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The Wait Is Over PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 17 January 2013 05:04

After Sitting Out A Calendar Year To Become Eligible, Devenir Duruisseau Is Eager To Make Up For Lost Time And Help Sylmar Win A Title

M. TERRY/SFVS

Having A Ball -- Sylmar forward Devenir Duruisseau is happy to be back on the basketball court after sitting out a year while waiting for his transfer from Palmdale High to be approved.

Basketball practice is just getting started at Sylmar High, and Devenir Duruisseau can't wait.

Other players may dread the routine of drills and teaching moments. Not Duruisseau. Not after being forced to sit out a calendar year following his transfer from Palmdale High after his freshman year. Now the 6-8 forward doesn't want to miss a thing.

"I remember [last year] just standing next to my team, so badly wanting to play," said Duruisseau, chatting with a visitor while sitting on the top row inside the school gymnasium in shorts and tank top, ready for some action.

"I never got a real specific answer as to why I couldn't play."

More on that in a moment. Duruisseau is having an impact on the Spartans and their opponents this season. He may not have the largest numbers – averaging 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds – but he leads Sylmar in both categories.

"He has grown up," said Sylmar Coach Bort Escoto. "He started off being okay, but now he must get double-teamed every night. And he's giving us an inside presence we haven't had here since (former UCLA star and current NBA player) Tyler Honeycutt.

"He has a great future." And Duruisseau – along with Cody Rodino, a 6-1 senior guard who transferred to Sylmar from Highland – is helping the Spartans become a legitimate contender for the Valley Mission League championship, a title the Sylmar hasn't won outright since 2007-08.

The Spartans began the week with an overall record of 10-11. The more important number, though, was 4-0 – the team's league record going into this week's games against Van Nuys and Canoga Park. That gave Sylmar a one-game lead against defending co-champion Kennedy and Canoga Park.

Beating Kennedy 58-49 on Jan. 11 was particularly sweet for the Spartans, Duruisseau said, because it ended a sixgame losing streak to the Cougars.

"I remember before the game some of the players were actually crying they wanted to win so bad," he said. "There was so much intensity. We came out with that mindset 'we are not losing.' We were going to do whatever it takes to win."

Kennedy Coach Kevin Kanamura thought his team had done a decent job defending Duruisseau, holding him to 10 points and five rebounds. But that doesn't make Duruisseau easy to defend, especially since he can shoot his hook shot with either hand.

"He makes a difference because he has great size, and he is an inside threat," Kanamura said. "That size hurt us … we didn't focus all our attention on Devenir, but he gets offensive boards, and got them extra touches.

"He's got size no one else in the league has."

One of five children of a French truck driver and an African American surgical technician, Duruisseau said he was eager to transfer out of Palmdale High after the 2010- 11 academic year.

"I didn't like there; there was a lot of bullying going on, a lot of people didn't have their heads right," he said. "I wanted to be in an environment where we could come together as a team."

He did not expect to miss his sophomore basketball season. But City Section officials held up Duruisseau's transfer for what turned out to be a calendar year.

Understandably, Escoto was not pleased.

"He was not cleared because (the complainants) said that he had played for club coach that was my assistant," Escoto said. "The guy was not an assistant but an alum who had played at the school."

Escoto said the investigation "dragged on," and then "it was finally decided it was an enrollment issue, a form had not been signed."

When asked about the situation Los Angeles City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege said, "It was determined that the transfer request did not meet the standard, according to CIF rules."

Duruisseau did his best to stay in basketball shape, including a summer stint with the AAU travel team LAX Hoops. The team included talents like Kendall Smith, who has verbally committed to UNLV, and Shaqquan Aaron, who has several D-I college offers but so far has not committed. "We traveled to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, all over the country. It was a good experience," he said.

Duruisseau has been up and down statistically this season. He's had 20-point games against Granite Hills, Pasadena Muir, Modesto Christian and Los Angeles University. He's also been held to single digit scoring by teams like Clovis Buchanan and Pacific Palisades. He has recorded a season-high 15 rebounds four different times, but has also had 10 games of eight rebounds or less.

But the Spartans also played a challenging nonleague schedule to prepare them for Valley Mission games. And the more teams see of Duruisseau, the more they are looking at ways to stop him.

"I'm seeing a lot of doubleand triple-teams, a lot of guys collapsing on me when I get the ball inside," Duruisseau said. "I remember one time warming up for a game, and I heard [the opposing coach] say 'we have to double-team him, he's too big.' I was like, 'wow.'" He has drawn some interest from colleges as well. Long Beach State has made an offer. Cal State Northridge, Nevada and Pepperdine have also made contact.

While acknowledging Duruisseau has areas where he can improve, Escoto is bullish on the young man competing at the next level. "The kid is very coach- able, and wants to make it," Escoto said.

Atop Duruisseau's list, however, is getting a boys' basketball championship banner on the gymnasium wall. The last one dates back to 1998, when the Spartans were City 3A champions. This season they are in Division II, where they are currently ranked eighth. Duruisseau said Sylmar has the goods to be playing for a title in March.

"Everybody (on the team) is on point and together," he said. "We have fun and plays good together. At Palmdale right now guys (at practice) would be playing around, not being serious. That's not where I wanted to be."

He took some added pleasure in the Spartans' 55-49 victory against Palmdale in last month's Santa Monica High tournament.

"I was thinking 'you could've had me but you didn't treat me right.' There was no 'let's go work out after school' or nothing. Here [at Sylmar] they've pushed me every day." Then he ran out on the

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Last Updated on Thursday, 17 January 2013 05:11