2009-11-25 / Community

Oak Park basketball star returns

By Sophia Fischer sfischer@theacorn.com

YOUNG LEADER—After playing for Oak Park High School for four years, Sam Levine is now coaching the school’s freshman/ sophomore team. Levine, who graduated in June, is a student at Moorpark College. YOUNG LEADER—After playing for Oak Park High School for four years, Sam Levine is now coaching the school’s freshman/ sophomore team. Levine, who graduated in June, is a student at Moorpark College. Sam Levine, a former Oak Park High School basketball star, is no longer taking the shots, but he’s still calling them. Levine has returned to the school as a coach.

The Moorpark College student was recently hired to coach the freshman/sophomore boys’ basketball team. Levine graduated in June after four successful years in Oak Park’s basketball program.

Levine was hired because of his love for the game and his style of play, said Tim Chevalier, junior varsity coach.

“He brings the on-court experience and structure necessary to lead a team and make it successful,” said Chevalier, who is also the dean at Medea Creek Middle School. “His connection with players, his ability to lead and his diligent work ethic will make him a very good and successful coach.”

Levine was one of Oak Park’s top shooters, averaging 17.1 points and six rebounds per game. He was a three-year varsity player and a two-year varsity starter. He was named MVP in March by the Tri Valley League. When 11 players graduated from the varsity team in 2008, coaches looked to Levine for leadership during the 2009 season.

“He was a scrawny little kid who could barely get a shot to the rim from beyond the arc, yet through his dedication, hard work and perseverance, he became one of the best players in school history,” Chevalier said. “Being able to see a player you coached come back and give back to the program he thrived and succeeded in, and perhaps made him a man, is a blessing.”

Until his senior year of high school Levine was the youngest on the basketball team.

“I loved it. I’m still friends with all of the older guys,” Levine said.

Levine translated his basketball experience to other areas of his life.

“If you work hard in everything you do you’ll succeed,” he said.

Levine had an opportunity to play college basketball but chose not to so that he could focus on school and his goal of transferring to USC in Los Angeles next year. He plans to major in psychology and become a clinical psychologist.

He was asked to be head coach of the frosh/soph team, but at age 18 Levine wasn’t sure he was ready. He agreed to be an assistant coach and encouraged Kelly Ross, another former Oak Park student, to serve as head coach. Ross, who also played basketball for Oak Park, graduated in 2000.

Levine and Ross met years ago through basketball. When Levine was in the fourth grade he attended a basketball camp at Oak Park High where Ross was a counselor and member of the varsity basketball team. Years later a grown-up Levine ran into Ross again at a local health club and the two developed a friendship.

This past week basketball tryouts ended. The coaches made their final cuts with 15 athletes chosen, including a team manager. The team is young—14 freshmen and one sophomore.

“Usually on frosh/soph you have a few guys who played the year before and then a bunch of freshmen,” Levine said. “The freshman class is pretty good. One’s on varsity; two are on JV.”

The team is working hard to prepare for its first scrimmage on Sat., Nov. 28, Levine said. The season begins on Dec. 1, and league play begins in January.

“My goal is to get them to learn the right way to play basketball and to work hard, be good teammates and have fun,” Levine said. “I want to give them the experience I had.”

Coaching is harder than he expected, Levine said.

“I kind of imagine that you go out there and you give them a drill and they’re going to do it,” Levine said. “Especially at the frosh/soph level you have to go step-by-step. We’re still teaching fundamentals.”

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