Monday, February 14, 2005

Chandler star's scoring spree creates pointed debate- this is a good article

I grew up with Isaac Bonds oldest son, he was a really good ball player too. Unfortunately for him he didn't have his fathers height... It's good to see his dad is so encouraging of a kid that may break his record of 40+ years!
Richard Obert
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 14, 2005 12:00 AM

Westbrook takes the ball inbounds, dribbles by five Brophy players and scores. He is knocked to the floor, quickly gets up and completes the three-point play.

It was a late December game and the 6-foot junior guard used his body as a wrecking ball in the lane to bring Chandler back from a double-digit deficit to win in overtime. He finished with 47 points.

Ten days earlier, Westbrook had 53 points, scoring all of his team's 31 fourth-quarter points, but the Wolves lost to Camelback.

In January, after being suspended for two games, Westbrook had a career-high 57 points in a loss to Gilbert Mesquite.

He ended the regular season averaging 40.0 points in 21 games. The state season-scoring average record is 40.1, set in 1964 by Isaac Bonds at Winslow. A Winslow resident and close friend of Bonds recently attended a Chandler game and told Westbrook that Bonds is pulling for him. It's safe to say that Westbrook will break current Sacramento Kings point guard Mike Bibby's 5A season-scoring record of 34.5, set during his junior season at Shadow Mountain in 1995.

Westbrook, whose last game could come Tuesday night in the first round of the Fiesta Region tournament, has become the opposing team's target and, for the first two-thirds of the season, was the target in Internet chat rooms, where Westbrook has been described as selfish and the team a picture of dysfunction.

"I don't think he's intentionally being selfish," Camelback coach Brad Pinter said. "He's using that talent.

"Against us, he shot the three in the fourth quarter, and, when he's hitting the three-point shot, he's impossible to guard."

Lighting it up

The way Westbrook started out, some wondered how much wear his body could take in a season. At the season's halfway mark, coach Mike Ellsworth moved Westbrook to shooting guard from the point. He goes back and forth.

But it hasn't changed Westbrook, a thick-skinned kid whose first cousin is Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook, who often reminds Lawrence that people are going to take shots at him, and he needs to be ready for that.

"In the game, you want to hit the open man, have respect for the game," Westbrook said. "But I've been a scorer all my life. Coaches tell me that I have everything I need in a player. I'm unguardable. You want to get assists, but my job is to get points. If I don't, we don't have a chance to win."

Cocky or confident?

It's a mixture of both, and, as much as Westbrook likes to shoot, there isn't a player in the state who can contain him man-on-man. Mostly, he runs into traps, double-teams, box-and-ones. And still gets his points.

Early in the season, he was getting many of them from the free-throw line. He has made 221 of 258 free throws, an 85.6 percent average. He has made 61 of 162 three-pointers (37.6 percent) and 209 of 424 field goals (49 percent). He averages two assists and six rebounds.

"I'm not going to the line as much as I did in the beginning of the season," Westbrook said. "I get publicity, and the refs have big egos and they want to humble me and don't give me any calls. They're trying to make me earn it."

He earns it with a chip on his shoulder and a sleeve around his right shooting elbow. It is something he's worn since Christmas, and Ellsworth doesn't ask about it.

He said he has been playing with pain and swelling in the elbow most of the season and will have a magnetic resonance imaging exam after the season.

"It mostly hurts when I hit the ground," Westbrook said.

Adrenaline takes over, and Westbrook is by his Trevor Browne man and launches up a soft shot between two defenders in the lane, his body twisting in midair.

The ball goes in. He is fouled. And he's at the line again.

"Whenever I've seen Lawrence play, I thought he took good shots," said Jeff Schneider, former head coach at Cal Poly, who coached Westbrook in the summer on his High Five Arizona AAU club team that traveled to out of state for tournaments. "He scored a lot of points for me, but he took good shots.

"I thought he was a really good team player. His role is to score points. I've never seen anyone consistenly get to the rim like that. He can shoot unlimited range. When Lawrence played on my team, you never miss him. If he is open, he gets the ball. It's that simple."

When Ellsworth left Trevor Browne after 13 years last summer to take the Chandler job, he told Westbrook that he would have the green light.

That was something that kept Westbrook from searching out other schools, after 6-6 guard Joey Shaw transferred to Glendale Deer Valley for his senior season.

Westbrook was left as the sole leader, a role he gladly accepted. But he travels a fine line between individualism and team ball.

"If Lawrence scores all the points, we can't win," Ellsworth said. "If Lawrence scores a lot of points and other guys score, we can win. Lawrence wants to win.

"We're starting to have some fun."

The road ahead

Chandler's season could end Tuesday in the first round of the Fiesta Region tournament against Gilbert, a team that has beaten the Wolves twice.

The Wolves are 10-14, and the debate rages on whether a player from a lowly team can be the state's Player of the Year.

"The funny thing about it, Lawrence has probably had a lot to do with what's on the court, his production and trying to do what he's been asked to do by the coach," Larry Westbrook, Lawrence's father, said. "Sometimes, that becomes politicky. But the fact of the matter is, he's got little to do with the controversy. All he's doing is playing basketball."

Two weeks ago, after Chandler beat Casa Grande and Gilbert Highland and Westbrook had 41 and 36 points, respectively, all was good on the Chandler front.

"He's just a beast of a player and he wants to win," said Shawn Deadwiler Sr., whose son, Shawn Jr., shares the backcourt with Westbrook. "I think Lawrence is playing just like a team player should play."

Westbrook doesn't put any limits on himself, and he eats up the praises heaped on him.

He said NBA teams have looked at him and, if given the opportunity, he will try to make that jump straight from high school. But the only 6-foot guard to go straight from high school to the NBA is Sebastian Telfair, the 13th overall pick of the 2004 draft, by the Portland Trail Blazers. It is mainly reserved for big men.But dreams have no height limit to Westbrook.

"I think it's a possibility," he said about making the jump from high school to the NBA. "Anybody who has an opportunity to go out of high school, I think he'd be stupid to pass up the money."

State high school season-scoring records

Scoring punch
A game-by-game breakdown of junior guard Lawrence Westbrook's points

Update: The Arizona Republic: Westbrook gets 43, tops scoring record

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