Hometown: Santa Ana, California
Group: Class Southern Section
By Brett Manney
Mater Dei Monarchs head coach Gary McKnight has a lot to be
excited about for the 2008-2009 basketball season. The Monarchs return
four starters from an electrifying CIF state championship team, which
is a huge reason why BasketballPower has ranked them as the No. 1 team
in the nation in its preseason rankings.
Many former and current Mater Dei athletes are now household names and
hold impressive resumes and, coincidently, have turned the program into
a national powerhouse for sports. In ‘08, Sports Illustrated
ranked Mater Dei second for “Best High School Athletic Program,” and
the institution has the athletes and championships to prove it.
For football, the illustrious program has produced the likes of Matt Leinert, John Huarte, and Colt Brennan. They currently have the nation’s number one recruit in QB Matt Barkley, who is following Leinert’s footsteps to USC.
And although it's still football season, everyone around the Santa Ana
community is already talking about the highly anticipated start to the
It’s easy to see why. McKnight’s squad went 35-1 a year ago and returns
four starters after winning back-to-back CIF state championships.
Meanwhile, McKnight’s resume could be thicker than a phonebook and is
right up there with the nation’s best high school coaches. Furthermore,
since he started coaching the Monarchs in ‘81, he has tallied a record
of 797-74 along with 24 league championships, 19 Southern Section
championships and seven CIF state championships (‘87, ‘90, ‘95, ‘01,
‘03, ’07-‘08). He is also the winningest coach in Orange County boy's
basketball history. Some of his most notable alumni include Leron Ellis ‘87, Reggie Geary ‘92, Miles Simon ‘94, D.J. Strawberry ‘03 and Taylor King ‘07.
The Monarchs will certainly have a target on their back considering
they are two-time defending state champions and a perennial powerhouse.
But the cupboard at Mater Dei is still full with Div. I recruits.
Spearheading the attack this season are twins David (6-10, 220 lbs.) and Travis Wear (6-10, 220), forward Andy Brown (6-8, 215 and a Stanford recruit), junior transfer guard Tyler Lamb (6-5, 190, UCLA) and junior point guard Gary Franklin (6-3, 180, USC).
The Wear twins, whose father David is an assistant coach with the team,
are the center of attention and for a good reason. Behind big frames,
both players provide almost identical production. Last season, David
averaged 16.8 ppg and 8.9 rebounds and was a member of the USA Men’s
Under-18 team, in addition to league MVP, all-county and all state. All
the while, Travis averaged 16.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg and was also selected to
the USA under-18 team in addition to all-league, all county and
Additionally, Brown averaged 14.6 ppg and 5.9 rpg in addition to
providing a solid inside game to compliment the Wear twins. Running the
show is Franklin (12.9 ppg and 4.9 apg), a true sparkplug for the team,
and he often pushes the ball in transition and distributes well to his
Lamb will fill the missing piece of the puzzle after transferring from Ontario High,
where he averaged 27 points and over five steals a game. Lamb can be a
streaky shooter, but has great anticipation on defense and is another
scorer in the already potent Monarch attack.
Said Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times about Lamb, “His arrival at Mater Dei would give the Monarchs the best starting five in California."
When football season eventually ends, Mater Dei fans will not miss a
beat. With a solid core of seniors and two big-time juniors, the
Monarchs will continue to dominate California from the valleys to the
mountains. Much like the signature warm weather and sunny skies in the
state, the Monarch program will hopefully be looking for their
signature success to continue '09.
To contact correspondent Brett Manney, send an e-mail to email@example.com.