Juniors Austin Napolitano and Trevor Woodland earned La Verne the respect it was looking for as both received All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors.
The 6-foot-6-inch forward Napolitano broke La Verne’s five-season-long drought by earning First Team All-SCIAC averaging 12.4 points per game and leading the team with 6.7 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-5-inch guard Woodland led the Leopards this season averaging 13.4 points per game, and 54 three-point shots to make Second Team All-SCIAC.
The All-SCIAC honors Napolitano and Woodland share is rooted deeper than two teammates’ talent; they grew up playing against each other in the Kare Youth League in Covina at age 5, playing on the Damien High School basketball team together, and eventually making the decision to play together at La Verne.
Woodland’s father, Scott, played a big role in the formidable years for both players.
“My first memory of basketball is when my dad used to take me to the gym to play and I wasn’t big enough to shoot on the 10-foot rim, so I had to go to the smaller courts,” Woodland said. “It has helped me to remember that I have come a long way but there is so much farther I can go.”
“The two people who helped me most in my basketball career, I would have to say Scott Woodland and Matt Dunn (Damien High School basketball coach),” Napolitano said. “The two of them taught me not only how to play the game but showed me the love for it as well.”
At Damien High School, Woodland received First Team All-Sierra League as did Napolitano who also earned All-Valley honors.
“I remember talking to Trevor and for some reason we chose ULV,” Napolitano said. “Part of it is I wanted to stay close to family and friends, but also knew basketball and T-Wood were also synonymous, so ULV it was.”
“I decided to go to ULV because I wanted to stay close to home and I was impressed with the campus, coaching staff, and the players welcomed me with open arms,” Woodland said.
After playing together for more than a decade, Napolitano finds Woodland influential.
“Trevor and I have always pushed each other to get better and always make it fun,” Napolitano said. “In 10 years, I have never lost love for the game and a big part of that was him.”
The two La Verne stars were two of the biggest offensive threats this season and led the Leopards to an 8-6 conference record to place third and 13-13 overall. La Verne had one of its most successful seasons making the SCIAC postseason tournament semifinal, losing to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps by six.
“This past season was by far the best,” Napolitano said. “The team, the energy, and the support was more than we could imagine. It was a fun ride.”
The All-SCIAC honors for Napolitano and Woodland is the first for both while at La Verne.
“It’s a great honor to receive All-SCIAC and I am just happy that my team allowed me to get that honor, because without those guys I wouldn’t have a chance,” Napolitano said.
“It makes me feel like the work has paid off and makes me feel great,” Woodland said.
Woodland is a business administration major and plans to own his own business after graduating next year. His future plans for basketball are to win a SCIAC championship and to enjoy his last year to the fullest.
Napolitano is double majoring in accounting and economics and plans to attend graduate school and become an executive for BlackRock. His immediate focus is on next season and going further in the SCIAC tournament.
“They influence me by always encouraging me when I’m down or when something doesn’t go my way. They help the team when things aren’t going right,” sophomore point guard Jake Veith said. “One of them steps up and delivers and that gives the rest of the team confidence.”
“It’s a testament not only to their individual abilities, but also the strength of our team,” head coach Richard Reed said. “I think that Trevor and Austin will tell you that their teammates are a big reason for their success. It’s a testament to the success that we had as a team this year.”
“They deserved All-SCIAC because they worked hard in the offseason to better themselves and put that hard work into effect when it mattered in the games,” Veith said. “They worked really hard this year and were thrown the best defenders at them all season and they still were successful.”
“I love how you can get completely lost in the moment and forget everything else in the world,” Woodland said. “I love this game and it gives me back a sense of fulfillment and peace.”
Krista Franceschini can be reached at email@example.com.