They had one window now, prying the glass open just a little, fighting back because these Etiwanda Eagles would never quit no matter how hard the titan in front of them punched.
Down by five to San Jose’s Archbishop Mitty with two minutes left in Saturday’s Open Division state final at Golden 1 Center, coach Stan Delus calmly sat his players down in a timeout. Pointed at each of them, and with his voice steadily rising to a crescendo, delivered the message that will go down in Etiwanda program lore.
“Change your mindset … that’s all you have to do right now in this moment,” Delus roared. “So step up now and play the moment.”
For three years, junior Kennedy Smith had been playing the moment. And as the minutes ticked down and Etiwanda fought back, tying the game at 67 with a handful of seconds left, possession and a shot at a state championship, it seemed only right that the ball be in Smith’s hands for her shot at another moment.
She dribbled baseline, firing a long midrange jumper, the ball ticking off the backboard and swirling around the rim once. Twice. Dropping, heart-wrenchingly, off iron. And into the waiting arms of junior Jada Sanders, who scored on the put-back as the buzzer sounded and pandemonium ensued in a 69-67 win.
Her teammates mobbed her at half-court, melting into a puddle of disbelief, spilling out like the gallons of emotions the Eagles have expended in a miraculous season.
Jada Sanders scores for Etiwanda at the buzzer to lift Etiwanda to a 69-67 win over Archbishop Mitty for the girls’ Open Division state title.
“It went up, I said — ‘Wow,’” Delus said, miming his eyes widening at the layup, the Eagles bursting into laughter in the postgame news conference.
They beat La Jolla Country Day in the regional semifinal. They somehow knocked off Sierra Canyon, the familiar foe that took them down in the Southern Section finals, in the regional final. And they outlasted Archbishop Mitty, three massive wins against three of the best private-school programs in the United States for a program that’ll always see itself as a public school repping the Inland Empire.
“We got wind that there was some disappointment about playing us instead of Sierra Canyon — hey, they wanted getback from last year, I get it,” Delus said of Archbishop Mitty’s loss to the Trailblazers last year in the state final. “But I have to make sure people understand, we’re not just this school … for some strange reason, we’re still looked at as, we’re good, but are we that good? Can we be that good?”
“We can,” Delus continued. “We actually can.”
Sanders walked away the hero, but Smith was the end-to-end engine, putting up a statline that spoke for itself but couldn’t speak for the sweat she left on the floor: 30 points, 13 boards, six steals, four blocks.
Three years ago, in the summer of Smith’s freshman year, she walked into a practice against reigning 6-foot-4 Etiwanda post monster Jessica Peterson. And Delus will never forget how Peterson, now a center at Southern Methodist University, went at her. Challenged her.
So Smith, Delus described in the fall, waving his arms to demonstrate, went right back. Caught the ball. Elbow. Bucket in the post. She was there to play as an equal.
“She never backed down from anything, Kennedy Smith,” Delus said earlier this season. “I know they say Juju [Watkins] is a transcendent player,” he added in reference to Sierra Canyon’s star, “but Kennedy is that glue.”
Every time Smith steps on the floor, she moves like she’s already been wronged. Like the best player in the opposing jersey has stolen something of hers. It could be Mater Dei’s Addie Deal; could be Watkins. Doesn’t matter. Smith, Delus said, specifically requests to guard the other team’s best player every game.
And at the end of the first quarter Saturday, after she sent back a Mitty layup with a thunk of a two-hand block, Mitty’s star freshman Mckenna Woliczko became her Peterson for the final 2.8 seconds of the period.
As Peterson caught an inbound, Smith dug into her stance and invaded her airspace, completely cutting off any access to drive. And when Peterson attempted to rip through, Smith deflected the dribble and dove on the loose ball, coming up screaming as Etiwanda preserved a narrow first-quarter lead.
After a flat second quarter and a four-point halftime deficit, the Eagles came out with customary ferocity in the third quarter, swarming as Smith teleported into passing lanes and scored seven straight Etiwanda points off solely layups. But smooth Mitty junior Morgan Cheli countered with her own array of finishes, holding a one-point Monarchs lead through three quarters.
