Skinner, St. Monica Ready To Rock Camino Real League

Ex-girls coach now leads boys' basketball team

Wednesday, 15 Jan 2014, 3:52:00 AM

Dennis Freeman

St. Monica basketball coach John Skinner gets his team's attention.
Courtesy photo
St. Monica basketball coach John Skinner gets his team's attention.

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

at times.”

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

shots.       

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

the scoreboard.  

A new offensive

scheme, however, with a new coach has slowed Ashley’s production this season,

Skinner says.

“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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