Its time to salute the basketballIT News players who choose loyalty over opportunity

Its time to salute the basketballIT News players who choose loyalty over opportunityThis is about loyalty, Arnold said. My mom taught me about loyalty. My coach taught me about loyalty.

They refused to abandon ship even when their coach yelled at them or when someone offered free shoes, promised more exposure or guaranteed a championship team.

Perhaps no team deserves the neighborhood team label more than Hacienda Heights Los Altos. Six milies have had their kids playing together since the third grade. Coach Jeff Lucas and his son, Jarod, the standout junior guard, are among them. He gets to coach a group who met when they were eating cupcakes and Twinkies after games.

For me, its having a commitment to these kids, Davis said. A lot have singleparent households. They look at me almost like a big brother. I look out for them. Theyre committed to me and Im committed to them.

Wayne Arnold of Dominguez, a fouryear player at the same high school, is saluted by teammates. Nick Koza

Theres Brandon Williams of Encino Crespi. He was a state champion as a freshman starter. You lost the bet if you thought he wouldnt stay for four years. He has a scholarship to Arizona and has come back with a vengeance from knee surgery to be one of the top guards in California in his senior season. Under coach Russell White, he has become the complete studentathlete he wanted to become on and off the court.

Theres Sam Clareman of Brentwood. He was a junior varsity player as a freshman. In his junior year this season, he has won two games with lastsecond shots and a third game by three free throws with no time left. He never wavered, coach Ryan Bailey said.

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Theres Kendal Frey of Harbor City Narbonne. He played junior varsity as a freshman, then was a key backup on the Gauchos City Section runnerup team as a sophomore. He has grown to , is averaging points and has mastered the little things needed to succeed pump ke, jump stop, taking a charge.

Wes and Riley have been a dream to coach, Oak Parks Aaron Shaw said. They take care of their schoolwork. Theyre dependable. They havent missed a game. Theyre always pushing themselves to be better. Theyre always great teammates.

Wes Slajchert, left, and Riley Battin, who have been playing together since third grade, are shown in a photo from sixth grade. Catherine Battin

He has led Dominguez to consecutive San Gabriel Valley League championships. Hes averaging points a game and headed to Cal State Fullerton. From the first game, when he scored points and said, I felt like Kobe, to the last regularseason game, when he scored points and was cheered by his home ns, Arnold has served as an example of how a player can blossom.

Then theres Riley Battin and Wes Slajchert, fouryear starters for Oak Park. Headed to Utah and Dartmouth, respectively, they kept their mouths shut, worked hard, ignored what was happening at other schools and flourished in their neighborhood environment. Theyve known each other since third grade.

Yes, weve reached the point in high school basketball where there are so many transfers on top teams that when you find a collegebound, fouryear player, he probably deserves a parade in appreciation for his loyalty.

There are lots of others trying to end high school with a championship. Theres no guarantee it will happen but at least theyre going down with the people theyve known and trusted and will be their friends for years to come.

I know Brandons parents and my parents, Regans said. Were big believers in loyalty.

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Hes had the opportunity to go to other schools but stayed loyal, Coach Anthony Hilliard said.

Its time to salute the basketball players who choose loyalty over opportunity

Its something extra special, Lucas said. All our milies are close.

Ditto for teammate Taj Regans, another fouryear player He scored points in the regularseason finale Friday when Williams went down with an ankle injury. Regans has sacrificed his scoring potential for the good of the team.

The day the Southern Section basketball playoff pairings are released is the perfect time to salute players who have stayed at the same high school for their entire career rather than played the transfer game.

First up is the yearold who should be wearing a Straight Outta Compton Tshirt foot guard Wayne Arnold of Dominguez. For four years, hes given his all to coach Jonathan Davis. And in return, Davis has reciprocated.