His last name raises curiosity when uttered — especially in Southern California.
It's where his father was a high school baseball phenom at L.A. Crenshaw and even played for the Dodgers before injuries and indiscretions caught up with him to derail what many thought would be a sure Hall of Fame career.
But D.J. Strawberry (Santa Ana Mater Dei HS) plays a different sport (basketball) altogether and is doing his best to keep the Maryland Terrapins in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth.
Last week, Strawberry — whose father Darryl starred for the New York Mets in the 1980s and played 17 seasons in the major leagues — earned Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week honors for the second week in a row and third time this season.
Strawberry averaged 18.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in victories over Florida State and North Carolina. Against the then-No. 5 Tar Heels, Strawberry, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, scored a career-high 27 points and led the Terrapins (23-7 overall, 9-6 in the ACC) to their fifth consecutive victory, a streak they extended to six with an 85-77 victory Wednesday night against No. 17 Duke. Strawberry had 17 points in the victory over the Blue Devils.
Before the season, Maryland Coach Gary Williams said this about Strawberry: "D.J. is one of the best all-around guards in the country and has earned a national reputation as that type of player. He has sacrificed for us by playing point guard, but I think this will be a season where it all comes together for him."
It certainly seems to have worked out that way.
Strawberry averaged 6.2 and 7.1 points in his first two seasons before raising it to 10.3 as a junior when he started all 32 games. This season, Strawberry has started all 29 games and is averaging a team-leading 15.1 points.
But Strawberry isn't the only Maryland player with local ties contributing to the cause. Ekene Ibekwe (Carson HS), a 6-9 senior forward who has played for Nigeria's national team, is averaging 12.7 points and a team-leading 7.6 rebounds. Ibekwe also has increased his scoring average each season.
It isn't quite the days of Jerry Tarkanian, Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony, but Nevada Las Vegas is again making noise — this time in the Mountain West Conference as opposed to the Big West — and eyeing an NCAA bid with a 24-6 record.
This edition of the Runnin' Rebels has shown a propensity to play at a fast tempo (a 102-56 win over Norfolk State as evidence) as well as an ability to win games played at a snail's pace (58-49 over Nevada and 60-50 over Air Force).
A balanced attack has been led by 6-6 senior guard Wendell White (Redondo Union HS/Antelope Valley College), who is averaging team highs in points (15.1) and rebounds (6.6), and teams in UNLV's three-guard offense with sophomore Wink Adams (14.5) and senior Kevin Kruger (12.3).
White had a career-high 30 points in an overtime loss to Wyoming on Jan. 10 and then scored a game-high 18 when UNLV returned the favor and defeated Wyoming, 80-70, a month later.
The Rebels also have two other local players contributing in 6-6 sophomore guard Rene Rougeau (Etiwanda HS) and 6-8 freshman forward Matt Shaw (L.A. Fairfax HS). Rougeau has averaged 1.6 points in 17 games, and Shaw has averaged 1.3 in 15 games.
Another Mountain West player having a big season — and a big career for that matter — is San Diego State senior guard Brandon Heath (L.A. Westchester HS).
Heath, averaging a team-leading 18.4 points having started all 29 games this season, also has his sights set on an NCAA tournament berth.
He has scored in double figures in every game this season with a low of 13 (three times) and a high of 30 (in consecutive victories over New Mexico and Brigham Young last week).
But Heath has been a contributor since arriving in San Diego, having passed Michael Cage as the school's all-time leading scorer earlier this season. As a freshman, he stepped in to average 13.8 points, pushing it to 18.3 and 18.4 the next two seasons.
San Diego State is 20-9 overall and 9-6 in the Mountain West, most likely needing a strong showing in the conference tournament to reach the NCAAs.
Three other local players, playing in power conferences, have contributed to their team's relative successes, although none figure to have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament this season.
Marcus Johnson (L.A. Westchester HS), a 6-6 sophomore forward-guard, is averaging 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in 16.6 minutes for Connecticut but was recently replaced in the starting lineup. Johnson has started 17 of 28 games for the Huskies, who are 17-12 overall and 6-9 in the Big East Conference, putting them 11th in the 16-team league.
At South Carolina, 6-4 senior guard Bryce Sheldon (Anaheim Loara HS/Fullerton College) is the third-leading scorer (8.8 points) for the Gamecocks, who are last in the Southeastern Conference's East Division at 4-11 but have a 14-14 overall record. Sheldon is the team leader in three-point baskets with 57. Sheldon scored a career-high 22 points in an 80-74 overtime victory to spoil USC's Galen Center opener on Nov. 16.
Iowa State is 10th in the Big 12 Conference standings, but 6-0 junior guard Corey McIntosh (West Covina HS/Fullerton College/Pasadena City College) is contributing 4.1 points a game and averaging 23.1 minutes. McIntosh, the team's point guard, scored a season-high 14 points in a 69-63 victory over Nebraska on Wednesday night.
"From Here To There" is a weekly web-exclusive column that appears Wednesdays. If you are aware of a former area prep standout competing in sports and excelling at the collegiate level or elsewhere, please let us know. Send any leads, tips or ideas to: email@example.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun