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Fryer: Athletes playing for travel teams this summer could be bad for high schools Fryer: Athletes playing for travel teams this summer could be bad for high schools
High school athletes are playing sports again. And that might not be good for high school sports. Some Orange County baseball players are taking... Fryer: Athletes playing for travel teams this summer could be bad for high schools

High school athletes are playing sports again.

And that might not be good for high school sports.

Some Orange County baseball players are taking part in activities with their travel ball teams in locations like Amerige Park in Fullerton. Many others are playing in games and tournaments out of state.

Baseball players at Huntington Beach, JSerra and Orange Lutheran high schools in recent weeks have been playing in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Nevada where COVID-19 restrictions are not as strict as they are in California.

Club basketball tournaments are coming up outside of our state. The Las Vegas Quarantine Classic is set to begin Friday, June 26.

If high school athletes go to some of those places, where reports have COVID-19 cases on the rise, and return to their high school teams with the virus …

Is that reason for concern in CIF Southern Section athletics, with the school year starting in a couple of months?

“Absolutely,” said CIF-SS commissioner Rob Wigod.

“That’s really important to think about while outside organizations are gearing up their activities. People are saying, ‘Well, clubs are doing this and schools aren’t keeping up,’ but schools have to think of academics first before high school teams can return to practicing and playing. Schools have to be focused on the whole picture while club teams focus only on sports.

“I’m not saying that club teams would do something risky on purpose or are being unsafe. It’s just that they have different priorities than we do.”

Commissioners of the 10 CIF sections and CIF State leadership had a conference-call meeting Monday and will have another next week. They have set July 20 as the date when a decision will be made as to whether fall sports can start on time or should be delayed to perhaps January.

July 20 is a good date for the decision – it’s early enough for fall sports to get ready for August practices and games and late enough so that nobody would be side-swiped by a decision to delay.

Between now and July 20, what happens outside of the boundaries of high school-run sports and what happens inside of the club sports and travel ball world, could affect the decisions announced on July 20.

“If kids bring the virus back to their campuses when it’s time to resume school,” Wigod said, “that could be a real problem.”


• The CIF-SS comprises more than 570 schools from seven counties and the school districts within those counties are “reopening” differently, with some more aggressive than others. Wigod said the CIF-SS office is considering that as it prepares for the 2020-21 high school sports season. “We respect those schools and districts that won’t be able to bring their teams back or aren’t comfortable bringing teams back as soon as others,” Wigod said. “We will respect that, and there won’t be penalties or negative reactions to those decisions.”

• It usually takes something special for someone to move out of Carlsbad. Amanda Waters sees her new job as Mater Dei’s athletic director as special enough to leave Carlsbad High where she was the A.D. “I want a bigger program,” Waters said, “and I love the challenge of going to a school we at Carlsbad wouldn’t want to play.”

• Luke Turner, a 6-foot-6 basketball forward who will be a senior this coming school year, has transferred to Santa Margarita from Rancho Christian of Temecula. Last season, Turner — based on the 16 games of statistics entered at — was his team’s leading 3-point shooter with 27 made 3s. He averaged 10 points and four rebounds in those 16 games.

• Basketball practices this summer are different, of course. At Tustin, for example, every player shoots around by himself at his own basket. Everything, even the backboard, is sanitized before use by another player.

• Mater Dei boys basketball coach Gary McKnight is running practices unlike any he has overseen since he started coaching the Monarchs in 1983. “A lot of shooting drills and conditioning,” said McKnight whose win-loss record is 1,161-118. “No passing drills, no contact whatsoever, coaches are wearing masks the whole time and when we talk everyone’s all spread out.”

• Mater Dei senior-to-be Wilhelm Breidenbach (6-8), an All-County first-team selection last season, is being recruited by St. Mary’s, Nebraska, Marquette, Michigan and Utah. Monarchs forward Nick Davidson, also 6-8 and a senior this coming school year, has George Washington, Nevada and UC Santa Barbara in pursuit. All-County first-team forward Harrison Hornery (6-9) of Mater Dei committed to USC months ago.

• Senior-to-be guard Houston Mallette (6-4) of Pacifica Christian, one of the county’s better returning boys basketball players, is a Penn State commit.

• Rob Jones was promoted to head coach of the girls basketball team at Capistrano Valley. He replaces Ollie Martin, who retired after the 2019-20 season, concluding a long career that included tenures at Ocean View and Mater Dei. Jones was an assistant to Martin the past three seasons and was the Cougars’ junior varsity girls basketball head coach and has been an assistant coach for the school’s football team.

• Two O.C. teams were CIF State Academic Team Champions for the 2019-20 school year: Calvary Chapel (3.98 cumulative grade-point average) in girls basketball and Sage Hill (3.66 GPA) in football.

• The Newport Rib Company annually has a banquet for the spring sports teams at Costa Mesa’s two high schools, Costa Mesa and Estancia. Newport Rib could not do that inside its restaurant this year, so it held a drive-thru banquet in its parking lot June 16. Newport Rib’s support of county athletics has been superb for decades.

• Mission Viejo All-County defensive lineman Lance Keneley was one of 82 players, from a pool of more than 3,500 candidates, named to the National Football Foundation’s 2020 Team of Distinction. Keneley has a 4.71 GPA and is going to Stanford. His ‘thank you, parents” address at the NFF’s Orange County Chapter Scholar-Athlete Dinner was among the best speeches at that event in the past 20 years.