•Salute to Nick Barnett:We just love guys like Nick Barnett, the linebacker from A.B. Miller High of Fontana and Oregon State who keep improving year after year and eventually become first-round picks. These are the players all current high schoolers who aren't mentioned frequently by recruiting services, web sites (like ours) and specialty publications should hear about. Talk about being a role model. Nick was a slightly undersized linebacker and tight end at A.B. Miller who wasn't good enough and didn't play in enough games as a senior to even be first-team all-league. He did carry a 3.8 GPA and did attract some college interest, so Oregon State became his home. Barnett continued to work hard and improve every season he was in Corvallis. His breakthrough season came just last fall as he was named first team All-Pac10. Barnett was taken with the 29th pick of the first round by the Green Bay Packers. Nick didn't get much notice from us or anybody else when he played for the Rebels. Just look at him now. Maybe some of those we did write up a lot will notice Nick when he's in line at the bank. And we can just about guarantee that some kid this year who isn't all-state, all-CIF, Hot 100 or all-anything else will wind up as a first-round pick because that kid kept on working hard at improving himself and never gave up on his goals.
•More NFL Draft: In addition to Carson Palmer and Nick Barnett, the other two Californians who were chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft were No. 19 Kyle Boller (Newhall Hart) by the Ravens and No. 30 Nnamdi Asomugha (Harbor City Narbonne) by the Raiders. Troy Polamalu of USC, the No. 16 pick of the first round, is the cousin of former Mater Dei back Nicky Sualua, but Polamalu went to high school in Oregon. California's total of four in the first-round was eclipsed by Florida's total of five. Georgia (three), Texas (two) and Washington (two) were the only other states with more than one.
•Don't Tell The Journalism Authorities: Rooting in a press area is a big no-no at a sporting event, but I admit to doing it last Friday at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia. Guilty as charged. It's hard not to at the Penn Relays -- perhaps the most amazing event involving high school athletes in the nation with 22,000 actual competitors -- when the thousands of Jamaican supporters start waving their flags and chant, "Ja-May-Cah." They were doing it during the two girls Championship of America relays last Friday, but the Jamaican teams who usually do so well at the Penn Relays were no match this time for Long Beach Poly. The way the Jackrabbits ran and also the way they represented their school and their state sent chills down my spine. How could I not stand up and shout when Shalonda Solomon was putting the finishing touches on a 51.6 relay split that gave Poly a national record in the 4x400 relay? This was on the heels of the Jackrabbits going 44.97 in the 4x100 and nearly breaking the national record.
•More on Poly's Penn Relays Trip: This was the fourth time since 1995 that coach Don Norford has taken both his boys and girls teams to Franklin Field. And the Jackrabbits have been noticed. I saw many East Coast athletes turn their heads whenever a Poly sprinter walked by. I overheard two reporters from New Jersey newspapers talking about how well-known the school is in football and other sports. And still others talked about how classy all the Poly boys, girls and coaches handled themselves. The team's first trip to Philly was paid, in part, from a donation by NFL player Mark Carrier. This time, Norford said that help came from NFL player Omar Stoutmire. "The good thing is that I don't have to ask the same guy in the NFL every time," Norford said. "We have so many that I can spread it around."
•Leading The State In Baseball RBI: You won't guess this one because it's a player who's actually from a school that is not a member of the California Interscholastic Federation. He's Bobby Habeger and he goes to North Tahoe High of Tahoe City. Still, we don't know of anybody with 60 RBI in California this year and that's the total Bobby has incredibly run up so far this year for the Lakers. Habeger crushed a pair of homers in a win last week to reach the 60 RBI total and was just one RBI away from the reported Nevada state record. The shortstop had led North Tahoe to a 20-3 record
•No Clue: USA Today's first baseball rankings of the year were, of course, an absolute joke. They included Rancho Bernardo of San Diego at No. 9 and had La Costa Canyon nowhere (not even in the regionals). This is despite the fact that La Costa Canyon has just one loss and is No. 1 among prep sportswriters in San Diego and Rancho Bernardo was No. 6 in the same poll. Any prep sportswriter who continues to plug this junk (and some in California mention USA Today even more than Cal-Hi Sports) simply has their head buried in the sand.
Baseball League Losing Streaks: Livermore edged town rival Granada 5-4 in baseball two weeks ago to end a 40-game league losing streak. Livermore is the school that produced Major League pitching standout Randy Johnson, a Cy Young Trophy winner. An even longer league baseball losing streak also ended last week, when L.A. Jordan defeated Huntington Park, 7-4. It was Jordan's first league win since 1997.
Tyson KOs Alameda: The Eureka baseball team downed Alameda 5-4 when Mike Tyson slugged a game-winning two-out double in the bottom of the seventh.
Tayloring One Hit Apiece: When Gardena edged San Pedro 1-0 in a Marine League baseball game, winning pitcher Montel Taylor gave up just one hit while striking out six. On the other side, Steve Taylor also allowed just one hit for San Pedro while striking out seven. In a twist of fate, the winning run was scored on a wild pitch.
Seeing Double: When the highly regarded California of Whittier softball team downed Pioneer of Whittier 6-0 last week, Jennifer Davis hurled a perfect game with 16 strikeouts. Meanwhile at the plate, another Jennifer, Jennifer Griffin, hit for the cycle and had four RBI. As if that wasn't enough, the pair also ganged up on Santa Fe of Santa Fe Springs last week, with Davis pitching a 15-strikeout, one-hitter and Griffin driving in the only run of the game with an RBI single.
Coaching Milestones: Softball coach Del January from Buchanan of Clovis posted his 500th win on April 22 when the Bears beat Madera, 4-2, in a Tri-City Athletic Conference game. January became the first coach in Central Section history to achieve the milestone and only the third reported in state history. The other two are Carlmont's Jim Liggett and Fairfield's Ron Clarke. In baseball, two to reach 400 in the same week were Woodbridge of Irvine's Bob Flint and Clovis' James Patrick. Flint won his 400th when Woodbridge downed Laguna Hills 5-4. Patrick won his 400th when Clovis blanked Hoover of Fresno, 4-0. At Lowell of San Francisco, meanwhile, John Donahue now has over 450 wins in 21 seasons. Lowell has won its first 12 league games and was 19-8 overall at the time.
Twenty Was Not Enough: Washington of San Francisco scored 20 runs in a baseball game last week against S.F. Galileo. Unfortunately for Washington, Galileo scored its 21st run in the bottom of the seventh. Both teams used four pitchers. The 20 runs by Washington, though, is not a state record for most runs in a loss. That "honor" belongs to Manual Arts of Los Angeles, which lost a baseball game to Los Angeles in 1983 by the score of 27-25. And last week in Nevada, Alamo High lost a game by 32-31 to Mountain View.
•New Schools Update: Our good friend Phil Marquez of Fullerton says that he's noted the following new schools that have opened this year: Knight High of Lancaster/Palmdale, Vista Murietta of Murietta, Glen Avon of the Riverside area and Junipero Serra of San Juan Capistrano. Nipomo of Arroyo Grande, Franklin of Elk Grove and Evergreen Valley of San Jose also should be open and should have varsity teams in all sports next year. Phil says he thinks there is a public high school on the horizon in San Juan Capistrano and added there are three schools that have yet opened or have broken ground: Beckman High of Tustin, unnamed HS in Yorba Linda and unnamed HS in Colton. We also have noticed that ground has broken and work has begun on the new Cesar Chavez High of Stockton. As for that unnamed HS in Yorba Linda, we'll say it again: Richard M. Nixon High. He was and is, after all, the only native Californian ever elected President of the United States.