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Schea Cotton, college basketball journeyman, weighs in on ex-Mater Dei basketball transfers

June 6, 2011 | 11:00 am

In my story about the unusually high number of former Santa Ana Mater Dei basketball players who transfer once in college, Bob Gibbons, a national recruiting expert, points to Schea Cotton as a perfect case study of Mater Dei players who peak early.

"Schea Cotton would be a prime example of that," Gibbons said. "He was a kid who never played in college at the level he did at Mater Dei."

Cotton, then only 16, was featured in Sports Illustrated after finishing his freshman season at Mater Dei in 1994. The next season, led by Cotton, Mater Dei went 36-1 and won the state championship.

But Cotton eventually transferred from Mater Dei to Bellflower St. John Bosco, the school he originally attended before transferring to Mater Dei, and his post-high school road included stops at Connecticut, Long Beach City College, Alabama and pro basketball overseas. These days, Cotton no longer plays.

(For more on that road, look no further than this excellent Times story from 2003.)

But in reference to why so many former Mater Dei players have transferred, Cotton said the initial transition is what can prove to be the most challenging -- and that most players don't prepare for it. 

"The problem is a lot of these kids aren't battle-tested in the summer by kids that are older, stronger, better talented, so when they go into college as a freshman, they can compete," he said. 

Yet one recent player who did seem to prepare for that transition -- or who at least did well when he faced it -- and still transferred is Gary Franklin Jr.

Franklin, a highly touted point guard, graduated from Mater Dei in 2010 and signed with California, where he started 11 of the first 13 games, averaging 8.2 points for the Golden Bears.

But, to the surprise of many, Franklin  transferred to Baylor, where the 6-foot-2 guard will have three seasons of eligibility remaining beginning in the spring semester of 2011-12 season.

Theories abound on what happened, for Franklin  and other former Mater Dei star players who have transferred, too. 

"My theory is Mater Dei players get more exposure than other prospects, which can lead to inflated rankings and unrealistic expectations," tweeted Jeff Eisenberg, a national college basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports.

"Many Mater Dei players excel in college in spite of that," Eisenberg added. "Others transfer when their production and playing time isn't what they expected."

Franklin's father,  an AAU coach, said Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight has "taken a lot of heat" for some of the nearly two dozen players who have transferred from their original Division I teams since McKnight was hired at Mater Dei in 1982.

Many of those claims, the elder Franklin said, are that Mater Dei players simply aren't college-ready.

McKnight disputed that, calling such a claim "ludicrous," and said former Arizona Coach Lute Olson often told him Mater Dei players were the most well-prepared of any high school players.

Speaking of Arizona, the Wildcats apparently are interested in current Mater Dei star guard Katin Reinhardt, according to Ernie Reinhardt, Katin's father.

Katin Reinhardt had verbally committed to USC in December but re-opened his recruitment a few weeks ago to reconsider his options. He was shocked when USC coaches subsequently told him they were no longer interested in recruiting him.

Ernie Reinhardt said that aside from Arizona, his son,  a 6-foot-5 combo guard widely considered one of the top junior prospects on the West Coast, has received offers from Arizona State and Baylor. 

Ernie Reinhardt added that that Syracuse, Florida, Florida State, Texas El-Paso, Colorado, California, North Carolina State and "others are very interested."


They found something finer than North Carolina

How much fun from one and done?

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Schea Cotton in 1996. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times