St. Monica boys
basketball coach John Skinner starts his days early and ends it late. Balancing
coaching with his duties as a real estate agent, Skinner is forced to use all
of his time in the day wisely.
“I have to be
extremely efficient with my day,” Skinner said in an interview with the Mirror.
“Real estate allows me the flexibility to coach. [But] it can be overwhelming
Skinner, who guided the St. Monica girls
basketball team to the CIF title last spring against St. Paul, manages to make
his count thanks his open line of communication with his players and the
support of his wife and family, he says. Erecting the boys basketball program
is going to require Skinner to have a lot of support as he works at building
the program back to its glory days.
Skinner knows a thing
or two about that kind of pressure and spotlight having played his junior and senior seasons in high
school along the side of former UCLA and NBA star Baron Davis at Crossroads
School as a shooting guard. Skinner grew up with Austin Croshere, another
ex-Crossroads phenom who also enjoyed a steady NBA career.
“That was a lot of
fun,” Skinner said. “It was a great experience. When I played with Baron Davis
he was 5-foot-7; I never thought he’d grow that much. He was so athletic.”
As far as Croshere, the shooting guard/forward
made it to the NBA because of how hard he worked, says Skinner.
“He had a tremendous
work ethic,” Skinner said. “He just outworked everybody.”
Putting in hard work
is something Skinner is hoping his team has bought into. There are a couple of
players on the current Mariners’ team that have the ability to take their game
to the next level. Spencer Gorman is one of those players, says Skinner.
“A tremendous athlete
with some good skills who just lacks quality organized playing time,” Skinner
said. “This is really only his second year of organized basketball so when you
look at it from that perspective, his upside is phenomenal and if he truly
dedicates himself to the game he could do some things at the next level.”
It has been an up and
down season for Gorman. But the senior has shown flashes of dominance at times.
In a recent game against West Torrance, Gorman scored a career-high 29 points
and pulled down 11 rebounds in the Mariners’ 65-49 win. In a 75-63 victory over
South Torrance, Gorman put up 20 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked
These are the type of
numbers that Gorman has the ability to produce night in and night out, Skinner
says. But because of his lack of experience in playing organized basketball for
an extended period of time, Gorman sometimes struggle as he did in a recent
game against Bishop Amat.
If Gorman is having an
off night, Skinner has the luxury of turning to Dennis Ashley, Kavin Dotson or
Kavion Simab to pick up the slack. Ashley, who was voted to the all-tournament
team in the San Pedro Shootout, is the one guy in particular who can light up
A new offensive
scheme, however, with a new coach has slowed Ashley’s production this season,
“I am hoping he’ll get
a little more consistent,” Skinner said. “I think there weren’t as many options
(last season) so he had a little more free reign. He can be a volume shooter,
but I think he’s adjusting to our style. A few more consistent games should
help get him going.”
With the Camino Real
League kicking off this week, now would be the time for Ashley and the rest of
the St. Monica basketball team to step up their game. The Mariners begin league
play against Bosco Tech and St. Paul before lacing up their sneakers against
Cathedral and Cantwell-Sacred Heart, two of the better teams in the CIF Southern
Section, within a seven-day period after that.
St. Monica is no
slouch and figure to play well enough to earn a playoff berth. But the
immediate concern for the Mariners is playing well in league play, which
Skinner expects his team to do, regardless of the opponent.
“Both Cathedral and
Cantwell are top tier teams in the state and are definitely the cream of the
crop of our league,” Skinner said. “It presents an exciting challenge for
us to see if we can rise to the competition level and truly compete.”
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