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Boys basketball player of the year: Eyassu Worku, Los Alamitos
His name makes a strong and immediate impression.
He plays the game of basketball the same way.
Eyassu Worku stood out this season with his play for Los Alamitos, which he led on a memorable run in the playoffs, and because of that he has been selected by the Register as the Orange County boys basketball player of the year.
Worku averaged 25 points a game along with seven rebounds and five assists a game. He led the Griffins to a 25-7 overall record and they were 10-0 in the Sunset League.
He scored 31 points in each of Los Alamitos’ two victories over Edison, the Griffins’ top competition in the Sunset League.
“Eyassu was almost indefensible,” Edison coach Rich Boyce said. “If you get up on him, he’s going to go by you. If you sag off of him, he’s going to knock it down from outside.”
Los Alamitos coach Eddie Courtemarche said while Worku worked hard to improve, some of his success came naturally.
“He has a great instinct for the game,” Courtemarche said. “He seems to always know where the ball is going and where it should be going. Eyassu has a competitiveness I’ve never witnessed before.”
ALL-COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL
- OCVarsity Hot Shots: All-County boys and girls basketball teams
- All-County boys basketball team: First team
- Boys basketball player of the year: Eyassu Worku, Los Alamitos
- Boys basketball coach of the year: Eddie Courtemarche, Los Alamitos
- All-County boys basketball: Second Team through Sixth Team
The Griffins were selected to play in the Open Division for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. It was the best basketball playoff division in California.
Los Alamitos lost both of their Open Division playoff games, to Sierra Canyon and to Roosevelt of Eastvale. Worku scored 21 points against Sierra Canyon. He scored 19 against Roosevelt.
Given another chance at some playoff success, Los Alamitos was placed in Division II in the CIF Southern California Regionals.
Los Alamitos beat Poway in the regional first round, 67-58, as Worku scored 23 points. In the second round against Santa Margarita, the Griffins trailed by 15 points in the third quarter. They rallied, and a Worku steal and resulting layup with two minutes remaining put Los Alamitos ahead to stay.
That win, in Los Alamitos’ packed gym that included the school’s rollicking student section, sent the Griffins to a regional semifinal for the first time. The season ended for them there as they lost to Long Beach Poly.
Worku did not get a CIF-SS championship, or a CIF State title. But he acquired plenty of memories.
“What I’ll always remember is running out the locker room into the gym, with that huge student section out there and my teammates running in behind he,” said Worku, whose parents moved to the United States from Ethiopia two years before he was born.
“I always tried to observe the moment, all the teammates dancing and the student section rocking and music playing. I miss it already.”
Worku, 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, hopes to have similar moments at UC Irvine. He signed a letter of intent with UCI, where he plans to major in business. Worku has a 3.8 grade-point average.
After Los Alamitos lost to Long Beach Poly, Worku texted UCI coach Russell Turner. He asked his future coach which areas he most needed to improve.
“Using my left hand, passing and coming off of picks,” Worku said of Turner’s reply.
Courtemarche knows Worku will do the work.
“I told Eyassu, when he was a freshman here,” Courtemarche said, “that when all is said and done, he’s going to be considered the best player to have played here.”
Worku found that difficult to believe at the time.
“Then I remember seeing Stanley Johnson (of Mater Dei),” Worku said, “and how he was Orange County player of the year as a junior and senior. And I said, ‘I want to be that, I want to be the best player in Orange County.’”
He did it.
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