Fouls and injury slowed the fourth quarter, Cheli limping off the floor only to return with just minutes to spare to raucous applause. But these Eagles have waded through mud all season, mucking up the pace at their discretion, executing down the stretch. And as they held the state championship trophy aloft, the familiar chants came from the loyal brass behind the bench.
It’s how D’Angelo Russell can move with the basketball in his hands, slickly navigating defenses with patience before darting to the spot he wants to get to.
It’s a deceptive speed, things happening faster than you’d expect.
That’s sort of how the game played out in Russell’s return, quick, devastating spurts that took the direction of the game and sharply turned it.
And the Lakers point guard was behind the wheel, whipping it toward L.A.
Russell was in the middle of the biggest runs, hitting transition threes and dishing assists as the game swung wildly to the Lakers during the second and fourth quarters.
He made five threes and scored 28 points to lead the Lakers to a 122-112 win in a game they trailed by at least 12 in each half.
“That’s why he’s here,” coach Darvin Ham said.
Five Lakers scored in double figures, the team withstanding big games from Scottie Barnes (32 points) and O.G. Anunoby (31 points on 12-for-14 shooting).
Anthony Davis took just seven shots and scored only eight points with the Raptors defense hounding him. He swished a jumper with 46.6 seconds left to seal the Lakers’ third-straight win.
“It just shows the character that he has,” Austin Reaves said. “He was as happy as tonight winning scoring eight points as he was after scoring 39.”
The Lakers’ depth dominated, Wenyen Gabriel finishing with a plus-19. It was the lowest plus-minus of any bench player who played for the Lakers on Friday night.
The Lakers made all 19 of their free throws and they allowed just 22 fourth-quarter points, but it was Russell’s return that fueled them.
“His size, his skill set, his brain,” Ham said pregame when asked about what Russell brings to the floor. “I just think he’s a really talented, smart basketball player and you have to account for him. He’s a smart defensive player as well, so he’s just another added piece that we’re truly, truly excited about, and the people got a taste of what he brings early. Coming off of injury is great timing with LeBron’s circumstances. But we’re looking forward to that great addition and expecting him to be a bit of a spark plug for us.”
After a slow start with the Lakers quickly falling behind by 15, Russell led the Lakers on a 21-5 run in the second quarter, showing why the team valued him at the trade deadline.
His return also energized Dennis Schroder, who moved to the bench and was able to give more while being asked less, another playmaker and ballhandler back on the floor.
Without Russell, Schroder’s offense took a serious hit, the wear-and-tear of running the offense visibly wearing him down.
But Friday, he played with more pace and burst, something Ham said pregame he expected to see.
“It’s tough when you’re the only traditional point guard in the lineup,” Ham said. “Having [Russell] come out there and Dennis being able to see that initial wave and automatically know when he checks into the game what we need to do, what needs to be fixed or what needs to be sustained, it’s definitely a good luxury to have with [Russell] now being back in the lineup. Just that one-two punch. So when he sits down. we’ve got another orchestrator to come in and keep us organized and set a tone.”
Schroder was the fastest to loose balls, grabbing four steals while he scored 23.
“That energy trickles down to everyone else,” Reaves said.
And with the Lakers’ offense stuck in neutral against Toronto’s size and strength in the third, Reaves kept them just close enough. He ignited the crowd later in the half, driving through the middle of the court for a two-handed slam.
“We gave a really good effort,” Reaves said. “…We had to make a couple adjustments and just play harder.”
The Lakers went on a 32-11 run stretching between the third and the fourth to flip the game one final time.
“We always say ‘Don’t get discouraged. Get more competitive,’” Ham said.
BASKETBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Division I Boys: Sherman Oaks Notre Dame 67, Livermore Granada 58
Division III Boys: Oakland 59, Buena 43
Division V Boys: Lynwood 89, Tollhouse Sierra 58
Division I Girls: Oakland Tech 75, Corona Santiago 52
Division III Girls: Los Osos 65, Colfax 48
Division IV Girls: Shalhevet 50, San Anselmo San Domenico 46
at Golden 1 Center (Sacramento)
Division V Girls: Marina vs. Angels Camp Bret Harte, 10 a.m.
