When the previous basketball season ended, it looked like the Crossroads boys team might be one of the best in Southern California in 2008-’09.All five starters would be premier players working together as they awaited college scholarships.But 6-foot-5 guard Merrick Ross transferred to a prep school in Florida, forward Robert Allen transfered to Dominguez High, forward Solomon Hainna left school in mid-season and ultimately went to Palisades High, and guard Brandon Williamson was bothered by a leg injury.Crossroads finished with an 11-15 record and took third place in the Olympic League.But despite the negatives Coach Kevin Jackson saw positives.“It was the most difficult season I’ve had, but I believe I did my best coaching job,” he said.“We brought up six players from the junior varsity and battled through the season. In the last league game we needed to win to clinch a playoff berth. We were 12 points behind Village Christian but rallied to win in overtime.”“We lost to Desert High in the first playoff round. I would have liked to go further but I feel we accomplished a lot. And I have a good group coming back next season.”Jackson doesn’t deny the loss of Hainna during the season created a major problem. In addition to being without a talented 6-foot-8 forward who was averaging 15 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocked shots, the coach found his players divided by the matter.Some sided with the coach, others favored a teammate and friend.“We had to talk and I told the players they could vote. If they didn’t want me to be the coach I would leave and my assistant, Noel Bloom, would be the coach the next day.”“But I also told them every coach will have rules. They should take that into consideration.”Jackson said things worked out and the team chemistry improved.“I was proud of the guys.” he said.Center Conrad Liebowitz was in contention for league Player of the Year. He lost out to a guard from Windward but made all-Olympic League first team. Guards Williamson and Aaron Irmas made all-Olympic League second team.The 6-foot-9 Liebowitz was a senior who’ll be in college next season, but Jackson believes his team will be competitive.Chester Lindley, a 6-5 junior, replaced Hianna in the lineup and 6-foot sophomore guard Luke Shmuger came up from the junior varsity a year ahead of schedule and became a factor.In the win over Village Christian, Shmuger scored 14 points and had four assists. Jackson is a Crossroads graduate who is happy to be back at his alma mater, problems and all.
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