Photo by John Napalan/Art O’Neill
Only Compton has been able to force their way into the last decade of green and gold Moore League dominance, splitting their regular season series with the Jackrabbits in 2015-16 to force a co-championship that year. This year’s Compton squad wants to do more than share the championship this season: they’re gunning for the school’s first outright title since 2007-08, when DeMar DeRozan was leading them.
Compton leader Jabari Steward isn’t shy about his team’s goals, either.
“Oh we’re going to beat Poly this year, I’m going to work them,” he said. “They’re going down for sure.”
Regardless of the opponent, this year’s Compton team has a unique advantage in the senior Steward, a true center that stands 6’8”, 235 pounds. Compton has not only a genuine big man in Steward, one who can bang in the post but also pass out to open shooters, they also have a completely different style of play than most teams.
“We’re a little more inside out now, most teams can’t play that way,” said longtime Compton coach Tony Thomas. “It’s a little challenging having a big man be your leader because the game is played on the perimeter now, but because Jabari can pass, we have a lot of options.”
The team will have a full rotation with all 11 players seeing the floor each game. Thomas is excited about his staring lineup, which should feature Justice Curry and Patrick Johnson, giving Compton a pair of point guards.
“That helps a lot, because we can push the ball up the floor on either side, and we’ve got multiple guys who can find Jabari on an entry pass,” said Thomas.
Other key contributors for the team will be Damien Juarez and Isaiah Daniel, but Thomas admitted his team will likely go as far as their big man takes them. Steward is drawing plenty of mid-major scholarship interest, including from Long Beach State.
“When he’s being aggressive, he’s a 25 and 15 guy every night,” said Thomas. “It’s up to him, he has every skill and he’s our senior, he’s our returning All-League guy.”
“We’ve all been putting in a lot of work,” said Steward. “Now hopefully it pays off.”