Division IV Boys: Valencia vs. Half Moon Bay, noon
Division II Girls: Chula Vista Bonita Vista vs. Fresno Central, 2 p.m.
Division II Boys: Newport Beach Pacifica Christian vs. Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, 4 p.m.
Open Division Girls: Etiwanda vs. San Jose Mitty, 6 p.m.
Open Division Boys: Harvard-Westlake vs. Santa Maria St. Joseph, 8 p.m.
In the fourth quarter of a chippy, emotional, bite-your-hot-dog-and-you-missed-it final, the jumbotron camera at Golden 1 Center zoomed into Oakland Tech coach LeRoy Hurt’s black sweater.
On the front read a Bulldog-yellow-colored stenciling of the words “Dog Food.” Complete with a picture of a bowl of, yes, dog food.
Absolutely impeccable work by the cameraman. Directly over the next couple of minutes, the Division I girls’ basketball state final between Oakland Tech and Corona Santiago hanging in the balance, the Bulldogs devoured what kibble was left en route to a dominant 75-52 win.
Marching into the postgame news conference, Hurt and his girls delivered an endless stream of quotables: feeling like they should’ve been an Open Division selection in state play, feeling a pride in the city of Oakland, feeling a whole lot of emotions that came out gloriously in smiles and claps and cheering from alumni in the back of the room.
“They don’t have the team speed we have … we’re bigger than them, we’re faster than them, we outshot them,” Hurt said postgame.
Bold. But true in a game where Oakland Tech forced 25 turnovers, simply putting their foot down in that fourth-quarter stretch as the Sharks’ free-flowing offense hit a dam.
By the time bodies started smacking the hardwood unusually hard and stares lingered a few seconds after whistles, it was clear these teams had at least some history, and indeed — slightly unusually for state matchups — they’d already faced each other in a regular-season tournament. In that game, Santiago came back from down double digits before ultimately falling, and brought confidence and resilience into Friday night’s matchup.
Except Oakland Tech had an “ace of spades,” as Hurt put it, in junior forward Taliyah Logwood, who didn’t play in that first matchup.
Logwood was chaos incarnate Friday, the 5-foot-9 forward zipping down the court for coast-to-coast finishes after forcing turnovers. In that fourth quarter, after the convenient “Dog Food” zoom, she spun over her right shoulder for a layup and then rejected a Santiago shot a few seconds later.
Nia Hunter darted in for a layup, and then a second later Erin Sellers ripped a steal and ducked in for a layup, and suddenly Oakland Tech was up 11 and running away to an eventual blowout.
“I just thought we wore them down,” Hurt said. “You saw the steals at the end. I mean, my kids could play another game right now.”
They certainly had the energy postgame, carrying the adrenaline from arena-wide chants of “O-T!” after the win, an Oakland team’s second big win of the night over a Southern California champion after the Oakland High boys beat Buena in the Division III final.
“It’s a parade inside my city,” Sellers said postgame, referencing the cry popularized by the Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant, her teammates roaring behind her.
The Sharks’ McKinley Willardson put up a valiant effort with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Logwood finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and three steals for Oakland Tech.
To see a 16-year-old sophomore basketball player blossom over the course of a five-month high school season and go from a player with potential to a player making three-pointers in an NBA arena and playing such suffocating defense that the other team’s star player is almost invisible explains how valuable 6-foot-8 Nikolas Khamenia has been during March Madness for Harvard-Westlake.
It culminated on the biggest stage at Golden 1 Center on Saturday night with Harvard-Westlake (33-2) validating itself as the No. 1 team in California after a 76-65 victory over Santa Maria St. Joseph in the state Open Division championship game. Though Harvard-Westlake has five starters who surely are headed to college, the player who elevated the Wolverines to state champion in the toughest division was Khamenia.
