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Showing their Wares

Those who followed City Section boys' basketball in the late 1970s know that it was a time of oohing and aahing over the magnificent displays of athletic talent.

There was Dwayne Polee of Manual Arts torching teams with his unforgettable shooting skills. Darren Daye of Granada Hills Kennedy performed like a high school version of Magic Johnson. And Dane Suttle and Casper Ware averaged 29.8 points and 24.8, respectively, at Fremont.

Thirty years later, the sons are taking over for their fathers and providing basketball entertainment for a new generation of fans.

At Cerritos Gahr, Casper Ware Jr. is an energetic 5-foot-10 senior point guard playing alongside his younger brother, 5-7 sophomore Ervin. They don't score as much as their father did, but they play better defense and attack with a relentless fervor that makes the elder Ware proud.

"To see [Casper] and Ervin on the court at the same time brings back a lot of memories," he said.

Casper Jr. is so well respected that first-year Long Beach State Coach Dan Monson identified him as the key recruit for his incoming class.

"Somebody had to take that first leap of faith, and Casper was the one," Monson said. "We think he's somebody we can build around."

Casper Jr. leads a Gahr team that relies on a full-court pressing and half-court trapping defense. With his curly black hair and sly smile, he creates scoring opportunities for his teammates, whether it's through steals, dribble penetration or all-out hustle.

He's also averaging 20 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals. Ervin is averaging nine points and six assists.

"He's one in a million for a coach," Gahr Coach Bob Becker said of Casper Jr. "He's the hardest worker, the most dedicated. . . . He's one of those kids devoted to the game.

"He doesn't do things to make himself stand out. I like to brag about him that he's been able to get All-CIF two years in a row and MVP of the league and hasn't gotten an earring. That's quite an accomplishment for a kid these days."

Casper Jr. said his father used to wake him at 6:30 a.m. when he was in middle school to go running. And he once pulled him from a club team until he fulfilled his academic requirements.

"He forced me to do things I didn't really want to do, but it helped me in the long run," he said.

Casper Sr. and his wife, Autheia, have five sons and two daughters, ranging from 5 to 30. They were high school sweethearts at Fremont. He was reluctant to name one of his children after him because he remembered how kids used to tease him with "Casper the Friendly Ghost" references.

But Casper Jr. said he likes his name and doesn't care about any teasing.

What's clear is the discipline and work ethic passed from father to son. Piercings and tattoos are forbidden, and so is not giving everything his best.

"It doesn't matter who we're playing," Casper Jr. said. "I don't care if we're playing Kobe [Bryant]. I'm going to go out and play hard."

Before taking on Kobe, however, he might want to defeat his father more consistently in shooting competitions.

"He still beats me sometimes, and I don't like it," Casper Jr. said.

The fathers who went to high school in the late 1970s are nearing 50, and their sons have taken over as their families' athletic standouts.

Polee's son, Dwayne Jr., a 6-7 sophomore at Westchester who has committed to USC, is known for his long arms and impressive jumping ability.

Daye's son, Austin, was a standout at Irvine Woodbridge and is a freshman starter at Gonzaga, averaging 10.9 points.

Suttle's son, Dane Jr., was the 2006 City Section player of the year at Westchester and is now playing for Summit College Prep in Simi Valley.

The Wares have helped Gahr to a 12-3 record entering tonight's San Gabriel Valley League opener at powerful Compton Dominguez (9-2), where they're hoping for a little more family magic. Ervin has been impressive with his quickness and should inherit the point guard position from Casper Jr.

About the only disappointment among the Ware family's boys is their lack of height. Casper Jr. shares tallest-member status with his father, but at 5-10, that's hardly intimidating.

But he can dunk, and he warns, "When we get onto the court, we play bigger than we are."

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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