Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dylan aiming for Division I

Since I got the low down from Paso Robles center David Cone on his college commitment, I also got in touch with Morro Bay guard Dylan Royer about his college opportunities — mostly to keep you faithful blog readers informed.

So here it is: Royer has not made any commitments. "I would love to play at the D1 level, and there are still a couple of possibilities," he said in an e-mail.

Royer said he has interest from Cal Poly and UC Davis at the NCAA Division I level and UC San Diego at Division II. NAIA schools Concordia and Westmont are also in the picture.

As a freshman in 2004-05, Royer was ranked as the 25th best prospect in Southern California by Since then, he's eclipsed 2,000 points at Morro Bay and has broken at least eight individual school records.

Royer led the Pirates to a 20-8 record and to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs. He scored 22.5 points, grabbed nearly 7 rebounds and averaged just under 2 steals per game while shooting 38 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line.

It would be a great storyline to follow the guy if he ends up at Poly. Heck, it would be very intriguing if he landed at Davis and came back to haunt the Mustangs in the end. But wherever he chooses, it's sure to be a great accomplishment.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cone's college of choice

It's time to end some speculation and settle at least one argument that's raged on The Tribune' High School Sports Blog for a couple weeks.

David Cone is playing college basketball. But it won't be at a junior college OR an NCAA school — though he said he had options a few of both.

I caught up with the Paso Robles senior big man online Wednesday, and he confirmed that he has given a verbal commitment to play basketball in La Mirada next year at NAIA Division I school Biola University.

"I was getting recruited by a slew of schools," Cone said in an online message. "All the way from Washington St, all the Ivy league schools, Colgate in New York, Seattle University who is going from D2 to D1 next season, to JC's."

In the end, he said he's choosing Biola for his comfort with 27-year coach Dave Holmquist — who reminds Cone of Paso Robles 30-year coach Scott Larson — and his chance at playing substantial minutes early in his career.

Cone led the Bearcats to a 19-10 overall record (9-3 PAC 7) as Paso Robles improved vastly on a 2-21 record last season.

By notching team highs in both points per game (14.8) and rebounds per game (11), Cone led the Bearcats to a second-place league finish and helped get the team to the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division II-A playoffs.

"After talking with other schools, and those close to me I decided that Biola would be the best for me because they focus on the 'big man'," Cone said, "the Coaching is great, and I could go in and play substantial minutes including a good opportunity to start next season.

"Call me crazy for passing up D1 chances, but I really am happy with my decision, and I think it will be a great fit."

Some of you are sure to think he's crazy. Giving up a shot to play bigtime basketball for the inelegant NAIA circuit?

Especially still in the wake of Derrick Jasper-to-Kentycky era, this choice may seem small-fryish.

But Logan Budd told me way back when that he'd rather play football at FCS school Cal Poly than at FBS school San Jose State. Some people like the smaller pond, and it's no knock on you if you do.

College choices aren't always about sports. They're as much about happiness and comfort as anything else. And Cone seems pretty happy about Biola.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

See the best with your own two eyes

Three SLO County wrestlers will be competing in the CIF State wrestling meet this weekend.

We've already featured Morro Bay heaveyweight Jerome Long in this week's edition of "Athlete of the Week." The other two — 160-pounder Jordan Rubio of Arroyo Grande and 189-pounder Jack Robinett of Atascadero — will be featured in an edition of the paper later this week.

But if you've ever wondered what any one of these three guys looks like on the wrestling mat, good thing you read this blog, and good thing the guys at covered Morro Bay's CIT tournament earlier this year.

GO HERE to see videos of all three local wrestlers, including separate interviews with Long, Morro Bay coach Mike Aanearud and Pirates athletic director/football coach John Andree.

Long won his division at the CIT, and cited Atascadero's Brett Hiatt as his toughest opponent that weekend. Robinett fell in the finals with a chance to tie late in the match and Rubio took a loss to the eventual champion in the semifinals.

Must-see TV: Long's final match and his post-match interview.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Leak: PAC 7 girls soccer accolades

Word from Monday night's PAC 7 girls soccer meetings is that San Luis Obispo High hogged most of the honors.

A resounding "Doi!" going off in your head? Yeah, well, with a 27-1-2 final record, undefeated league and regular-season marks, the Tigers cemented their reputation as the best girls soccer team around. They were bound to come away with some serious spoils.

Here are a few of the honors according to a source inside the meeting.