He took down three-time defending Southern Section Open Division Corona Centennial last week with a 20-point performance. This time, he was assigned to guard St. Joseph’s talented 6-8 Tounde Yessoufou, averaging 28.2 points. He limited him to six points in the first half and 14 points in 32 minutes. Khamenia also scored 16 points, making three three-pointers.
“Like anything, maturation takes its course, and he’s just matured,” coach David Rebibo said. “To see him blossom at this time of the year when the pressure is highest is incredible.”
Harvard-Westlake led at halftime 35-31. The Knights were able to hang around because 6-6 guard Luis Marin kept using his size to maneuver inside and had 15 points, making seven of his eight shots. As usual, the Wolverines were getting contributions from all five starters and Christian Horry came off the bench to make a baseline three-pointer that had his father, Robert, sitting courtside, feeling good.
In the third quarter, the Wolverines made a big adjustment. Brady Dunlap, at 6-8, was assigned to cover Marin, who suddenly stopped scoring. He made one shot the rest of the game. Harvard-Westlake went on a 7-0 surge and took a 48-35 lead.
The players who needed to come through did for Harvard-Westlake. Point guard Trent Perry, the Mission League player of the year, had 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. The 10 assists was a state record for the Open Division. Dunlap scored 16 points. Jacob Huggins had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The legacy of this Harvard-Westlake team might be in discussion for best in school history. The teams of 1996 and 1997 that won consecutive state Division III championships with the Collins twins, Jason and Jarron, have always been used as the measuring stick for basketball greatness. The 1997 team went 36-1, was ranked No. 1 in California and only lost to national power Mt. Zion Christian Academy of Durham, N.C. Going 33-2 with close losses to Henderson (Nev.) Liberty and Bellflower St. John Bosco were the lone defeats this season. And each time, the Wolverines responded with a vengeance, learning from their mistakes.
“I feel it humbled us,” Perry said of a playoff-pool play loss to St. John Bosco. “We came together and got it done.”
Said Rebibo: “Sometimes a reset is a good thing.”
The future is also bright.
Three of their five starters are underclassmen — Perry, Robert Hinton and Khamenia. Add Horry, the key sixth man, and developing freshman big man Dominique Bentho, and the Wolverines have the makings for another powerful starting lineup for 2023-24.
Arte Moreno just couldn’t do it. The Angels owner, who put the team up for sale in August, told Sports Illustrated he wasn’t ready to give up his team despite receiving three offers worth more than the record $2.42 billion Steve Cohen purchased the New York Mets for in 2020.
“I had some big numbers,” Moreno said in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci. “Yeah, it was above the Mets’ number. Well, it was considerably above the Mets’ number.
“I had one buyer come to [Angel Stadium] to close the deal,” he said, then recounted the exchange with the buyer. “When you got right down to it, I didn’t want to go.”
Moreno has not spoken to local media in three years. His interview with Verducci represented his first detailed comments about the Angels in at least two years.
He told SI that last year the Angels had five real trade offers for Shohei Ohtani and declared they would not trade him this year while they are contending for a playoff spot. Asked whether he would consider trading him if the Angels are not in playoff contention, Moreno replied:
“We expect to be a playoff contender. Everything in our plans putting this team together is about getting to the playoffs. So, I’m not going to sit here and wonder what happens in an outcome we’re not planning for. That would be like a fighter going into the ring and thinking, ‘What if I lose?’ If he does that, he will lose.”
While opening up about his decision not to sell, Moreno said his previous decision to put the team up for sale was not because he fell out of love with baseball.
“It was more circumstantial than it was a change of heart. It wasn’t a change of heart,” he said.
Moreno announced his decision to explore the sale of the team in August 2022. The team was 52-71 at the time and mathematically eliminated from the playoffs 27 days later.
Four months earlier, the Anaheim City Council killed the deal to sell Angel Stadium and its surrounding property to Moreno’s management company, which planned to develop the property and either renovate or replace the stadium. It was a swift effort to limit the fallout after an FBI affidavit revealed Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu was under investigation for public corruption, with investigators alleging he provided confidential city information to Moreno’s management company with the hope Angels executives would reciprocate with at least $1 million in donations supporting his re-election campaign.
