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Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sideline Smitty

Some basketball stars to watch this season

Seattle Times staff reporter

Q: What is your recommendation of five boys basketball players to see this season?

A: Hope you like guards. That's where the talent is clustered this year.

Steven Gray of Bainbridge is a Gonzaga signee and generally regarded as the state's top recruit because Curtis' Isaiah Thomas transferred to a Connecticut prep school. Gray has wonderful range and a nice stroke.

Terrell Smith of Federal Way is a 6-foot-5 game-changing guard who leads area scorers with a 25.8 average. He will play at Pacific.

Jamelle McMillan of O'Dea has a lot of basketball smarts, which is no surprise because he's the son of ex-Sonics coach Nate. He is an Arizona State recruit who makes everyone around him better.

Venoy Overton of Franklin is a USC recruit with an exceptional motor.

"I don't know if there is a player who works as hard as he does on both ends of the court for 32 minutes," one coach told me (his sophomore teammate Peyton Siva is well worth a look, too).

I can't make up my mind on No. 5, and my two leading candidates are both juniors in Pierce County. Patrick McCollum of Mount Tahoma is a light-it-up guard. Clarence Trent of Gig Harbor is a 6-8 junior who is potential personified. He made a splash at last year's 4A tournament but has had bouts of foul trouble this season.

You didn't ask, but here are my five girls as a bonus:

Angie Bjorklund of University High School in Spokane is headed for Tennessee and the 6-1 guard is ranked as the No. 2 senior player by Scout.com. Alex Montgomery, a 6-1 forward from Lincoln-Tacoma is headed to Georgia Tech as Scout.com's No. 15 player in the land. Courtney Vandersloot of Kentwood is a 5-8 Gonzaga recruit who is averaging 25.4 points to top local scorers. She isn't bashful when it comes to going to the hoop.

Two UW recruits round out my list because it's fun to see kids in high school, then later in college. They are 6-3 Mackenzie Argens of Roosevelt and guard Kristi Kingma, a three-sport junior at Jackson High School. I have a soft spot for multi-sport athletes.

My bonus pick is UCLA-bound forward Christine Nzekwe of Chief Sealth.

Q: Holy Hot Dog, what's going on? I went to a boys high-school basketball game at Mercer Island recently and the concession stand wasn't selling hot dogs or some of the other junk-food staples of the spectator diet.

A: The Islanders indeed have gone healthy for all athletic events.

Athletic director Craig Olson said, "It's something we just felt was the right thing to do."

The offerings: Salads, non-fat and low-fat milk in four flavors, juices, regular and flavored water, pizza with wheat crust and freshly made sub sandwiches on whole wheat rolls. Some candy and licorice is sold and you can buy a Diet Pepsi but not a regular Pepsi.

Don't think you will be able to find junk food in the school's vending machines. Your chances are about as good as finding an affordable home on the island.

Q: Did the Big Nine Conference in the middle of the state change its name?

A: Yes, unfortunately it did. The proper name now is Columbia Basin League. It has a seven-team 4A division and a seven-team 3A division.

The 4A teams are Pasco, Richland, Walla Walla, Wenatchee, Moses Lake and Eisenhower and Davis of Yakima. The 3A schools are the three Kennewick schools (Southridge, Kennewick and Kamiakin) that dropped to 3A in reclassification, plus newcomers Sunnyside, Eastmont of East Wenatchee, Hanford and West Valley-Yakima from the defunct Mid-Valley League.

Even in years when it had 10 schools, the league called itself the Big Nine. It will always be Big Nine to me.

Have a question about high-school sports? Craig Smith will find the answer every Tuesday in The Times. Ask your question in one of the following ways: Voice mail (206-464-8279), snail mail (Craig Smith, Seattle Times Sports, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111) or e-mail csmith@seattletimes.com

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