The name Jerry Grote may not ring a bell with today’s crop of Catholic high school basketball stars.
But Grote — a 6-foot-4-inch guard who played at Cantwell High School in Montebello (now Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary) and Loyola University in Westchester (now Loyola Marymount) — enjoys unique status as the first graduate of a local Catholic high school to play in the National Basketball Association.
Grote — not to be confused with former major league baseball catcher Jerry Grote, who played for the Mets and Dodgers — played for the 1965 Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 33 points in 11 games. The 1965 Lakers, featuring future Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, eventually lost to Boston in the 1965 NBA finals (as did most Laker teams of the 1960s), and Grote’s NBA career lasted just the one season.
In all, 35 men who have played in the NBA since it was founded in 1946 got their start at Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange. Two of the 35 have reached the ultimate level of NBA champion:
> Bob Gross, a member of Fermin Lasuen High School’s last graduating class (1971), who played college ball at Cal State Long Beach. In his second pro season, the 6-foot-6-inch forward started alongside future Hall of Famer Bill Walton for the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers, who beat the Philadelphia 76ers for the NBA title.
> David Greenwood, the 6-foot-9-inch former Verbum Dei (class of 1975) and UCLA star who — near the end of a fine 12-year career — joined Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman on the 1990 Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” title team, defeating a Portland squad coached by St. Piux X High School and LMU alum Rick Adelman.
The local Catholic schools that have produced the most NBA players are Mater Dei (9) and Verbum Dei (6), followed by St. Bernard (4) and Junípero Serra, Loyola and now-closed St. Pius X (2 each). Two (at this writing) are active: Loyola’s Hollis Thompson (with New Orleans) and Mater Dei’s Stanley Johnson (with Detroit).
The players are listed here alphabetically by school (a few of which have since closed):
> Cantwell Sacred Heart, Montebello: Jerry Grote (played for 1964-65 L.A. Lakers, after starring at Loyola University where he was three times All-West Coast Athletic Conference and played on the Lions’ 1960-61 Conference championship team).
> Crespi, Encino: Paul Mokeski (12 seasons with five teams, mainly Milwaukee, ending in 1991).
> Daniel Murphy, Los Angeles: Brad Wright (1987 N.Y. Knicks and 1988 Denver Nuggets).
> Don Bosco Tech, Rosemead: Wayne Englestad (1989, Denver).
> Fermin Lasuen, San Pedro: Bob Gross (eight seasons, 1976-83, mainly with Portland; averaged 14.1 points in 19 playoff games for 1977 champions).
> Junipero Serra, Gardena: Eugene Jeter (2011 Sacramento Kings); Milt Palacio (seven seasons with six teams, 2000-06).
> Loyola, Los Angeles: Toby Bailey (two seasons 1999-2000, Phoenix Suns); Hollis Thompson (four seasons, Philadelphia and now New Orleans)
> Mater Dei, Santa Ana: Cedric Bozeman (2007 Atlanta Hawks); LeRon Ellis (three seasons, 1992, ’94, ’96, with four teams including L.A. Clippers); Reggie Geary (two seasons, 1997-98, with Cleveland and San Antonio); Stanley Johnson (two seasons, currently with Detroit); Jamal Sampson (five seasons, 2003-07, with five teams, including 2004 Lakers); Miles Simon (1999 Orlando Magic); D.J. Strawberry (2008 Phoenix Suns); David Wear (2015 Sacramento Kings); Travis Wear (2015 N.Y. Knicks).
> St. Anthony, Long Beach: Darrick Martin (13 season with six teams, 1995-2008, including L.A. Clippers; led NBA in games played with the 1998 Clippers).
> St. Bernard, Playa del Rey: Corey Gaines (five seasons with four teams, 1989-91 and 1994-95, including 1994 N.Y. Knicks who lost in NBA finals); Ron Grandison (four seasons with five teams, 1989, 1992, 1995-96); Ed Stokes (1998 Toronto Raptors); Leonard Taylor (1990 Golden State Warriors).
> St. Francis, La Cañada Flintridge: Mike Newlin (11 seasons, 1972-82, with three teams, mainly Houston; led NBA in games played (82) in 1973).
> St. John Bosco, Bellflower: James Cotton (two seasons with Seattle, 1998-99).
> St. Monica, Santa Monica: Leon Wood (six seasons with six teams, 1985-91).
> St. Pius X, Downey: Rick Adelman (seven seasons with five teams, 1969-75, followed by 23 seasons as NBA coach); Lorenzo Romar (five seasons with three teams, 1981-85, mainly Golden State).
> Santa Margarita, Rancho Santa Margarita: Mychel Thompson (2012 Cleveland Cavaliers).
> Verbum Dei, Los Angeles: Ken Austin (1984 with Detroit); Lewis Brown (1981 with Washington); Kenny Fields (four seasons, 1985-88, with Milwaukee and L.A. Clippers); David Greenwood (12 seasons, 1980-91, with four teams, mostly Chicago and San Antonio; named to 1980 All-Rookie team; played on 1990 Detroit NBA title team); Roy Hamilton (two seasons, 1980-81, Detroit and Portland); Andre Miller (17 seasons, 2000-16, with nine teams, including L.A. Clippers in 2003; named to All-Rookie team in 2000; led NBA in assists per game with 10.9 in 2002 for Cleveland; led NBA six times in games played).
Source: Basketball Reference.com