The FBI never accused Moreno and the Angels of any wrongdoing and it was far from the only major company Sidhu and city representatives were accused of courting. Sidhu resigned and the council is still sorting through the fallout.
The corruption probe triggered a deeper look at the Angels’ lost decade, with fans booing Moreno during onfield celebrations as the club posted its seventh consecutive losing season. The Angels spent too heavily on a handful of stars who didn’t always stay healthy, failed to develop a farm system that ranks among the worst in baseball, had no plan for upgrading one of the oldest stadiums in baseball, cycled through four managers in five years and four general managers in 12 years and are defendants in two high-profile lawsuits — one a wrongful death claim following pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ overdose and the other a defamation claim filed by former clubhouse manager Bubba Harkins.
Moreno declined to say why he decided to put the team up for sale, but SI reported sources close to Moreno indicated he was shaken by the intense negative discourse surrounding the franchise.
“I sort of learned a long time ago, you know, some things are better left unsaid,” Moreno told SI when asked why he briefly put the team on the market.
Moreno said he was not cheap when it came to building a roster. He shared his thoughts on the luxury tax rules, explained why he voted against raising the luxury tax and noted that he doesn’t hate super spenders such as the Mets or Dodgers.
“I like the fact that people want to win,” he said. “But I just would like everybody to have a chance. Like if somebody came to my house [for a card game] and everybody is putting a thousand dollars in and one guy puts in a hundred, I mean, how many hands can he play? It’s just no fun.”
He said although he has not always spent money on players who panned out, he has still invested in trying to win.
“We have been in the last eight to 10 years in the top 10 payrolls. I can’t tell you we’ve always spent the money right. But we spent money,” he said. “So, if anybody criticizes me that I’m not committed to winning, well, I am committed to winning.”
With barely a minute remaining in a blowout of Porterville College in mid-December, Cerritos College basketball coach Russ May was faced with a heart-tugging dilemma.
“C’mon coach, let him play!”
Sitting at the end of his bench was Kade West, a 20-year-old who is deaf and autistic. His hands were folded in prayer. He was silently pleading to play in his first game.
West had been hanging around the fringes of the junior college team for more than a year, trying to impress, hoping to belong, shooting countless shots each day at a rickety basket in the alley behind his house, showing up for every practice at the Cerritos gym and playing until it had emptied.
May was so awed by his resilient effort that he added West to this season’s roster to serve as a bench-warming inspiration. West celebrated the awarding of his new No. 15 uniform as if he had just joined the Lakers.
There was one problem. Because West’s special needs prevented him from completing the required 12 academic units required to play, he needed an eligibility waiver from the California Community College Athletic Assn. Despite the family’s best efforts, the waiver appeal had not yet been processed. When the game against Porterville had reached its final 1:39, West was still not yet officially allowed to play.
Yet suddenly, that didn’t seem to matter. The team’s players and assistant coaches and even fans were begging for one shining moment.
“Coach, coach, put him in!”
May looked down at the end of the bench and sighed. The game was in Visalia and West’s family had paid his way so he could travel with the team. This could be the fulfillment of a dream of a player who didn’t let an inability to hear or speak or read above a third-grade level stop him from playing his way into the Falcons’ hearts. His teammates would applaud him by waving both hands in the air. The Cerritos fans would cheer him by stomping their feet on the bleachers so he could feel the vibration.
May couldn’t help himself. He knew Kade West wasn’t officially on the team, but, at that moment, no one on the team was more important. May looked down to the praying figure. He motioned to the court. It was a gesture he knew West would understand.
“Get in there, Kade.”
West shot out of his seat. He raced into the action. He sprinted up and down for those final moments while working up the sweat of a lifetime. He took one shot, and missed it, but by the time Cerritos had finished off an 81-60 victory, he was being cheered by the tearful Porterville fans, hugged by everyone in sight, and celebrated for representing all that is right about this increasingly cold world of sports.
