By Brandon HENSLEY
DoVall Boykins played high school basketball at Taft High, maybe a half-hour drive from La Crescenta on most days. Yet when he was about to be hooked up with a coaching job at Crescenta Valley High School, he didn’t know where he was going.
“I had no idea where CV was,” he said. “I got lost. I’m like, ‘Where is this school?’ I had never heard of it.”
He hadn’t even heard of the great basketball players in Falcon history.
“I did not know anything about those guys. Jimmy Goffredo, James Jenkins. Anybody.”
Boykins, who lives in Santa Clarita, is hardly the first person to overlook La Crescenta on a map. Now though, starting his seventh year as Falcon boys’ varsity assistant, he’s firmly entrenched in the Crescenta Valley family.
“From the administration down to the coaches, it’s great. It’s a brotherhood,” said the 32-year-old Boykins.
Days like Tuesday make it easy for him to think like that. With head coach Shawn Zargarian absent, attending one of his sons’ birthdays, Boykins was able to fill his spot for the day. He watched his Falcons beat up on Grant High School 76-56 in a summer league game at Burbank High.
Kevin Dinges was the star, scoring 23 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Center Eric Patten added 11 points. Point guard Berj Krikorian played sparingly, with Boykins instead giving a lot of time to guards Kyle Currie, Gio De Guzman and others off the bench.
“It’s fun. It’s a great opportunity,” Boykins said of being the head guy for a day. “Just putting into practice what [Zargarian] taught me. He’s a great coach, really understands the game. I have a little bit of a different style … it’s really fun, especially with these [players] who are a lot of fun.”
Boykins’ orange Nike shirt was more of a match with Grant’s peach and white colored jerseys – although it’s summer, so who cares? – and it could be said his clothing was louder than he was in the game. Zargarian likes to yell out plays and commands for his players what seems like every three seconds.
Boykins went in a different direction.
“I try to let the guys just play,” he said. “This is the summertime, so we want to just let them play and make their own mistakes. Sometimes I’m a little hands-on, sometimes I take a step back and let them figure it out.”
The Falcons improved to 18-7 this summer. They’re dealing with massive changes, which followers of the program are no doubt tired of hearing: no more Cole Currie, no Nick Springer, Elliot Wilson and no Kris Jabourian (although he’s been on the bench helping out with coaching this summer).
Dinges is a varsity newcomer, and Krikorian received more playing time as last season went on, but this is his first opportunity to lead the team full time.
CV went 3-3 on its trip to UC San Diego last week. Boykins said they simply didn’t finish games in that tournament. Nonetheless, he said he knows the players had a good time.
“They love being on those big courts. It’s a great atmosphere but it’s a great time to bond for these guys,” he said.
The Falcons had to replace four of their starters heading into the 2012-13 season, and they ended up making a deep playoff run. This summer, things still seem to be rolling along.
“Am I shocked? I’m a little bit surprised, but with these guys, they’re a team, and it’s hard to beat five guys who believe,” Boykins said.
It was a team effort on Tuesday. Currie is not as tall or physically gifted as his big brother Cole, but naturally he’s a better shooter, possessing a quick release. He’s also demonstrated good knowledge of where his teammates are on the floor, making smart passes.
Role players Arin Pezeshkin (nine points) and Eric Bae made their outside shots, so replacing someone like Jabourian shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
In the first half on Tuesday, Patten was double-teamed a couple times and kicked it back out to Dinges, who nailed two 3-pointers from the top of the key. Aside from Krikorian, those two will most likely be counted on the most this winter.
“He’s a hard guy to guard,” Boykins said of Dinges. “He’s got great footwork, really developed and worked on his shot. He’s long and has a great first step, which is hard for a [forward] to guard.”
Boykins has had to get used to a more rigid structure of basketball when he joined CV. His Taft team played in he City Section during playoffs, featuring teams likes Fairfax and Crenshaw, which like to rely on athleticism rather than a multitude of set plays.
“That’s the style I’m used to playing; up-temp, in your face,” Boykins said.
The Falcons actually lost to Crenshaw in the first round of the state regionals last season in a high-scoring affair, 89-74.
A couple of seasons ago, main assistant Matt Reid left Zargarian’s staff to pursue full-time work in northern California. Zargarian told Boykins he needed him more than ever.
“I took it as, ‘Hey, great, whatever it takes to help the program,’” Boykins said.
This summer, assistant Eric Strangis, who played at CV and at USC in college, also left, and Boykins is now unquestionably the first guy Zargarian will look to for help. It won’t be too hard to find him.
“I can’t see myself going anywhere else,” he said.