Napier Goes From Hollywood To The Hardwood!

September 27, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Southern Illinois University – Not many college basketball players have an entry on the Internet Movie Database, commonly known as IMDB.

Rishonda Napier has one.

Before she ever got in a layup line, the Saluki freshman was memorizing lines.

“My brother and I were always good at public speaking and doing things in church,” Napier said. “When my brother was seven, he told my dad he wanted to be an actor. Him being the older brother and me wanting to be just like him, I wanted to do everything he did.”

When Napier was eight years old, her family moved from Florida to Burbank, Calif. to pursue her brother Ryan’s acting dream. Both Napier kids ended up getting involved in acting. Rishonda made appearances in two episodes of “ER,” one episode of “Malcolm in the Middle” and a short film called “Gift for the Living.”

It didn’t take Rishonda long, however, to realize her interests laid elsewhere.

“Basketball is the reason I stopped acting,” Napier said. “I played my first basketball game, and I decided that was what I wanted to do.”

Napier first started playing basketball in the Burbank, Calif., parks and recreation league. She was eventually picked up by an AAU team and started playing basketball in school as well. Napier played point guard for the first time during her freshman year of high school.

“I played the two until I was in high school. That is when I realized that I was a little vertically challenged. Point guard was the best fit for me,” Napier said. “ I believe it is one of the hardest jobs on the floor, but it is the most important.”

Napier helped Bellarmine-Jefferson High school to the California Division V state championship as a freshman and earned First-Team All-State honors three times during her career in addition to being a McDonald’s All-American nominee her senior season. Additionally, she graduated near the top of her class with a 4.0 GPA.

Southern signed Napier in the late signing period last spring. SIU coach Missy Tiber said Napier’s basketball talents weren’t the only thing that caught her attention.

“Rishonda is a mature young lady with an engaging personality,” Tiber said. “We are very excited to have her as part of our program.”

Though SIU had an All-MVC point guard a year ago in Valley Freshman of the Year Cartaesha Macklin, it is possible that SIU’s best lineup may be to have Napier run the point with Macklin at the two.

“Rishonda has been extremely impressive during preseason workouts,” Tiber said. “She is a true point guard and has the ability to score the basketball in many ways.”

By Bill Ford/Saluki Media Services

Bell-Jeff Softball Leads Way During 2011-12 Campaign!

August 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

BURBANK – No other team has been as successful at Bellarmine-Jefferson High over the last two years as the school’s softball squad.

Over that span, the Guards have captured consecutive Santa Cruz League championships and made back-to-back appearances in the CIF Southern Section Division VII tile game.

Although Bell-Jeff fell in the title game to Pomona Catholic this past season, 1-0 — it also lost to the same team in 2011, 7-6 — the Guards still put together a wildly successful season. In addition, the Guards can take come comfort that they lost no seniors to graduation. On top of that, the team also fielded just two juniors last season.

Under first-year Coach Florencio Galindo, the Guards (23-6-2) did put together the most successful season in school history in terms of victories. The team also captured its third straight Santa Cruz League championship and outscored its opponents, 56-0, in four playoff victories.

The Guards were attempting to win the third CIF title in the school’s 68-year history. The Guards girls’ basketball team captured championships in 1997 and 2009.

It was also the third time in 37 years that a team from the city was able to make it to a softball championship. Burbank High won a 3-A crown in 1975, which serves as the area’s lone CIF softball title.

The team was paced by sophomore transfer Mia Acosta, who was at her best in the playoffs. The All-CIF Southern Section Division VII first-teamer and Santa Cruz League Player of the Year allowed just one run in the playoffs and none in league play, while posting a 13-3 overall record.

The team also received outstanding efforts from sophomore infielder Sofia Placios (.593 average, 36 runs batted in, 18 extra-base hits) and sophomore outfielder Jaylen Watson (.452, 31 RBI, 33 runs scored).

Bell-Jeff began the 2011-12 school year with a successful run by its girls’ volleyball team in the fall. Bell-Jeff (14-7-2) advanced to the CIF Division IV-A quarterfinals, losing to No. 1-seeded Hemet in a dogfight, 21-25, 25-16, 25-27, 25-14,15-8. The Guards also secured their sixth straight Santa Cruz League title.

Senior outside hitter Jocelyn Cervantes (Cal State Stanislaus) was a driving force for Bell-Jeff. Cervantes, who earned her third All-CIF Division IV-A accolade, her second straight league player-of-the-year honor and her fourth All-Area award, had to overcome the struggle of having to rely on a new setter last season.

During her four-year tenure, Bell-Jeff won four straight league titles, posted a 66-25-2 record, advanced to the playoff quarterfinals twice, the semifinals once and the Division IV-A championship in 2009, all under Coach Miguel Segura.

Also in the fall, Bell-Jeff cross-country runner Charles Salomon won the boys’ race at the Santa Fe League finals at Griffith Park. Salomon, who finished in 16 minutes 28 seconds on the three-mile course, helped pace the Guards to a second-place finish.

In the winter season, the Guards girls’ basketball team put together another fine season under former coach Jaclyn Johnson, who stepped aside following the season to take a position at Santa Monica College.

