerges as a national recruit in the near future still remains to be seen. One thing is certain: He is heading in the right direction. The fact Stanton possesses most of the measurables and stats colleges look for in a quarterback certainly helps his cause.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Williams makes splash on recruiting radar

March, 1, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Troy Williams was a relative unknown on the recruiting landscape around this time last year. The status of the 2013 prospect from Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne, however, has recently changed. Rightfully so, considering his body of work lately.

The 6-foot-2, 190-plus-pound quarterback had a breakout effort during his junior season and enters the spring as one of the West Coast's hotter commodities. Williams, in fact, has emerged as legitimate prospect on the national scene as well.

“The recruiting process has been crazy lately,'' Williams said. “I'm talking to coaches from all over the the country every week. It seems like there's a lot of interest in me and that means I have to work twice as hard to keep my reputation going strong.''

Williams has scholarship offers on the table from six programs, mostly from those within the Pac-12 Conference. Arizona State, UCLA and Washington were a few of the first to jump on the bandwagon. Bowling Green, Nevada and SMU are the others.

His days of flying under the radar came to an end after Williams completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,247 yards and 34 touchdowns a season ago for the Gauchos. Equally effective on the ground, he gained 587 yards and scored 11 times.

Plans are in the works for a visit to Washington's junior day later this month. An April trip to Arizona State's junior day is the next order of business.

Williams has been contacted programs such as Oregon and USC. Clemson, Florida and Wisconsin have also expressed varied level of interest.

“I have a target on by my back, I want to be No.1 quarterback in the nation next year, but that's up to everyone in the media,'' Williams said. “Right now, I don't have a leader, you know, a school that I like the best. Everyone is about even. At some point soon, I think I'll have to narrow down my list. I am going to try and keep my options open.''

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Sebastian Larue lands Michigan offer

February, 15, 2012
Santa Monica athlete Sebastian Larue is quickly becoming one of the area's most sought-after rising seniors, and that became even more obvious Wednesday when he was offered by Michigan.

The 5-foot-11 receiver/cornerback/returner added to his long list of scholarship offers that includes Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, Houston, Idaho, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, UCLA and Washington.

"It's very exciting," Larue said of the Michigan offer. "I'm just glad my talents are being seen that far across the nation."

Larue boasts a 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash, and was impressive in the prestigious U.S. All-American Underclassmen Combine in San Antonio last month. He had 17 total touchdowns as a junior, guiding Santa Monica to an 11-2 record.

"If I feel like a school is the best place for me and I want to go there, then I will commit early," Larue said. "I'm not afraid to do that. If not, I'll wait it out. I'm not going to commit to a school and have to go through de-committing. I want to take my time with the process and make the best decision for me."

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

Payton's wild recruiting experience

February, 1, 2012
Jordan PaytonJohn Lazar/Special to ESPNLosAngeles.comOaks Christian's Jordan Payton went from committing to USC to Cal to Washington and signing with UCLA.

In the span of 48 hours, Oaks Christian wide receiver Jordan Payton switched commitments from Cal to Washington to UCLA. Before that, as a junior, he verbally committed to USC.

He told a third of the schools in the Pac-12 Conference that he was going to play football for them.

He is one of the top recruits in the country, a talented receiver who can also play defensive back. He is tall, 6 feet 3, and fast, ranked 15th in the nation at wide receiver by Scout.com and Rivals.com. He was the 29th-ranked wide receiver in the nation by ESPNU. He would have been a valuable piece to any college offense.

But he might have become a victim of a relentless recruiting process that demands high school players make decisions before they are ready.

“It’s crazy, but the people have to understand this process is crazy,” Payton told the Los Angeles Times on Wednrsday. “You’re giving an 18-year-old kid a decision of a lifetime. I wanted to make sure I made the right decision.”

That decision left some coaching staffs and fans in the Pac 12 a bit upset.

By the end of signing day, Payton’s Twitter account had been disabled. He wasn’t taking phone calls for interviews and only talking to a few close friends and family once he committed to UCLA. ESPNLosAngeles made several attempts throughout the day to reach Payton to no avail.

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UW announces signing of Brandon Beaver

February, 1, 2012
Compton Dominguez cornerback Brandon Beaver's college choice was supposed to become public later on national signing day during a live announcement on Fox Sports Net Prime Ticket.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian eliminated the suspense, confirming Beaver's signing during an on-campus news conference about an hour before Beaver was to go on air.

Beaver, a U.S. Army All-American, signed with the Huskies over Cal and Oklahoma, and also officially visited Nebraska and Utah. His combination of size and speed projects well at the college level.

Crespi's Harper stays true to Cal

February, 1, 2012

ENCINO -- Wide receiver Chris Harper is going to Cal in the fall. He caught 37 passes for 846 yards and 13 touchdowns in his senior season at Crespi.

