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Mission Viejo thrives with multi-sport athletes
The multi-sport athlete is not extinct.
The species might be in hibernation at some schools, but it roams freely from sport to sport at Mission Viejo.
When the school's boys basketball team plays in Saturday night's CIF-Southern Section Division 1A championship game, Mission Viejo will have two starters who were All-Orange County football players and a key reserve who was South Coast League football's offensive player of the year.
Starting senior forward Jahleel Pinner was an All-County running back on the Diablos football team that won the South Coast League title, advanced to the Pac-5 Division semifinals in which they lost by one point to eventual division and state champion Santa Margarita and finished 13-0. Pinner signed a letter of intent with USC.
Starting junior guard Max Redfield was an All-County defensive back. He is the best of the football/basketball bunch, averaging 12 points a game for the Diablos (27-3) who play Orange Lutheran in the 1A final at 8:30 p.m. at Anaheim Convention Center.
Reserve guard and defensive stalwart Austin Reuland's play as a receiver this past fall earned him the offensive player of the year honor. There are other Diablos basketball players who engage in other sports, like starting junior center Sage Stone, who has cleared 6-feet, 7-inches in the high jump and qualified for the CIF-SS Masters Meet this past spring.
Mission Viejo basketball coach Troy Roelen said the school has a "let 'em play" policy.
"That's where we're at philosophically," Roelen said. "And it helps that I'm the athletic director. But everybody here has believed in sharing athletes for a long time."
Reuland's older brothers Warren and Konrad (now with the San Francisco 49ers) have been among the many football-basketball players at Mission Viejo. NFL players Jed Collins and Mark Sanchez played basketball, and Collins was an All-County basketball player.
Mission Viejo football coach Bob Johnson has two sons who were multi-sport high school stars. Bret was All-County in football and basketball, and Rob was All-County in those sports and in baseball, too. Multi-tasking did not slow their development in their strongest sport, football – both had successful careers as college quarterbacks, and Rob played several years in the NFL.
"Kids should be doing as many sports as they can in high school," Bob Johnson said. "Coaches should quit being so selfish with their athletes. Let them play and enjoy their high school years."
Reuland, who will continue his football days at Yale this fall, has played football and basketball his freshman and sophomore years, but played only football as a junior.
"I regret not playing basketball last year," Reuland said. "I missed it. When I came back to basketball this year, I hadn't touched a basketball for a year-and-a-half, and it really took a lot longer for me to get back into it than the other football guys on the basketball team."
Reuland appreciates that coaches support multi-sport athletes at Mission Viejo, where the boys basketball team also played in a CIF final last school year, as did its football team.
"They think it's good to broaden the horizons," he said. "If you play one sport the entire year, you can get burned out."
Roelen said, "We don't put demands on them, and we don't make them choose."
Besides, Roelen said, when his basketball players are involved in football game- and practice-time opportunities are created for other basketball players.
"I'm able to give a lot of our guys more reps," he said. "So when football season ends, we're a deeper team."
Everyone wins. Just look at the teams' records.