League Most Valuable Player — Afton Thulin, San Luis Obispo

Co-Offensive Players of the Year — Jamie Council, Atascadero and Karlee Owens, Arroyo Grande

Defensive Player of the Year — Jessica Mortola, San Luis Obispo

Partial list of San Luis Obispo honorees
First Team All-PAC 7 — Jessica Mortola, Devon Carlstrom and Gracie Babcock

Second Team All-PAC 7 — Kiele Argente, Alessa Moscoso and Shannon Fontes

I'll try to get full lists out for soccer and all the rest of the sports as soon as they can be collected. Until then, continue with the Cone-Royer rantings. Or how about another question, this one might even be tougher: Who's the girls County Player of the Year?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rooting for arch rivals? I don't think so

The San Luis Obispo High girls soccer team came out of its post-game huddle Wednesday after a 1-0 win over Diamond Ranch in the second round of the Division III playoffs, and the first thing the Tigers hear is an update on the Arroyo Grande game.

The Eagles won 2-0.

"Urghhhh," was the collective harrumph that came from the disappointed SLO group.

Back at The Tribune office, editor Ashley Conklin took the phone call from the Eagles, who were equally bummed to hear how the rival Tigers won their playoff game.

I didn't get it at first. One of the first things I thought when I found out both teams won was "We'll have to plan some super coverage if they end up playing each other in the playoffs." (It'll happen if both teams win their next two games. They'd meet in the final round.)

But I'm thinking about it like a journalist. And as a reporter who covers both teams, I'd imagine it would be a grand spectacle to have two SLO County teams facing off for a championship.

Heck, fans will even root around sometimes. In the past couple weeks, I've seen Tiger Bill here and there. Except, one time, he was Eagle Bill. The other time, he was Royal Bill. He said he only switches caps during the playoffs.

I'm thinking of renaming him Ubiquitous Bill.

But players don't think that way, especially not in rivalries as bitter as the San Luis Obispo-Arroyo Grande one has become.

The Tigers and Eagles want to see the other one lose right away — maybe even get blown out for their troubles and humiliated on the way out.

It's not bad sportsmanship. It's passion. It's emotion. And it's so right on.

No, I'm not saying go out and burn your team's name into your rivals' grass field. But if you're a player, you're out there pushing and clawing — let's face it, that's what you do in most sports — there's no way you're going to ever bring yourself to root for a league rival.

A SLO player? Pull for AG? To borrow the rough spanish equivalent to when pigs fly, "Yeah, on goalkeeper's day."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CIF-SS boys teams are done. Now comes the hard part

By the look of the votes in the most recent poll and comments, it might boil down to a two-man race for the County Player of the Year between Morro Bay's Dylan Royer and Paso Robles' David Cone.

There are certainly others out there in the discussion, but for the sake of this blog, let's pretend there aren't for one day.

As of Tuesday night, both the Pirates and Bearcats were bounced from the playoffs in the second round of their respective CIF-Southern Section divisions. So there goes one way of comparing the two guys.

Both teams had 20 wins. Both made the second round. Neither won a league title. Team success — often a tiebreaker in many MVP-type discussions — is a push.

So, it has to come down to one-on-one comparisons.

I've seen both play within the past five days, and honestly, there could hardly be two more different players.

Royer, a four-year varsity starter who's amassed more than 2,000 points in his career, is a dangerous shooter without a conscience. He's got an uncanny knack for grabbing steals and is a very good rebounder, especially at his position. But his willingness to shoot from anywhere 20-feet-and-in at any time is what defines him. He only needs an inch of space and is just as adept driving to the basket as he is pulling up for a 15-footer or shooting a 3-pointer.

Cone, the last remaining Paso Robles Bearcat to have played with Derrick Jasper, is a prototype high school big man. He's got a couple go-to moves that are money in the post. Though a knee injury has limited his jumping and mobility, he makes up for it by playing smart. At least partly because of his size (he's listed at 6 feet, 9 inches), Cone is the most dominant defensive player in the county. But he also blocks shots with control, giving his team a great chance at recovering the ball.

A stone-cold shooter. A textbook big man.

Who's better? Who's more vaulable? Who deserves it more?

I hate ties. And I've never been fond of anything that begins with "Co-" (Sorry, Colorado). Somebody's going to win. But the Tribune does have a tough decision on its hands. Keep on voting.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday's points to ponder from Paso Robles

Here are a few notes from the first round of the Southern Section boys basketball playoffs. I was in Paso Robles. Anybody who was at any other games, please give some color.

• David Cone has been a big topic of the posters these past couple weeks. Will he go D-1 in college? Won't he? Can he play against tough opponents? I'll say this about Friday's performance: Even though he was the biggest player on the court, he was challenged by some long, athletic big men.

Cone's response? 19 points, eight rebounds and at least five blocks. He was breaking the press. He's untrappable at the high school level. He'll definitely be playing college somewhere next year. At a J.C., a small four-year school. Heck, I've seen players with his frame go to D-I colleges, sit until their senior year and become impact players in the end. Some improved quickness and an outside jumper might earn him some more opportunities at higher levels.