Bell-Jeff was paced by a pair of four-year standouts: Rishonda Napier (Southern Illinois University) and Jasmine Smith (San Jose State).

Napier, a McDonald’s All-American candidate, was named to the All-CIF Division IV-AA first-team for the third time. In addition, Napier was named the Santa Cruz League player of the year and made her fourth All-Area team. Napier averaged 21.7 points a game to go along with nearly three assists and three steals.

Smith, who earned first-team all-league and All-Area accolades, averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds a game.

Bell-Jeff (24-6) captured its fifth straight Santa Cruz League title. The No. 6 Guards advanced to the Division IV-AA semifinals where they fell to No. 7 Gardena Serra, 71-54. The team also won a game in the Division IV state playoffs against Los Angeles Baptist, 70-60, before falling to St. Bernard, 65-51.

It was the Guards’ fifth straight appearance in the division semifinals, something no other team in city history has been able to accomplish.

The Bell-Jeff boys’ basketball team led by senior Elijah Reed, (University of Puget Sound), also qualified for the playoffs after placing fourth in the Santa Fe League.

Another fine accomplishment came in the spring season in track and field. For the first time in school history, a relay team was able to qualify for the CIF Southern Section Track and Field Championships at Mt. San Antonio College.

Unfortunately for Bell-Jeff’s 400-meter relay foursome of London Webster, Jonathan Smith, Josh Martinez and Jalen Henry, it failed to finish in the Division IV final race.

Jeff Tully

Guards Take Their Game To The Next Level!

June 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Burbank – As the memories of high school athletics slowly fade away for the majority of Bell-Jeff varsity seniors, four Bell-Jeff Guards will continue their careers at the college level.

Rishonda Napier, Jasmine Smith, Jocelyn Cervantes and Elijah Reed will depart to different parts of the US to display their skills for new and bigger crowds.

Rishonda Napier, graduated Summa Cum Laude in the top percentile of her class.

Over her four year career at Bell-Jeff, she captured 1st Team All-League, All-CIF, All-State and 2012 Daily News All Area Player of the Year. She was also a key part of the 2009 State Championship team that produced Margeaux Gupilan (currently running the hardwood floor at the University of Buffalo in New York. Rishonda was also nominated for the 2012 McDonalds All-American Team.

In her senior year, Rishonda averaged 21.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals, while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.

She had a career-high 34 points in a 65-54 quarterfinal win at Chaminade.

Rishonda will travel east to Southern Illinois University to play for the Salukis next season.

Jasmine Smith, was also a big part of that 2009 State Championship team with Rishonda and during her storied career at Bell-Jeff earned a slew of accolades as well, including, 1st Team All-League, All-CIf and Burbank Leader All-Area Honors.

Jasmine and Rishonda led their team to 4 straight League Titles and amassed a win total that will be hard to beat. During her senior year, Jasmine averaged, 16 points, 10 rebounds per game.

Jasmine also ran track and was a big part of was part of the CIF semi-final Volleyball team that featured our next standout player Jocelyn Cervantes and will join the Spartans at San Jose State in the fall.

Jocelyn Cervantes, held serve on a different court, but was equally as successful as her basketball counterparts. Her cool demeanor, paired with a vicious spike put fear in the hearts of volleyball players across the county.

A four year varsity starter, Jocelyn led the Lady Guards to consecutive league titles and was honored with All-League, All-CIF and All-Area titles. She also helped make school history when the girls volleyball team made it all the way to the CIF finals barley losing the championship to Upland Christian Academy in a tough match. She led the Guards back the the CIF quarter finals the following year before losing a close one to number one seeded Hemet High School.

Jocelyn finished her career at Bell-Jeff  as one of the best volleyball players in the schools history winning four straight league titles, posting a 66-25-2 record, advancing to the playoff quarterfinals twice, the semifinals once and the Division IV-A championship game in 2009.

Jocelyn will stay close to home and take her game to California State University Stanislaus in Turlock, California..

Elijah Reed, the only boy in this group, definitely made his presence known on campus. This future Senior Class President was the JV long jump league champion his freshman year, played a year of varsity football as a sophomore and varsity baseball his senior year.

But basketball was his true passion. Elijah was MVP of the JV basketball team as a freshman and went on to become a three year varsity starter.

Always the hardest worker on the floor, he would guard anyone and established himself as one of the top defenders in the Santa Fe league.

During his career at Bell-Jeff, Elijah earned 1st team All-League honors and helped the team win their first league championship in 12 years. In his senior year, he averaged 12 points, 3 assists, 2.5 steals and shot 75% from the free throw line earning team MVP honors.

Elijah was the 2012 Senior Class President and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Bellarmine-Jefferson High School with a 4.2 GPA his senior year. He was awarded the Science award as the top Chemistry student in his graduating class and named the Distinguished Male Athlete by the US Marine Corps.

Elijah will play for the Loggers at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma Washington next season.

Averie Alice Guzman – was another member from the Bell-Jeff team that won Southern Section and state championships in 2009. She averaged six points, five rebounds her senior year and earned 1st Team All-Legue honors. She will join the Leopards of La Verne University next year and her team mate Marilyn Flynn will take her game to Santa Monica JC.

Story by Eric “Rico” Reed