Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, January 30, 2002


Ranson DeCosta is making an impact on the court in his first varsity season with the Damien Monarchs.

On his way

Damien sophomore DeCosta
leads the ILH in scoring

By Marc Dixon

GET cut from the varsity basketball team, then ride the bench for the junior varsity. Make the varsity squad the next year and lead the league in scoring, then go on to star for North Carolina in college and dominate the NBA.

Sound familiar? Of course, it's the Michael Jordan story. Or could it someday be the Ranson DeCosta story? Up to the "lead the league in scoring" part, it's actually both their stories.

Damien Memorial High School sophomore guard Ranson DeCosta, in his first season of ILH varsity basketball, leads the league with a 22.2 points-per-game average at the halfway point. Although the team has started 0-8, DeCosta has given the high school basketball community a reason to watch Damien.

"Ranson is their difference-maker," Mid-Pacific coach Bill Wheeler said. "He can shoot, penetrate, handle the ball, a little of everything."

Some may think it's easy to score a lot when you play for a bad team, when individual goals tend to overtake team goals. But not in this case.

"Of course I would like more balanced scoring, but we need points and he gives us the best chance to get them," Damien coach Byron Mello said.

"He's all they have," said Wheeler. "So he does take a lot of shots, but he takes good shots. You hardly see him force."

In the only game DeCosta missed this season, Damien finished with 29 points. DeCosta dropped 31 points on St. Louis in the very next game, causing ILH coaches to alter their defensive strategy and his own coach to change the offensive strategy.

"We started off the season with a motion, basically an equal opportunity offense," said Mello. "We've since changed and run about four set plays with him as the primary option."

Mello feels DeCosta is the most talented offensive player he's had in his four years at Damien.

"He only has to develop that mid-range game," said Mello. "He can shoot the three, he'll go by anyone who comes out to defend the perimeter and he's strong enough to finish plays even with contact."

THE MANNER IN WHICH DeCosta conducts himself on the court reminds his coach of a taller version of former St. Louis standout and Star-Bulletin first-team all-state selection Junior Wong.

"He's tough and athletic and easily misjudged," said Mello. "Just like Junior. You look at him and think he's not gonna be a problem, then he scores 10 in a row on you."

"Like all good scorers, he possesses a lot of quickness with the ball and without the ball, and he's very aggressive to the basket," St. Louis coach Delbert Tengan said. "For a team that likes to pride itself on defense, for him to light us up for 31 says a lot about his offensive game.

"He's definitely going to be a concern the next time we play them."

DeCosta leads the Monarchs against two of the league's powers this week as they host St. Louis on Friday and Iolani on Saturday.

Despite being just a sophomore and a varsity rookie, DeCosta has not shied from the spotlight. He has even assumed somewhat of a leadership role.

"He's the guy who wants to guard the other team's best player," said Mello. "He wants the challenge, he wants to take the big shot."

Mid-Pacific assistant coach Darren Tom acknowledged DeCosta's firepower but also pointed out his fiery demeanor.

"He's a competitor, you can see that in him on both sides of the court, a top-notch scorer but also an aggressive and disruptive defensive player," Tom said.

DeCosta feels no added pressure as the league's leading scorer.

"There's no pressure, (playing with my teammates) is like playing with your brothers," said DeCosta. "I know they depend on me to score, so I try my best to get the points. I depend on them to do other things."

THE KANEOHE NATIVE and big-time Jordan fan also has other attributes of a good leader -- a short memory, confidence and a desire to win.

"We can't worry about (the losses) now. We're looking forward to picking up our first win. In fact, we're gonna try and beat everybody," he said.

Advancing from the JV bench -- he was the team's sixth man but couldn't crack the starting lineup -- to the focal point of the varsity offense in one off-season is a huge jump that came after hours of hard work. But his work isn't limited to basketball.

DeCosta played quarterback and running back for the Damien football team and is a talented baseball player who once represented Hawaii in the USA-Canada Challenge.

"Over the summer I practiced every day," said DeCosta. However, since he plays three sports, the 5-foot-9 sophomore couldn't dedicate himself to one over the other. "I'd even out the practices and trained equally between basketball, football and baseball."

If he could only pick one sport, DeCosta insists the sport would be basketball, which incidentally also may be the one with the most influence on his future.

"He's only 16, so it depends how he fills out physically," said Mello. "If he continues to work on his basketball game, he's athletic enough, I can see himself playing on the next level."

The difference for DeCosta could lie in dropping the other sports, concentrating on basketball and honing his hardwood skills.

"That's what will decide between NAIA or NCAA Division II and Division I basketball," said Mello.

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