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For week ended January 24, 1999 Posted 24 Jan 1999
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Irvine Valley's Esplin Keeps Getting Better With Age

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Irvine Valley's Esplin Keeps Getting Better With Age
Los Angeles Times 19Jan99 L3
By Steve Kresal: Times Staff Writer

Basketball: Sophomore forward, 23, deferred school to go on mission, and now averages 16 points and eight rebounds.

Returned missionary, Ben Esplin was the first basketball player at Vacaville High, a Los Angles area school, to earn a Division I scholarship when he signed with University of Pacific in 1994. He had led Vacaville to the Sac-Joaquin Section finals twice in Sacramento's Arco Arena, winning once. UOP knew that he was going on a mission, but it was OK with them. However, he was redshirted his first season and left for his mission to the Buffalo, NY area the next.

On his return, UOP was going to redshirt him again so he elected to transfer to Irvine Valley, a local community college, where he is on his second season as a sophomore forward at age 23. (Unknown to his teammates, he had his birthday last week but didn't let them know, as he was kidded enough about being and old man a age 22.) Ben is also an honor-roll student majoring in physics.

Last season, his first time to play an official game in three years, got off to a frustrating start. His three-year hiatus really showed. He only averaged 9 points a game and often didn't start, though he usually finished the game on the court. This season, Ben is a much more physical player and is leading Irvine Valley in scoring with 16 points and 8 rebounds per game

He is one of three sophomore players at Irvine Valley. The team wasn't expected to be much better than .500 this season, but is 15-6 so far. Ben, also a talented defender, hasn't received much interest from four-year colleges yet.

"That's OK," he said. "I didn't play this year to get recruited. I'm playing to prove something to myself. I wanted to get back to having fun. That year at Pacific was really hard and I started to doubt myself basketball-wise. This year has been nice because I know I'm really a good basketball player and all that stuff in high school, that wasn't a fluke."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information