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SoCalHoops High School News

All The Right Reasons:
Ward-Henninger & Newkirk--(Jan. 30, 2001)

Usually when the local edition of a newspaper writes a story focusing on a local player, it's his time to shine, to gain a little recognition for his achievements and accomplishments.  Of course, newspapers publish such stories every day. There are millions of kids like this all over.  But we just don't get to hear about them often enough.  Usually, we read about the guys who are being declared ineligible, that a coach has been arrested and charged with a crime, that a team has forfeited games, or the other usual daily fare. . .

But more often than not, we tend to forget what high school athletics is all about.   Sometimes the stories get written just because they're about good kids, who do good things, for all the right reasons, who don't transfer at the drop of a hat, who stay in school because of the education.    You know, guys who could have gone to bigger, more "prestigious" programs, but who chose to stay in their small schools because of the education, the safer environment, the lower student-to-teacher ratios or just to stay with friends they've made over the years.  Oh, and sometimes, they stay for the basketball too.  It's how programs get started, how teams are built, from the inside out, how loyalty is engendered. All traditions have to start somewhere.  And today's LA Times and Pasadena Star News just happened to coincidentally pick today to write about two players who seem to have stayed at their respective schools for all the right reasons.

Colin Ward-Henninger, a 6'-3" senior forward chose to stay at Buckley in Sherman Oaks, while David Newkirk, a 6'-5" Sr. wingman elected to remain at Maranatha.  Both are excellent students, both have a lot of talent,  and both had the opportunity to leave the "small school" environment.  And yet both stayed, for what seem like all the right reasons. 

The Los Angeles Times  today featured Ward-Henninger of Buckley who is currently second in scoring average in the Valley region (behind Kilpatrick's Keilon Fortune) at 24.7 ppg, 9 rpg,  only slightly off from his December tournament average of 30 ppg and 11 rpg.  Oh, and here's another important stat:  He scored an 800 on the SAT II.  That's right, 800.  As in "perfect score".   Colin was tempted to transfer to a larger program, a more "prestigious" basketball or baseball school (he's a two sport athlete, being recruited in both at the college level)   following his freshman and sophomore years, but instead he chose to stay and help build a program at Buckley from the inside.  Thus far, with a little help from his teammates, it seems to be working, and in two years, Colin and the rest of the Griffins have taken the program from a middle-of-the-road team to it's current ranking, tied for No. 2 in its division and No. 6 in the State.  

The Pasadena Star News Prep Sports in an article by staff writer Kevin Chavez featured David Newkirk of Maranatha today.  David too had opportunities to go elsewhere.  He could have gone to a "big time" program like Glendora, but chose to stay within the small school environment.  Why?  Here's what he told Chavez:"Life isn't basketball," said the four-year varsity starter. "You need to find a balance, and I think I've found it here."

Two great kids.  Two excellent players.   Two who chose to stay at two top schools,  for all the right reasons.

The story on Ward-Henninger by Times' staff writer Mike Bresnahan is first (it can also be found at the LA Times' site at this link), followed by the story on Newkirk (which is also at the Pasadena Star News' site).

One For The Books
Colin Ward-Henninger of Buckley Balances the Demands of School While Excelling at Sports

By MIKE BRESNAHAN, Times Staff Writer

colin.jpg (15569 bytes)
Colin Ward-Henninger, a two-sport standout
at Buckley High, scored 800 on a SAT II English examination.

Photo by BORIS YARO / Los Angeles Times

SHERMAN OAKS--Tick, tick, tick.

 Colin Ward-Henninger is on the clock. This, he thinks to himself, could get interesting.

He sighs, takes a deep breath and puts on a serious face. He won't be making any game-winning free throws or nailing a shot from the outside. He'll be writing an in-class essay--an analysis of rhetoric.

Ward-Henninger, a senior at Buckley High, is just as comfortable with a pen in his hand as he is with a basketball. He can make plays on the court and make grades in class.

 The 6-foot-3 forward has helped bring basketball prosperity to a school that won its second league title since 1974 last season. He's averaging 24.7 points and nine rebounds while refusing to sacrifice his strong academic standing.

Case in point: Last year, Buckley lost in the quarterfinals to eventual Southern Section Division V-AA champion St. Anthony, but Ward-Henninger pulled off a victory the next day by writing the essay on rhetoric in English class.

"He walked in, sat down, never said a word and wrote," said his teacher, Nancy Booth.  It was nothing new for Ward-Henninger, a baseball and basketball standout who zips through textbooks with the same ease as he penetrates the lane.

Ward-Henninger scored a perfect 800 on his SAT II English exam, a 60-minute test on grammar usage and essay-writing for prospective colleges. "I see 760s and 780s, but to break 800 is pretty amazing," said Booth, who has been teaching for 18 years. "It's practically unheard of.

"When he came in last year, I thought it would be a real problem. I thought he wouldn't be getting his work done [because of athletics] and would always be asking for extensions. He was a leader, though. He's an incredible thinker."

It's an attribute traced to his days as a toddler, when he was surrounded by scholarly thought. His father, David, was attending law school when Colin was born and his mother, Veda, was working toward a doctorate degree.  No wonder the kid was reaching for a No. 2 pencil instead of a wagon.

"A lot of it's by example," said David, who practices law in the health sector. "He saw we emphasized education from a very early age."      