“I know the rules, but the human part of me took over,” said May. “It was an incredible moment.”
Followed, sadly, by a series of even more incredible moments.
May was suspended for a game. Cerritos was ordered to forfeit the victory. And West was temporarily stripped of his uniform.
The extra loss cost the Falcons a first-round bye in the postseason tournament, where they distractedly lost that opening game to lower-seeded Copper Mountain in double overtime, their sterling season collapsing under the weight of the kindest of gestures.
The CCCAA had dropped the hammer, Cerritos College had administered the blow, and what was once so beautiful became broken.
May is still stunned.
“Yes, I broke a bylaw, but is this what our society has become?” he said. “Shouldn’t this be something we celebrate?”
Lucy Favro, West’s great aunt and caretaker, is still disheartened.
“It was such a beautiful moment, Coach May and the team saved Kade’s life, and then…how could that have happened?” she said.
Kade West still cries.
“It’s all my fault,” he signed.
In an alley behind a Long Beach bungalow, the definition of determination can be found on the bodies of a light gray Kia and dark gray Honda.
The cars, parked next to a basketball goal, are riddled with pock marks.
Kade West plays here.
“You can see how much he practices by the number of dents on the hoods,” said his cousin and guardian Sasha Svimonoff, smiling. “But, you know, they’re just cars.”
This is where West, a bearded 5-foot-10 force of nature, retreated in the spring of 2021 upon the death of his mother Dijana from bladder cancer.
He had lost the woman who raised him. He was lost in a world that didn’t quite know how to handle deafness and autism. He had no close friends, only bad childhood memories.
Growing up in Long Beach, he attended schools that literally strapped him down in his school-bus seat to control him. Despite the best efforts of his single mother, he had bounced around from classroom to classroom, passed off from one wretched situation to another by those unable to deal with his unique condition.
He finally found stability during his high school years at the Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, Mass. However, when he returned home upon completing the program, his mother was dying and his options were limited.
“He had been through a lot of trauma,” said Favro. “He needed something to help him survive.”
He found that escape in basketball, a sport he began playing as a 15-year-old. He loved it because it was a sport he could practice alone, a place he could be judged only by his effort.
“Basketball leveled the playing field,” said Svimonoff. “Basketball was a way he could communicate.”
Upon his mother’s death, he began playing so much, he would dribble the air out of his weathered basketballs. Soon the television in the bungalow’s family room was constantly tuned to YouTube videos of 15-year-old Lakers games. Soon a list of traits inspired by Kobe Bryant was carefully printed on a piece of yellow note paper taped to his wall, ideals like humility, unity, discipline, thankfulness.
“I love basketball, I adore it, it’s my girlfriend,” he recently signed. “Basketball is my whole world.”
Then, that summer, West’s family signed him up for a Cerritos College basketball class taught by Russ May, and the Falcons joined that world.
“He came up to me and said he wanted to play in the NBA,” said May. “And he worked like it.”
Through interpreters provided by the school, West would grill May and his coaches about how he could improve, then he would stay late after class to hone those skills. He joined several recreation leagues around Long Beach. When the Falcons began practice, he began showing up with the team, chasing balls, helping on drills, an unofficial manager.
“Kade worked harder than all of us,” said Jalen Shores, a sophomore point guard. “He would be there an hour before us, stay an hour after us. The love he has for basketball, he worked super hard, we were feeling for him.”
He stayed on the fringes of the team the entire 2021-22 season and remained with them last summer when he made a decision.
“He cut his hair, shaved his beard, and said he wanted to look nice because he was trying out for the team,” said Favro.
How could May put him on the roster? How could he not?
“He outworked everybody, he had so much hustle, so much determination, what choice did I have?” said May. “Kade had earned his spot.”
He warned West that he might not play very much. He didn’t even give him a uniform until after they had played four games. But, goodness, that uniform … West was so excited he grabbed whatever he was handed without checking the size.
“He comes home and it’s a XXL and he’s swimming in it,” said Svimonoff. “He doesn’t care. He puts it on and announces how good he looks.”