UCLA made a late push for Harper, but he said his commitment to Cal was never in doubt.

“I went up there during the summer,” Harper said. “I like the campus and I liked the interaction with the coaches. I just fell in love with the campus as soon as I got there.”

Cal lost several commitments, including Oaks Christians wide receiver Jordan Payton to Washington, in recent weeks. Harper said going to Washington or another school never entered his mind.

“I was fully committed since they offered me,” Harper said. “It was a done deal from there.”

Dorsey's Mickens commits to Washington

January, 31, 2012
Three-star athlete Jaydon Mickens of Dorsey High committed to Washington at an announcement ceremony at L.A. Live on Tuesday night.

[+] EnlargeJaydon Mickens
Blair Angulo/For ESPNLA.comJaydon Mickens had once pledged to attend USC, but Tuesday he said he would go to Washington.
Oklahoma State appeared to be the leader when Mickens returned from his Jan. 13 visit to Stillwater, but Mickens was wowed by the Huskies late in the process.

Oregon was always high on Mickens’ list — the speedster wore the Ducks’ bright neon yellow Nike socks throughout his senior season — but he was never offered.

The Los Angeles native was a longtime USC pledge but might have been a victim of the Trojans’ strict scholarship restrictions. He re-opened his recruitment and raised eyebrows with an MVP performance at the inaugural U.S. Marine Corps Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in early January. Mickens is electric in open space, comparable in that sense to Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas, the city’s most coveted recruit last year out of nearby Crenshaw.

Mickens will be joined by other local products in Seattle. Washington also has commitments from Gahr receiver Dwayne Washington, North Torrance fullback Ryan McDaniel and Compton Dominguez lineman Damion Turpin. Another top area receiver, Oaks Christian's Jordan Payton, committed to Washington earlier Tuesday during a signing day preview show on ESPNU.

Dorsey teammate Jeremiah Allison, a three-star linebacker, committed to in-state rival Washington State on Monday night.

Payton ends up picking Washington

January, 31, 2012

Wide receiver Jordan Payton from Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian committed to Washington on Tuesday, making his choice known during a live announcement on ESPNU.

Among the many others thought to be in the running for a pledge from the senior were Cal and UCLA.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder initially committed to USC. Payton changed his mind recently and appeared heading to Cal. In the end, however, the Huskies proved to be the best fit for Payton, considered one of the Southland's premier players.

“I like everything about Washington, I had a visit, it went well and I think I can go there and play right away if I do what the coaches tell me,'' Payton said. “I wanted to make my college pick today and have a clear mind about the future."

Payton had scholarship offers on the table from some of the country's powerhouse programs. Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oklahoma had courted him for quite some time. Arkansas and Penn State were believed to be players at one point as well.

“Jordan is the type of player that is going to make an immediate impact once he reaches the next level,'' Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said. “He was able to do plenty of special things for us here. We're talking about a kid with a bright future ahead of him.''

Staying close to home and playing in the Pac-12 Conference proved to be too good of an opportunity to pass up, apparently. Payton will have the chance to make things official on Wednesday morning during national signing day.

“There was a lot of indecision at first. It was hard for me to choose a school. I learned plenty of things along the way though,'' Payton said. “The whole recruiting process has been crazy. It's not one of those things for everybody. Only a few select people go through some of the things I did. Bottom line is, I'm a Husky. I couldn't be more happy.''

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Mickens is a hot commodity

January, 20, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Patience is a virtue, as they often say, and Jaydon Mickens can attest to that much. The old adage, in fact, accurately describes how the Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey senior has attempted to recently approach the whole recruiting process.

Mickens has carefully weighed his options. And in doing so, the 5-foot-9 and 170-plus pound athlete has emerged as one of the nation's more sought-after unsigned recruits around and it appears as if his final destination could end up being Oklahoma State.

“I visited the Cowboys last weekend, liked what they had to offer and they're my leader now,'' Mickens said. “Things have been crazy for me lately, a lot of schools have interest in me. I almost rushed into some things, but am glad I waited to my pick.''

He gave a verbal commitment to USC, initially. Something happened along the way though. The lines of communication, unfortunately, broke down between him and the Trojans. Somewhat surprisingly, Lane Kiffin & Co. were no longer an option.

With the window of opportunity seemingly open once again, several programs stepped up their efforts to land him, mostly from the Pac-12 Conference.

“It didn't seem like the Trojans had big plans for me, I didn't think it was going to be a good fit, that's why I started to look at other schools,'' Mickens said.

Washington was once considered as a major player, as recently as a week ago. The Huskies, however, have been put on the back-burner. At least temporarily.

