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Small becoming a big star for Ocean View
Kendall Small is not a happy camper.
The Ocean View boys basketball team is tangling with Westminster, and for Small, so far, nothing is going favorably. He is forced to sit out much of the first half due to foul trouble, he can't get his shot to fall, and his team is down three in a pivotal league matchup.
With three minutes left in the final quarter, Small chases a loose ball but is pushed by an opponent out of bounds. He and the opponent share words before the Seahawks inbound the ball.
"It happened when dudes started trash talking," Small says after the game. "We had to win at that point. I don't like people to talk trash about my team and my school."
The "happening" that Small is referring to is something that 15-year olds rarely possess.
The ability to take over the game.
On the next play, Small attacks the basket and scores a layup to put the Seahawks within one. On the next trip down court, he finally converts his first 3-pointer and puts his team up two.
With 30 seconds left, he snatches a rebound off a Westminster miss, speeds down court and provides the fans with the night's most sensational highlight, putting in an acrobatic, off-balance layup and gives the Seahawks a four-point lead.
On Ocean View's next possession, with 15 seconds left, Small is fouled attacking the basket, even though Seahawks coaches are yelling at him to hold the ball.
"As soon as he got fouled, he looks at me, I'm yelling at him, and he pats his chest because he knows he made a mistake," says Ocean View coach Tim Walsh. "But that's Kendall. The way he plays, he can't dial back that aggressiveness yet."
Small is a scoring point guard, made in the mold of an NBA great Isiah Thomas. He's 6-feet tall at the most, 170 pounds, as quick as lightning and is the personification of aggression.
"When I first saw him, I couldn't believe he was a freshman," Walsh said. "I heard a lot about Kendall Small when he was in the eighth grade. People knew his name. It was unbelievable what he was doing."
In only his sophomore season at Ocean View, Small is averaging 22 points for a young Seahawks team.
What might be more impressive, however, is Small's knack for hawking the ball.
Walsh, in his first season as head coach of the Seahawks, feels lucky to have acquired the talents of a player like Small. He marvels not only at his sophomore point guard's scoring prowess, but his athleticism, especially when it's displayed on the defensive end.
In Walsh's opinion, referees have a difficult time adjusting to what Small can do with his on-ball defense, recalling instances in which Small will position himself in front of opposing point guards when both are running full speed.
"He does things with his quickness that other guards can't do," Walsh said.
The young point guard would do himself a favor in watching his fouls, which have caused him to spend more time riding pine than he and Walsh would enjoy. In fact, in the Seahawks first 18 games, Small tallied 54 fouls, which averages to exactly three fouls per game.
Five fouls is the high school limit, meaning on a game-by-game basis, Small is in foul trouble.
"The way he plays, even if he has two fouls and you tell him that he can't get his third, he can't turn it off," Walsh said. "It's built in. And to me, that's a great quality to have."
Small agrees with his coach, and frankly, is in no rush to change how he approaches the game.
"I feel like I go 100 percent all the time," Small said.
However, his 22 points per game, to go along with five steals and three fouls, aren't the only stats that make your eyes pop. Small leads the Seahawks in offensive rebounding, and averages six rebounds total per game.
"This year, we don't have that strong of a rebounding team," Small said. "Coach says that all five guys have to rebound. It's important for me to get eight or nine rebounds a game."
He might be a few rebounds short of his rebounding goal, but as far as points, Small is carrying his load quite easily.
Small has had games of 27, 29, 31, and 32 points this season. Against Corona del Mar on Dec. 15, Small scored 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had six steals.
Two games later, against Austin High School from Texas, Small scored 29 points, to go along with 11 rebounds and three steals.
"What he does on the offensive end for himself and his teammates, it's made me a different coach because he does things that other guys can't," Walsh said. "He does things that make you wonder how he's going to make something positive out of it, but it always works out."
Surprisingly, Small maintains that he doesn't pay much attention to offense.
"I just play in the flow of the game and get points here and there when I can," he said.
All signs point toward Small ascending as one of Orange County's brightest stars. He has the speed, strength, work ethic, and grit required to be noticed in a haven of successful basketball programs and players.
But if you ask Walsh, "patience" is not a word that applies to Small.
"I already think he's one of the best players in Orange County," he said.
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