The LookOut sports

Santa Monica Sports Notes

The Santa Monica High baseball team, featuring several seniors and optimistic for a good run in the Bay League, begins the league schedule this week by playing at El Segundo Wednesday and hosting the same team Friday at 3:15 p.m. In the second week Samohi will be home Wednesday, March 27 against West Torrance and will play at West Torrance two days later...

The St. Monica baseball team split a non-league doubleheader with St. Bernard, losing 12-2 and wnning 6-3. Jack White returns as coach...

The Crossroads baseball team has a new coach, Matt Amido, who replaces Ruben Smiley. The team, which reached the CIF playoffs last season, has struggled in early season contests...

The Santa Monica College mens' volleyball team will host Grossmont Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and will be at San Diego Mesa Friday, also at 7. The SMC softball team competed at the East Los Angeles College Tournament last weekend and will be home Tuesday against Bakersfield College at 2:30. Home games are played at Clover Park...The SMC mens and womens' track teams will be at the Eastern Relays at Santa Barbara College Friday...

Corsair Field, where SMC and Santa Monica High play home football games, is becoming an increasingly attractive venue. Some other high schools have inquired into the possibility of playing a few games there and plans are being studied...And, from all indications, Beach Bowl III will be played at the end of next season. The game was considered a success last season even though SMC failed to qualify...

Although UC Santa Barbara lost to Arizona and former Samohi star Jacoby Atako fouled out, the Gauchos drew high praise for their effort against the Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a game not decided until the final minute in Sacramento and gives UCSB something to build on for next season, when Atako will be a junior...

Crossroads Star Rewards Faith of Arizona Coach

By Mitch Chortkoff

While 6-foot-10 Isaiah Fox was dominating high school basketball competition at Crossroads in Santa Monica last season a difference of opinion was forming among college recruiters.

Some thought Fox was too tentative. Others thought he was merely overpowering smaller players. A few thought he could develop into an outstanding collegiate player.

Lute Olson thought Fox could help the University of Arizona. Fox ranked high on Olson's list, but not No. 1. It required a player from the Midwest deciding against Arizona for a scholarship to become available for Fox.

Today, Arizona has reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with the 260-pound Fox playing a significant role. A young Arizona team won the Pac-10 Tournament to gain a No. 3 seed in the NCAA field. Arizona then defeated UC Santa Barbara Thursday and Wyoming Saturday to advance.

Arizona was in the NCAA Tournament championship game last season but was unranked at the start of this one because some key underclassmen surprisingly turned pro early. With four players going into the NBA, Olson quickly rebuilt, featuring forward Luke Olson and guard Jason Gardner in the offense and giving important minutes to a pair of freshmen big men --- Fox and Channing Frye.

``We were having trouble rebounding late in the season. Our rebounding was not where it should be,'' said Olson. At that time Fox started several games and helped solve the problem. Now it depends on need whether Olson starts Fox --- whose strength is rebounding and defense --- or the more athletic and higher-scoring Frye.

But Fox has gone from a high school senior to an important player on a Sweet 16 team in one year. His greatest feat was to smother USC's All-American Sam Clancy in the Pac-10 championship game. Fox, who is three inches taller, kept Clancy away from the basket and held him to 12 points.

Olson had an edge in the recruiting competition. Fox's father was an Arizona football letterman in 1983 and '84 where he was a starter on the offensive line. Isaiah's mother went into labor with Isaiah during University of Arizona spring football practice in 1983.

Isaiah grew into a large young man and met some of the Crossroads players during summer basketball play. He soon enrolled, beginning a high school career that included two CIF championships and a State Regional championship. Crossroads was 26-6 in Fox' senior year, including two playoff wins over St. Monica.

It helped that Fox had a coach at Crossroads -- Daryl Roper --- who is 6-foot-7 and was a good college basketball player. Roper, an outstanding teacher who can be hard on his pupils, furthered Fox' advancement.

In the state Regional championship game Fox set a record with 23 rebounds. He then earned the John R. Wooden Award for California Division 4 high school players.

Olson brought in four freshmen this season. Frye and forward Dennis Latimore received more national publicity than Fox.

``Isaish was the least heralded of the group but I knew he would have an excellent chance of making a substantial contribution,'' said Olson. ``He worked very hard from the time he arrived here.''

Although Fox isn't a major scorer for the Wildcats yet he could become one. He has an outstanding pair of hands which allow him to catch difficult passes.

``He has great hands, probably the best I've seen since I've been coaching here,'' said Olson. ``And, of course, he has that big body.''

Of course, this is a far different level than high school. But as Arizona advances, Fox is used to the pressure. He was playing for championships all through his time at Crossroads.
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