Oregon is in the midst of making a late run to secure a commitment from Mickens. He traveled North to Eugene on Friday morning for a visit with the Ducks.

Plans are in the works for a recruiting trip to Washington State on Jan. 28. With new coach Mike Leach in the mix, and the offensive system he brings to the table, you can't count out the Cougars. Mickens' game appears tailor-made for playing in Pullman.

Playing the waiting game has its advantages, apparently.

“Things happen for a reason, and I have a tough decision to make, but I'm not worried about things,'' Mickens said. “I plan on making my choice on signing day.''

“If I had to pick one, like I said before, it's Oklahoma State, that program brings a lot to the table. My next two visits are going to be big though. I would say that Oregon, Washington State and Washington are all about tied for second right now. They're all real close.''

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Westlake junior is Hunt-ed not Hunt-er

December, 13, 2011

WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- Line up Dashon Hunt at running back, put the football in his trusty hands, and he is more than capable of gaining the necessary yardage on the ground to keep the chains moving. Straight up the middle, or to the outside, it doesn't matter.

Slot the junior from Westlake at receiver and Hunt might run by the defense en route to the end zone. Position him in the slot and he is not afraid to risk his body going over the crowded middle to make the difficult catch against teams geared toward stopping him.

Hunt's effectiveness isn’t merely limited to life on the offensive side of the ball. Stick him on an island at cornerback, and odds are, he will lock down the opponents top pass-catcher. Allow him to roam free in the secondary at safety and don't be surprised to see Hunt deliver a game-changing hit. Forcing a fumble is always a distinct possibility.

He is a jack-of-all-trades, Hunt plays a number of positions, each of them equally well. And we haven't started to discuss the special teams impact he makes.

His versatility and ability to excel in most any situation, of course, is what separates Hunt from most his underclassmen peers. Furthermore, the well-rounded skill set he possesses has been instrumental in helping guide the Warriors into Saturday night's CIF State Bowl game, an Open Division showdown against Concord De Le Salle at the Home Depot Center.

“Dashon is a darn good football player, a force to be reckon with, and we're glad he is on our side,'' Westlake coach Jim Benkert said. “He is an individual who can change the complexion of a game with one play, at any time and from any spot on the field.''

Hunt proved as much in the Southern Section Northern Division championship game last week against rival Westlake Village Oaks Christian. The 5-foot-9, 175-plus pound UCLA commit rushed for a team-high 154 yards in 24 carries and scored four times.

As if that weren't enough, Hunt was assigned to shadow Lions' senior receiver Jordan Payton, one of the premier prospects the Southland has to offer. Hunt finished with four tackles and an interception return for a touchdown in an all-important 49-42 victory for Westlake (14-0 overall), which has held the No. 1 spot in the ESPNLosAngeles.com rankings for several weeks.

“I'm always up for a challenge. Always have been. Always will be,'' Hunt said. “I've seen all kinds of things this season, on offense and on defense. Coaches and players know that I'm a good athlete. I'm not sure if they are intimidated by my play-making ability or what.''

“When I'm running the ball, most teams blitz or try to stack the box with seven or eight guys. I've seen some double teams when I'm running pass routes too. On defense, teams don't usually throw to my side of the field. All that stuff is a respect thing, I think.''

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L.A. South: Boys' basketball Top 10

December, 6, 2011
Loyola, Long Beach Poly and La Verne Lutheran are ranked in the preseason POWERADE ESPNHS Fab 50 national rankings, and they lead the way in our opening edition of the south Los Angeles County boys' basketball top 10:

1. Loyola (4-0)
Key players: PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright, SG Justin Childress, SG Jacob Hazzard, SF Julian Harrell (Penn)
Last season: The Cubs went 25-6 and won the CIF-Southern Section Div. I-A championship before losing by two to eventual state champion Mater Dei in regionals.
Why they're here: Jackson-Cartwright, only a sophomore, is already considered the top point guard in the state. Mix in the shooting of Childress and Hazzard -- as well as the versatility of Harrell -- and the Cubs have a lineup that few can match.

2. Long Beach Poly (3-1)
Key players: SF Roschon Prince, PF Jordan Bell, PG Chris Croom, SG Reuben Strickland
Last season: The Jackrabbits posted a 30-2 record and captured the Division 1AA title in Anaheim before losing to eventual state champion Mater Dei in regionals.
Why they're here: Poly coach Sharrief Metoyer lost his top two to graduation -- state player of the year Ryan Anderson (Boston College) and Alexis Moore (USC) -- but there's more than enough talent left. Prince and Bell might be the best one-two combination in the county.