As deft as he has become at composing essays and explicating prose, Ward-Henninger struggles under the magnitude of a certain athletic brain-teaser: baseball or basketball?

 The question is constantly lobbed his direction.

With a fastball in the mid-80s, Ward-Henninger has drawn interest from Brown, Pennsylvania, Boston College and Santa Clara. He's heard from Columbia and UC Santa Cruz for basketball.  Which college, and sport, will he choose?.

"At certain times, there's nothing I love more than basketball because of the fans and the teammates," he said. "But baseball's got that one-on-one thing going, where it's you and the batter. It's easier to concentrate and kind of lose yourself in it."

Here's a hint: Ward-Henninger wrote college-application essays on a victory against Montclair Prep in the basketball playoffs last season.

Ward-Henninger had 23 points and 15 rebounds during the Griffins' 70-66 victory in front of a crowd so dense that former NBA All-Star Marques Johnson reportedly had trouble getting in despite the fact his son, Josiah, played for Montclair Prep.

"It was the most amazing experience of my life," Ward-Henninger said. "The whole game was back and forth, and the fans ran onto the court afterwards. It was life-changing. The things you can achieve are amazing."

It was an experience that almost didn't happen.

After his freshman year at Buckley, Ward-Henninger contemplated transferring from the small Sherman Oaks school of 290 high school students. Schools with bigger-name athletic programs were beckoning.

Basketball Coach Dan Haasch partly understood what Ward-Henninger was thinking. Buckley, which does not have a football team, is better known for academics than athletics.  "Let's face it, we're not going to get the 48-point headlines here," Haasch said. "At this school, we're not going to get a true 6-10 center to come through."

Ward-Henninger lives in Woodland Hills, in the attendance area of Taft, but didn't give much thought to attending the public school. Instead, he considered Chaminade, Harvard-Westlake and Notre Dame.

"He was honest with me that he was looking around," Haasch said. "Like anyone else his age, he wanted to be recognized for his efforts. We sat down with him and told him we were going to build a program. When he decided to stay, he brought us instant credibility."

With Ward-Henninger leading the way, Buckley was the Liberty League champion last season, finishing with a 23-3 record. This season appears no different. The Griffins (17-1, 8-0) have had little trouble with opponents as they head into a key game tonight against Providence (12-6, 8-1).

Ward-Henninger, who has a knack for making the right play at the right time--he scored with 15 seconds left in the playoff victory over Montclair Prep--will be on the clock again.

Tick, tick, tick.


Newkirk is a change of pace
Maranatha senior passes up limelight for balance

By Keven Chavez
Staff Writer

newkirk.jpg (8161 bytes)
DAVID NEWKIRK (Pasadena Star News
Staff Photo by GREG ANDERSEN)

SIERRA MADRE -- There is no gymnasium on the Maranatha High School campus. The basketball team plays most of its games in a church gym without permanent baskets, without a hardwood floor and with just enough room to squeeze in a couple hundred fans.

It's about a million miles from big-time high school basketball and not the place you would expect to find one of the San Gabriel Valley's best players. But for Maranatha senior David Newkirk, it is home.

And despite a well-defined, 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame, a 22 points-per-game average and a fully loaded spring league resume, there is no place he'd rather be.

"Life isn't basketball," said the four-year varsity starter. "You need to find a balance, and I think I've found it here."

Growing up in Glendora, Newkirk has seen the finest days of the Glendora High dynasty. He grew up as the Murrays and the Jacobsens walked the halls of his hometown school and on to Pac-10 schools and NBA careers.

"A player that talented was well within his right to go to Glendora," said Maranatha coach Eric Smith. "I think he considered Glendora, and how could I ever blame him? Here's little Maranatha, and there's a power. We can't compete with Glendora when it comes to basketball."

But David's father, Ed, was a teacher at the small school hidden in the foothills of Sierra Madre, and Newkirk decided to follow his own path.

"I've played in Glendora since I was 4 years old. It was probably the hardest decision of my life," Newkirk said. "My dad was here and (Glendora coach Mike) LeDuc wanted me to go there, and my friends were going to Glendora."

In Newkirk's three years with Maranatha, the Minutemen have one playoff appearance; Glendora has won a CIF-Southern Section championship. This year, despite a recent No. 6 ranking, Maranatha needs two victories in its final four games just to qualify for the CIF-SS Division IV-A playoffs.

"Sometimes I'd think, 'I could be playing with them; why am I here?' " Newkirk said. "It's kind of hard at times, but God has something planned for me."

Newkirk plugged away and dominated his competition. His scoring average moved up to 24 points and 12 rebounds last season. He played in the Rockfish spring league and earned all-star status among some of the top prospects in California.

Now in his senior year as his peers earn NCAA Division I scholarships, Newkirk is ready to enter college with the same spirit that led to his successful high school career.

Despite interest from smaller Division I schools like Navy, William & Mary and Liberty, Newkirk is leaning heavily toward staying at home and playing for Biola University. The perennial NAIA power is his father's and sister's alma mater.

"People say, 'Why would you pick Biola? What's your problem?' " Newkirk said. "But from my perspective, it is a small school, it's not D1, but out of all the people, only one in like 24 million go to the NBA. It's not like I'm going to give up on that, but there is something after basketball. Biola is probably one of my best opportunities to learn about that as well as playing basketball."

-- Keven Chavez (of the Pasadena Star News) can be reached at (626) 578-6300, ext. 4485, or by e-mail at

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