When the Culver City varsity boys’ basketball season ended on June 1, in the CIF playoffs quarterfinals a lot of people thought the program had gained a lot of respect after years of average and below average seasons.
The 2021 Centaurs won the tough Bay League with a record of 8-2 and into the playoffs. They made it to the third round before losing to Crean Lutheran of Irvine, a team that made it to the championship game in Division 2A.
Crean Lutheran was one of the best teams in the state, so the loss was not a surprise. What is a surprise is Culver City appears to be building something special on the basketball court? With good coaching and overachieving players, the basketball program looks like they are moving in the right direction.
One of those overachieving players is James Pak. At 5’10, and 140 pounds, he is one of the smallest players on the team, but he is one of the best. “As a senior he understands where Culver City basketball was and where it’s going,” said head varsity coach Roy Walker.
“He is a guy that I saw his game progress from not just being a shooter to be a complete basketball player. It is one of the greatest things that I have seen in a long time. He puts in the work and it’s a beautiful thing when a kid improves and puts in the work.”
Pak agrees with his coach. “Last year I was mainly a shooter but this year I have been able to increase my defensive abilities and on offense I am creating plays for my teammates as well.”
During the two playoff wins at home against Simi Valley and Hillcrest of Riverside Pak’s shooting and defense was spectacular. Every time the Centaurs needed a basket Pak was James on the spot. His quickness on defense was also outstanding.
“From time to time when I come off the bench that’s what they really need is energy and someone to play good defense and that’s what I like to provide. When opposing teams like to play a zone defense and challenges our shooting ability that’s when I step up. We try to prove to other teams that we are a capable shooting team. Whether it’s from mid-range or from the 3-point line.”
Pak knows basketball is a team game and he is grateful for having reliable teammates. “None of this would be possible if we did not have each other’s back. Our team chemistry this year has increased during the season. That’s how we were able to play as a unit.”
Walker is a demanding coach, and Pak is used to demanding coaches. “I grew up with my older sister Julia coaching me and she was the same as coach Walker. His coaching methods are very intense but that is what we need to push us to become better. He is a very good motivator.”
Pak is looking forward to playing basketball at the next level, but he knows the last few years at Culver City has been special. “Before coach Walker and his staff came to Culver City no one even looked at Culver City basketball. Now I feel like we have come together, and we are starting to leave a legacy. We are league champs. We have been waiting for this moment. I am grateful. It feels absolutely amazing.”