3. La Verne Lutheran (4-0)
Key players: PF Grant Jerrett (Arizona), SG Eric Cooper Jr. (Arizona), SF McKay Anderson, SG Cameron Osorno
Last season: The Trojans overcame off-the-court adversity, finishing with a 25-5 mark and a second consecutive state championship.
Why they're here: Jerrett, a long and lean power forward, is arguably the top prospect on the West Coast. Coach Eric Cooper Sr. returns nine letter-winners from last year's team, including son Eric Cooper Jr., a sharp-shooting junior who makes teams pay for double-teaming Jerrett down low.

4. St. John Bosco (4-0)
Key players: SG Isaac Hamilton, PF Anthony January (UTEP), SF Darryl Matthews, SG Daniel Hamilton
Last season: The Braves finished 21-9 and were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 4AA playoffs.
Why they're here: New coach Derrick Taylor, who built Woodland Hills Taft into a City Section power, has the Braves thinking about the Trinity League crown. Getting past defending state champion Mater Dei won't be easy, but Bosco has Isaac Hamilton, a transfer from Crenshaw who is one of the nation's top juniors.

5. Price (3-1)
Key players: PF Skylar Spencer (San Diego State), PG Chance Murray, SG Chris Sandifer
Last season: The high-flying Knights went 24-8 and fell just short against La Caņada in the CIF-SS Division 3AA championship game.
Why they're here: Yes, Price lost guard Askia Booker (Colorado) and ultra athletic forward Norvel Pelle to graduation but don't dismiss coach Michael Lynch's bunch. Spencer is another high-soaring scorer who's lethal in fast break opportunities, and Murray, a junior, already has a scholarship offer from UCLA.

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ESPNLA top 20 boys' basketball rankings (final)

March, 29, 2011
What a season, so much to reflect on, so little time.

The level of boys' basketball play in the Southland was seemingly at an all-time high this past season, most certainly right on par with what we have seen around here in years past.

The players. The coaches. The games. The drama. That said, we figured it was about time to unveil the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 rankings for the final time this season. Enjoy!

1. (2) Mater Dei (32-2): This group was supposed to be a year away from making an impact. But low and behold, juniors Xavier Johnson and Kaitin Reinhardt won a state title. Division I, no less.

2. (1) Long Beach Poly (31-2): All signs pointed to the Jackrabbits being capable of finishing as the wire-to-wire top-ranked team. Ultimately, however, the target on their backs was a bit too big.

3. (4) Corona Centennial (30-5): Dominique Dunning, Michael Caffey and Gelaun Wheelwright made a nice run. Capping off their senior campaigns with a championship was not in the cards though.

4. (3) Taft (29-3): The Toreadors were the odds-on favorite to win a City Section ring right before the season began. True to form, they had little, or no trouble living up to the rather lofty expectations.

5. (5) Loyola (25-6): Talk about not backing down from any challenges, the Cubs played one of the toughest schedules around. Make no mistake, they managed to hold their own in the process.

6. (6) Etiwanda (29-4): Most observers agreed that the Eagles were going to go as far as Byron Wesley would take them. Once postseason play started, the USC-bound senior did not disappoint.

7. (7) Orange Lutheran (27-7): Senior James Douglas is gone, having committed to Northern Arizona. Junior Gabe York returns which means the Lancers will be a formidable unit in the future.

8. (14) Ventura (29-3): Somehow, someway, the Cougars flew underneath the radar during the regular season. Rest assured, everyone knew plenty about them after the Southern Section playoffs.

9. (17) La Verne Lutheran (26-5): Turned tragedy into triumph. The Trojans overcame the loss of three people closely associated to the program and ended up with a Division III state championship.

10. (18) Windward (27-8): Wesley Saunders did a little bit of everything, most of it well. When all was said and done, he guided the Wildcats to a their second straight state title, this time in Division IV.

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LA South: Westchester 67, Washington 58

February, 25, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- As expected, the Los Angeles Westchester High boys' basketball teams is heading to the City Section championship game.

The Comets secured their appearance in the finals Friday with a 67-58 semifinal victory over Los Angeles Washington at Galen Center. Awaiting second-seeded Westchester in the title game next Saturday is top-seeded Woodland Hills Taft.

The Toreadors defeated fifth-seeded Palisades, 78-59, on Friday night in the other semifinal.

“We didn't want to look too far ahead, our focus was on Washington tonight, that was it,'' Comets coach Ed Azzam said. “A win against them was the only thing that mattered. Without a victory, there would be no Taft, there is no championship game for us.''

Turns out, everything went according to plan.

The Comets (26-6) made sure of that by playing particularly well early Friday as Robert Gsellman made a couple of key baskets, including a long distance three-pointer to give Westchester a 15-5 lead with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter of play.

The Generals (22-7) answered as Christopher Brown made back-to-back three-pointers to help cut the deficit to 15-14 with 1:33 left in the first quarter.

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