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Crenshaw used to have a monopoly on the top basketball talent in Los Angeles, but Woodland Hills El Camino Real, just like Woodland Hills Taft the year before, had too much talent for Crenshaw to overcome. Players such as Evan Wardlow (above), a 6-4 junior, are too much for Crenshaw to handle. Photo by Jason Lewis
El Camino Real knocks off Crenshaw to make it to their first ever Division I City championship game, this Saturday against Westchester.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
During El Camino Real’s (ECR) 82-57 dismantling of former City Section power Crenshaw, sports photographer William “Jaye” Johnson said, “If this was 1984, Crenshaw would be mopping the floor with these guys.”
Well that is very much true, but this is not 1984, or even 1994, and the demographics of high school sports are much different today. The talent pool that legendary Crenshaw coach Willie West, who is retired, had to pull from was great, as most of the talent in South Los Angeles stayed in South Los Angeles, and a lot of them made their way to Crenshaw.
During Crenshaw’s glory days there is no way that a school like ECR would have greater basketball talent, and this game would have easily been a route in Crenshaw’s favor. Today, the top basketball players in South Los Angeles and other areas where the top black players come from are heading to Westchester, Fairfax, and out to the San Fernando Valley to play at Taft and ECR.
Last year Crenshaw made it to the City Section semifinals, only to watch Woodland Hills Taft’s Anthony January dunk all over them. January is from Compton and started his high school career at Compton High School before transferring to Taft for his senior season. This year it was Woodland Hills ECR who had more length and athletic players, and Crenshaw just could not match it.
ECR features a line up of 6-7 Michael Thomas, 6-3 Julian Richardson, 6-4 Evan Wardlow, and 5-10 Maleke Haynes, their leading four scorers. Wardlow, Richard, and Haynes are all juniors. Also in their line up is Julian Rochelin, who is 6-6 and also a junior, and they have sophomores Justice De Corsi, 6-5, Josiah Woods, 6-4, and Joshua Palmer, 6-5.
ECR won the Division II City title last year, and now they are going for the big one. The bulk of their team is filled with tall and extremely athletic black players, just like Taft had on their four recent City title teams.
Lets be real, there are not many black, 6-4+, athletic basketball players growing up in Woodland Hills. Those players are coming from somewhere. But there is nothing wrong with that, as long as ECR and Taft are following the transfer rules.
Taft and ECR’s recent success just shows that today is a different era, and the talent is spread out all over Southern California. It is a testament to Crenshaw that they are still able to make it to back-to-back City semifinal games with a much smaller talent pool that they enjoyed during the heyday of coach West.
Talent migrating out to the San Fernando Valley has not only affected basketball. Lake Balboa Birmingham High School dominated football not too long ago, and their 2007 City championship team was one of the best City Section teams that have come along over the past 20 years. Milton Knox, their star running back, grew up near the Sentinel’s office on Crenshaw and Coliseum.