• Though Paso Robles won its first-round game with a great fourth quarter, by the end of the third, Valley View had charged back, and the Bearcats looked ripe for the upset. Since North County Christian had already been bounced from the playoffs, I couldn't help but think, "Wow, I'm a moron. Two of the three teams I picked to go deep in the playoffs were goners. I knew I should have just stuck with the safe pick — the Mission Prep girls."

• To the Paso Robles Booster Club: Maybe look into investing in a new CD player for the gym. As reported in The Tribune's game story in the paper, the Bearcats' warmup music sounded like it was "chopped and screwed" by Yan Can Cook. It might've just been some scratchy CDs, but the disc reader didn't look very, uhm, modern.

On a side note, it's a sad commentary on the state of rap music today when three different songs can all scratch and skip in succession and a gym full of people just continues to bob its collective head as if it's just hearing a new remix or something. Thanks a lot, Derrty South.

• And finally — though my audio taped interview with Paso Robles coach Scott Larson somehow got erased from my digital recorder on the way out to the car — I can still hear the man's shouts ringing in my ears. Scott has to be one of the loudest in-game coaches I've ever heard.

During the craziest parts of Friday's game, I could look over at Valley View coach Jim Long and just see his mouth moving and hear nothing coming out. Then I'd gaze over at Larson, plug my ears and his shouts of, "He's PUSHIN' him!" still cut through to the heart of my eardrums.

It's a talent. I wish I could unleash that kind of yell at my cat when he's scratching the couch.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Paso Rollin'

You guys like the Bearcats.

Paso Robles took the plurality in the past two polls we've done on boys basketball.

The Bearcats' turnaround from the bottom of the PAC 7 last season to the second-place team this year ran away with your votes for most surprising run.

And Paso Robles was also the pick — though only by a single vote — to go the furthest in the playoffs.

Well, with the playoffs kicking off on this week, the time has come to find out if your predictions are right.

Mission Prep, the other team to rank highly in the playoff success poll, might have the most favorable road to a section title of any boys team, if only because the Royals compete in the CIF-Central Section Division V playoffs, the smallest division in a section made up primarily of teams from the Central San Joaquin Valley.

Here are the top three teams to watch in the playoffs (In no particular order):

• Mission Prep — The Royals boys and girls could be partying together again at the Central Section championships in Fresno. The bracket has yet to be released, but Mission Prep probably could have competed in the top half of the PAC 7. A focused Royals team should make it at least a couple of rounds deep in the playoffs.

• Paso Robles — The Bearcats have a decent draw in the CIF-Southern Section Division II-A bracket. They host a wildcard team in the first round before a potential second-round matchup with Ocean View, the
No. 3 seed in the bracket. If Paso Robles can upset Ocean View, it wouldn't meet up with another top-five seed until the semifinals.

• North County Christian — Funny someone mentioned Maranatha in the last blog, because that's exactly who the Crusaders would play in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division V-AA bracket. North County Christian was one of five teams to get a first-round bye and would match up with the No. 2 seed if they both get past that first game. Maybe the Crusaders can get the Maranatha scouting report from Morro Bay.

You ask me, those are your three best boys bets. If I had to pick one to advance the furthest, I'd lean toward Mission Prep.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A slew of topics

Amidst all the football signings this week, I got word from Templeton that standout softball player and former County Player of the Year pitcher Kat Hicks will be off to play for Ivy League school Dartmouth next year.

There wasn't really a convenient place in the print edition to lump it in with the footall signings, but it was a big choice for a talented athlete all the same.

On another note, someone mentioned the upcoming track season. It's coming on faster than you think, and it should be a good one. Among others, expect plenty of highlights to come from junior all-everything Mission Prep distance runner Jordan Hasay and San Luis Obispo senior sprinter Tonie Williams.

On the boys side, Paso Robles' Nathan Nelson was the best all-around sprinter in the county last season. If he's shown just a little improvement, watch out. The Bearcats also have a slew of talented distance runners. In the throws, watch for Nipomo's Korben Boaz, Templeton's Justin Cutler and, as usual, the troupe from Arroyo Grande.

As for the David Cone debate you guys are having, I'll weigh in: I've only seen him play a couple times, but each time I've come away more impressed. I watched him control the key defenively and hold his own on the boards against an Oakland team with plenty of size earlier this year.

I like Cone's knowledge of the game. For a big guy he's surprisingly deft at taking off and dribbling, and the Bearcats have success with using him to break the press. He probably needs some work finishing in traffic, but he'll play college basketball somewhere.

He's definitely in the running for Tribune County Player of the Year. As are Royer, Hattar, Demalleville and maybe a few others. Playoffs are still to come, and how teams do should carry some weight in the discussion, but what are your takes now on POY frontrunners?