Sondheimer: Centennial's Eric Freeny will be a perfect fit for Mick Cronin and UCLA

Eric Freeny drives to the basket, sees an open teammate and feeds him the ball. Swish. It’s a three. Freeny watches a shot go in and out, gets the offensive rebound, scores as he's fouled and completes the three-point play. On the baseline, he makes a three. On defense, he rebounds and starts a fast break. Later, he blocks a shot.

If you want a player who does everything, the 6-foot-4 senior guard at Corona Centennial is that man. Add the fact he doesn’t mind a coach telling him if he’s doing something wrong in a loud voice and you begin to understand how he’s the perfect player to join UCLA next season.

Coach Josh Giles jokes that Bruins coach Mick Cronin won’t have to worry about his vocal chords in dealing with Freeny.

“When a coach is yelling at you, I’ve learned to put it aside,” Freeny said. “Coach Giles and Coach Cronin are kind of the same person. I know not to take it personally.”

Averaging 20 points and seven rebounds, Freeny is all about winning. He’s played on three Centennial teams that won Southern Section Open Division championships. Each season he accepted his role as helping out the big star. As a freshman, it was Kylan Boswell (now at Arizona). As a sophomore, it was Donovan Dent (New Mexico). As a junior, it was Jared McCain (Duke).

"I just had to accept my role,” Freeny said. “I knew my time would come. I just had to be patient. They’ve always been older than me. I learned a lot.”

Freeny found ways to contribute. As a sophomore, it was his performance off the bench that led to a win over Harvard-Westlake. Last season in the Open Division final against St. John Bosco, he had all four of Centennial’s three-pointers and 18 points in a 58-56 win.

“He’s has a knack of playing real well in our biggest games,” Giles said. “That’s something you can’t teach. Some have that trait, others don’t.”

Earlier this week, Freeny had 11 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in Centennial’s 82-78 win over 18-1 Eastvale Roosevelt. It was another example of Freeny doing whatever his team needed to win. While Carter Bryant was scoring 39 points, Freeny found other ways to key the victory.

“We emphasize how do you impact winning?” Giles said. “And scoring isn’t the only way to impact winning. Eric may be a little bit underrated on rankings, but I think he’s a perfect Cronin guy because he’s tough. You can hit him with sledgehammer, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to keep playing. Nothing rattles him, nothing shakes him. He keeps going.”

Centennial is 15-8 with a team full of sophomores. Freeny had 34 points on Saturday night at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., in a 73-71 loss to Westminster (Penn.) Archbishop Wood. The win over Roosevelt was a clear sign that the Huskies are starting to figure out what it takes to beat quality teams.

"Be patient and trust the process," Freeny said.

Now, if only his future team, UCLA, can do the same.

"I watch the games and it's hard seeing your team lose," he said. "They lost all their four-year players and are rebuilding. They have to get over that hump too."

Trusting the process is what Freeny has done, leading to three Southern Section championship rings and a scholarship to UCLA. Few can top that.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.