Whenever you deal with the San Pedro High boys basketball team these days, this goes doubly true for the other six Marine League teams, you got to pick your poison.
Senior guards Khalil Dave and Zach Foster, along with senior forwards Quincy Thomas and James Fish are all very dangerous. They can shoot from outside, they can beat you inside and off the dribble and will stop at nothing to help the Pirates collectively in their quest to capture their first league title since 2009. San Pedro is expected to challenge four-time defending league champion Washington of Los Angeles and last year's league runner-up Narbonne of Harbor City for league supremacy.
"Each of the four have a very uniqueness to them," San Pedro boys basketball coach John Bobich says. "I've been fortunate enough to have spent enough time with them to find that each have great qualities within themselves. The 'four" have really developed both as players and individuals over the past four years at San Pedro High."
San Pedro had a topsy-turvy 2012-2013 season, starting off the year 9-0 and winning the Belmont Zone Of Choice Tournament in relatively easy fashion as the full court pressure defense Bobich installed to take advantage of his team's speed and quickness would wreak havoc on the opposition.
After splitting their next six games, the Pirates would go on a brutal Marine League stretch to close the year, finishing in a third-place tie with Gardena and Carson.
That was partly due to an injury suffered by Foster that caused him to miss nine games. San Pedro would reach the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I playoffs for the first time, three years after winning a Division II title, before being eliminated by Palisades in the first round. Overall, San Pedro finished 15-12.
Foster's toughness on the court, and his awesome shooting savvy, is not to be taken lightly.
"My favorite NBA player is Stephen Curry (of the Golden State Warriors) because he is the best shooter in the game and I would like to be like him," says Foster, who scored a career-high 22 points, making a trio of three-pointers, and scoring 11 fourth-quarter points against Renaissance Academy in the finals of the Artesia Classic Tournament, where the Pirates fell short in a 59-57 loss earlier this season. Out of the four, Foster got the first early basketball beginning... at 4 years old playing in the Peck Park league.
Fish, who started playing basketball in the seventh grade, is another deadly shooter who's originally from Akron, Ohio. It's no surprise that his favorite NBA player just happens to come from that city... none other than the Miami Heat's LeBron James.
"My most memorable moment at Pedro was when I hit a game-winning shot against Loyola in a tournament," Fish says. However, Fish also made a game-winning three pointer at the buzzer last month against Gardena to clinch third place in the San Pedro Pirate Shootout Tournament for a great close to 2013.
Both Fish and Foster's work ethic on the team and in school go hand-in-hand, Bobich says.
"As students they both carry a 3.5 grade point average. On the court, they work as hard as any player I have ever coached," Bobich adds. "They are early risers and it's not rare that you might find them at a local gym working on their game at 5:30 am. They are always the first two answers when you ask someone on campus, "Who are the best shooters on the team?" They are modest but both have led by example."
Dave who was second on San Pedro in assists last season, was the one who assisted Fish on his game-winner against Loyola, but he's also normally the one looking to hit Thomas with a lob, just for Thomas to go up, grab it, and throw it down for a crowd-pleasing dunk. Dave and Thomas have hooked up for alleyoop dunks on 18 occasions already this season.
It's easy to recognize their collaboration on the court, but both Dave's ability to hit a jumper here and there, along with Thomas' bruising ability on the boards and impeccable instincts to block shots with his long arms are not to be overlooked.
Thomas, currently leading San Pedro in scoring and rebounding, played one year of organized basketball at the tender age of 6, and in one game, he played against Dave, his future high school teammate who's favorite NBA players are Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and the now-retired former NBA Most Valuable Player, Allen Iverson.
Bobich has had a lot of well-oiled point guards in his long and storied coaching career at both San Pedro (14th year) and Pacific Hills High, winning a combined seven CIF titles (5 Southern Section with Pacific Hills, 2 City Section with Pedro) and even a state championship in 1998, and he says Dave, a two-year varsity veteran, ranks right up there with the best of them.
"His basketball IQ is increased tremendously over the past year," Bobich says of Dave. "His quickness makes him such an asset which should help a collegiate team next year. We have developed a great relationship which makes it easier not only to critique his game but the entire team. It's like having a coach on the court."
Thomas, who's first dunk at San Pedro High against King-Drew of Los Angeles in the 2011-2012 season as a sophomore, ranks that as his most memorable moment, and he wears the same jersey number (#22) as his favorite NBA player, Rudy Gay.
"Quincy is a special talent who should be considered for the All City team," Bobich says of the two-time All-Marine League pick. "There's no doubt that his explosive dunks can turn the momentum of a game, but he has developed into a solid shooter and an even better passer, which many might find surprising. He's our best attacker but he sees the court very well as he makes his teammates better around him."
San Pedro will likely be undersized in almost every game they play in, with Thomas being the tallest on the team at 6'3'', but it won't be an easy ride facing these four, and the rest of the Pirates, who also feature the likes of sophomore reserve guard Jonathan Pope, junior forward Omar Monroe and senior forwards Michael Loughry, Clifford Brown and Jonathan Soto as other key players.
"Overall, this team shows no fear going against the bigger teams," Bobich says. "It's a tribute to them when we find ourselves rarely getting out-rebounded despite having a major size disadvantage in about every game."
It's also a testament to the amazing ability of Foster, Fish, Dave and Thomas in the way they feed off each other's ability to help make San Pedro successful against any and all who oppose them.
"The way they play on the court together, one would think they have played together all their lives," Bobich says. "Each of them have faith in each other and have no problem making the extra pass which makes this team so special."
San Pedro, currently 11-8 overall, hosts Narbonne tomorrow.