LOS ANGELES — National signing day for high school football players Feb. 3 was a dream fulfilled for about two dozen local players who were among the 150 top players in the state to sign letters of intent, according to 247sports.com.
The top player in the state, according to the website, was Mique Juarez, the quarterback-linebacker from North Torrance High School, who was the CIF Southern Section Player of the Year. Juarez will play linebacker for the UCLA Bruins next year, and could move in the Myles Jack’s old starting slot by the end of spring football.
Six players from St. John Bosco were on 247sports’ top 150 list, but only four of them committed last week. Running back Sean McGrew signed with the University of Washington, safety D.J. Morgan signed with Notre Dame, defensive back Traveon Beck signed with California, and quarterback Quentin Davis signed with Fresno State.
Wide receiver Anselem Umeh and safety Malik Street have yet to commit.
Serra High had five players among the top 150, including defensive end Oluwole Betiku, who signed with USC. Safety C.J. Pollard will join Betiku at USC, while another safety. Brandon Burton, signed with UCLA. Offensive lineman Nick Harris will play at the University of Washington and quarterback Khalil Tate signed with Arizona as an athlete, meaning his future could be at wide receiver or on defense.
Four players from Narbonne signed letters of intent. Offensive lineman Alex Akingbulu is going to UCLA, wide receiver Devaughan Cooper signed with Arizona, all purpose back Sean Riley signed with Syracuse and safety Jamal Hicks signed with Colorado State.
Downey High has three players sign letters of intent. Linebacker Darrian Franklin signed with Oregon, defensive back Jalen Thompson signed with Washington State and all-purpose back Daevon Vigilant signed with New Mexico State.
Other area players signing letters of intent included Windward High defensive end Breland Brandt, who will attend UCLA; Davir Hamilton of Verbum Dei, who is listed as an athlete on Utah’s signing list; quarterback Armani Rogers from Hamilton High, who will attend UNLV; wide receiver Renard Bell from Cathedral High, who will attend Washington State; Morningside wide receiver Adarrus Wilson, who will attend San Jose State; and Loyola defensive backs David Long and Myles Bryant, who will attend Michigan and University of Washington, respectively.
STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON: Speaking of college signings, the Compton College Tartars had eight players sign with four-year colleges Feb. 3.
Defensive back Sylvester Winston, out of Compton Dominguez High School, has signed with Southern Utah University; defensive back Abdul Castaneda, out of Jordan High School; signed with Western New Mexico University; defensive back Joseph Madrigal, linebacker Victor Williams and running back Michael Miranda, all signed with Lincoln University; running back Mitchell Cid signed with Trinity Bible College; defensive back Kywan Owens signed with Minot State University; and defensive back Christian Mcphetridge, out of Downey High School, signed with Luther College.
Last year, 12 Tartars signed with four-year schools.
HADEN TO RETIRE: The news that USC athletic director Pat Haden was going to retire at the end of June comes as no surprise. Anyone who watched the Steve Sarkisian saga unfold at USC this past football season could see it coming.
Haden nearly passing out on the sideline before the USC-Notre Dame game in October was a sign that the former Trojan quarterback had some health issues.
Haden did a tremendous job helping the Trojans overcome the sanctions against the football and men’s basketball programs that led to his hiring in 2010 after former athletic director Mike Garrett was fired.
But Haden failing to see the warning signs Sarkisian displayed (or failing to vet Sarkisian’s drinking problem before hiring him) angered plenty of Trojans alumni and supporters.
Haden will continue working with USC for a year after his retirement to help guide the renovation of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and will probably continue to be involved behind the scenes as well.
Haden has USC in his blood. He signed with USC after quarterbacking Bishop Amat High School for three seasons, setting several CIF records along the way.
His senior year at Amat, he lived with the family of his top wide receiver, J.K. McKay, who was the son of legendary USC coach John McKay.
At USC, he played on two national championship teams in 1972 and 1974 and went on to be a Rhodes Scholar before playing in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams.
On his way out the door, he might be the right time to acknowledge that Haden did get it right when he hired Andy Enfield as the Trojans’ men’s basketball coach.
After two tough season while Enfield was installing his program, it looks like the Trojans have a keeper there.
COLLEGE EXHIBIT: A major exhibit on African American baseball is on display this month and next at the Institute for Baseball Studies on the campus of Whittier College (President Richard Nixon’s alma mater).
The exhibit features pieces from the Michael Brown Negro Leagues memorabilia collection, which was recently donated to the institute.
A ceremony was held Feb. 8 to launch the exhibit that included a talk by former major league pitcher Jim “Mudcat” Grant, who also was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the college for his athletic accomplishments and dedication to researching the history of blacks in baseball.
Grant pitched for seven teams between 1958 and 1971 including the Dodgers. He also pitched against the Dodgers in the 1965 World Series with the Minnesota Twins. Grant won games one and five of that series, but the Didgers prevailed in seven games.
Grant is the author of the 2006 book “The Black Aces: Baseball’s Only African-American Twenty-Game Winners,” which also includes chapters on Negro League pitchers who would have been 20-game winners if they had been allowed to play in the major leagues.
The Institute for Baseball Studies opened on the Whittier College campus in 2014. It is open from noon to 5 p.m. every Friday and by appointment the rest of the week.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: It seems that there are still plenty of Rams fans in Los Angeles. The Rams announced Feb. 9 that they had received 56,000 deposits of $100 for season tickets. That’s a cool $5.6 million in the team’s bank account before the team has even set up shop here.
Obviously, not everyone who sent in the deposit will end up with season tickets, but the Rams still have a fan base here and that has to make officials in Inglewood happy. …
Kobe Bryant plays his final NBA All-Star Game Feb. 14. I expect him to play as he has most of the year, hoisting up shot after shot in hopes of leaving a good final impression on his final major showcase as an NBA player. If he plays like he did Feb. 2 against Minnesota, when he made 10 of 21 shots for 38 points, he might win himself another all star MVP Award.
It will be interesting to see how his teammates on the NBA Western Conference team will react to him. We know the Eastern Conference won’t cover him because no one plays defense in an NBA All-Star Game.