The family applied to the CCCAA for the waiver appeal on Nov. 17 with the understanding that Cerritos already possessed the necessary paperwork. They were later told they needed to provide transcripts, a letter detailing his necessary accommodations and an explanation of his educational capabilities, which they did on Dec. 3.
The CCCAA and its Disability Appeals Board has a combined 12 working days to render a decision. When the team took its first road trip of the year to Visalia in mid-December, even though the Falcons had already played 10 games and the family had initially applied a month earlier, the waiver had not yet been granted.
“I just wanted someone to hear Kade’s story. But nobody would listen.”
— Russ May, on his appeal to the CCCAA
May informed the family that he was not yet eligible and should stay home. West went anyway, paying his own expenses just for a chance to hang out on the road with his guys. This is the same welcoming group that once invited West to join them on a bowling outing, marking another milestone.
“Kade told us it was the first time anybody had ever invited him anywhere,” said Favro.
He wanted to be in Visalia. His teammates wanted him to be in Visalia. And with 1:39 remaining and his team leading Porterville by 20, May wanted West on that court.
“I just thought, isn’t this what sports is all about?” he said.
After West’s brief appearance, he FaceTimed several members of his extended family with the dazed smile of a champion.
“He was over the moon,” said Favro. “Those two minutes meant the world to him.”
Yet that 1 minute and 39 seconds also meant enough trouble to damage a season.
First, the CCCAA suspended May for a game, the reasoning explained by executive director Jennifer Cardone in an email response to this columnist’s questions.
“The suggestion to suspend Coach May for at least one game was made to Cerritos College and the South Coast Conference after I learned that the coach intentionally played a student-athlete while ineligible…” Cardone wrote.
May did not argue.
“I wasn’t happy about it, but I accepted it, I understood it, fine, we move on,” he said.
But then it got worse. Four days after the Porterville game, when West showed up at the school for a trip to San Diego County, a school official refused to give him his uniform.
When the other players weren’t looking, West broke down in tears.
“Kade is in a crack in the system, nobody knows what to do with him. The only people that have really shown him patience, respect and allowed him to be himself are the Cerritos basketball team.”
— Sasha Svimonoff, Kade West’s cousin and guardian
“He was heartbroken,” said Svimonoff. “He thought they had thrown him off the team. He just couldn’t understand.”
Rory Natividad, dean of athletics at Cerritos College, explained that the school was simply following the directive of the CCCAA.
“Unfortunately, the situation we’re in, we had to respond, obviously to the bylaws,” he said, adding, “Our normal process is that we don’t issue uniforms until they’re eligible…after we got the letter from the commissioner, we obviously had to respond at that point until we got the clearance.”
West was denied the uniform for two games before he was cleared for the rest of the season. But wait, it gets even worse. After assuming they were finished paying the price for their good deed, the Cerritos team was later ordered to forfeit the Porterville game. The loss eventually dropped their final record to 19-10 and lowered their postseason enough to cost them a first-round bye. West was certain he had caused all of it.
“He was devastated,” said May. “He was stigmatized.”
Cardone cited the precise wording in the association bylaws that mandates a “forfeiture of the contest,” in the event of “participation of an ineligible student-athlete.”
“The men’s basketball program intentionally played an ineligible student-athlete,” she wrote.
May had accepted the suspension, but the forfeit was too much. He sent emails to each of the 12 CCCAA board members. He didn’t receive one response.
“I just wanted someone to hear Kade’s story,” he said. “But nobody would listen.”
In her email, Cardone said her association supports student-athletes like West.
“Russ May and Cerritos College are to be commended for providing Mr. West an opportunity to be a part of something as valuable as being a member of a team,” she wrote. “The inclusion and compassion showed by the coaches and student-athletes exemplifies what we’re trying to do.”
If that is really the case, in Kade West’s situation they miserably failed.
West quickly recovered from the humiliation. He always does. He finished the season with five appearances for 10 total minutes while sinking two baskets and a free throw.
“What happened wasn’t fair at all, but no hard feelings, and Kade kept working,” said Shores. “Every day at practice he would smile at us, wave to us, hug us, give us high fives, bring the same energy every single time.”
