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February 21, 2014

Cathedral rises to elite with Middlebrooks



Make room for the Cathedral Phantoms.

Traditionally dominated by the likes of Mater Dei, Loyola, Redondo Union, St. John Bosco, and a few others, Southern California basketball has a new thoroughbred -- and this one plans on sticking around.

Cathedral's emergence has everything to do with its second-year coach, William Middlebrooks.

As head coach of Ribet Academy from 2006-2012,Middlebrooks appeared in three CIF Championship games, produced three McDonald's All-American nominees, and one CIF Player of the Year. He's also an integral part of the nation's second-largest AAU program, the Compton Magic.

Success has followed Middlebrooks to Cathedral, where this year, the Phantoms find themselves crashing the hyper-competitive Open Division Tournament after a 22-3 regular season that included a perfect 10-0 in-conference mark.

"I'm just a gym-rat," Middlebrooks told Rivals.com earlier in the week. "I like helping kids get better. My thing has always been to coach kids that want to be coached."

"Coaching," for Middlebrooks, is a comprehensive pursuit, and it starts with academics.

"When I was at Ribet Academy, we had two valedictorians and a salutatorian, and our team GPA was 3.7, so there's a message I'm trying to get out…My first year here, we only had one kid on the honor roll. This year, 15 of 19 made it."

Impressive results that make growth on the basketball court all the more noteworthy.

Of course, with success come raised expectations. The Phantoms will move to a new, tougher league next year and face a difficult Etiwanda squad on Friday.

"I've always been about playing the best competition," explains Middlebrooks. "It brings out the best in both parties. There will be 2,400 people in their gym, so we know we'll be tested."

Players like Idrissa Diallo, though, are proof Middlebrooks has already won. A native of Senegal, the Rivals150 power forward heads to Berkeley in the fall to compete for the California Golden Bears.

"My goal is to give kids access to education so that they can change their reality," says Middlebrooks. "People who commit themselves solely in the classroom can't necessarily afford an education. Whether they go pro or not, I could care less. But how do we get kids out of the hood and into the schools? Basketball is a great vehicle for that."

It's a formula that produces plenty of winners, regardless of the game's outcome.


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