There are a couple of video snippets of his triumphant plays. One of them is hard to watch. As the play proceeds, the videographer’s hand begins to shake.
“The person taking the video is stomping their feet like the rest of the crowd,” said Svimonoff.
West plans to play during his sophomore season. May plans on having him back. They will have to endure the waiver appeal process again. They say it’s worth it.
“I don’t guarantee any players spots on next year’s team but let’s just say, it will be difficult for me to foresee a reason not to have him on the team,” said May, who will be entering his 15th season.
West said he will earn that spot.
“Coach May cares for me,” he signed. “He won’t give up on me. I’ll practice hard and do the best I can.”
May said if faced again with the choice of playing an ineligible West, “I wouldn’t do anything different.”
Indeed, by summoning that praying player at the end of the bench, May did more than just make a substitution, he helped change a life.
West is now working with a teacher on marketing a line of athletic clothing adorned with the logo K.A.D.E…Keep Advocating for Deaf Empowerment.
“Kade is in a crack in the system, nobody knows what to do with him,” said Svimonoff. “The only people that have really shown him patience, respect and allowed him to be himself are the Cerritos basketball team.”
After the final game of the season, after May had delivered his final locker room speech and the final tear had been shed, a couple of kids started shooting baskets in the Cerritos gym.
West returned to the court in his street clothes and started playing with them. His family was waiting in the stands to take him home. He kept playing. And playing. And playing. They sat there for an hour. In a world that had now been opened, he once again closed down the gym.
“I love my team,” Kade West signed. “And my team loves me.”
The Rams, in a major move to rebound from a disastrous 2022 season and to build draft capital, have agreed to trade star cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins, a person with knowledge of the situation said Sunday.
The person requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about a transaction that will not become official until the start of the NFL’s new league year on Wednesday.
In exchange for Ramsey, the Rams acquire tight end Hunter Long and third-round pick in the upcoming draft. The Rams now have 11 picks in the draft, though they have not had a first-round pick since 2016, when they traded up a record 14 spots to select quarterback Jared Goff with the first pick.
The trade did not come as a surprise to Ramsey, the fifth player selected in the 2016 draft. After the season, he hinted several times on social media that he was aware he might be dealt.
“I prayed for this specifically for about a month & now it’s happening!,” Ramsey tweeted. “@MiamiDolphins LETSGO!”
I prayed for this specifically for about a month & now it’s happening! 🙏🏾@MiamiDolphins LETSGO! 🧡
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) March 12, 2023
Ramsey was acquired by the Rams near midseason in 2019 in a trade that sent two first-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The three-time All-Pro was a cornerstone for a Rams team that won Super Bowl LVI to end the 2021 season.
In 2020, Ramsey signed a five-year, $100-million extension that included $71.2 million in guarantees, at the time the largest contract for a defensive back in NFL history.
Ramsey, 28, is scheduled to carry a salary-cap number of $25.2 million in the upcoming season, according to overthecap.com.
The cap for the 2023 season is $224.8 million. As of Feb. 21, the Rams were about $15 million over the cap, according to overthecap.com.
Trading Ramsey is the Rams’ third move involving a star player since they finished 5-12, the worst season-after performance by a Super Bowl champion in NFL history.
On Feb. 23, the Rams and linebacker Bobby Wagner agreed to part ways after one season. Last week, the Rams released edge rusher Leonard Floyd.
In three-plus seasons with the Rams, Ramsey intercepted 10 passes, including two in last season’s finale against the Seattle Seahawks. He also made several victory-clinching plays.
In 2020, under then defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, Ramsey’s role in the Rams expanded beyond shutdown cornerback. He played on the outside and inside, and he also lined up as a safety, hybrid linebacker and pass rusher.
Raheem Morris, who replaced Staley, continued to utilize Ramsey at multiple positions.
Ramsey’s departure leaves the Rams with a huge void in the secondary. Cornerbacks Troy Hill and David Long Jr. and safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott are pending free agents.