Inland Empire: Rounds rounding into top form

PERRIS -- Welcome back.

Seemingly everyone at Citrus Hill High, even those closely associated with the boys' basketball program, is unaware of the fact that Anthony Rounds was born in the Southland. In Riverside, to be exact. Moreover, he grew up in Moreno Valley until he was 11-years old.

A family decision to move to Oklahoma, and Georgia thereafter, followed. That said, Rounds was a relative unknown commodity upon his recent return to the Inland Empire.

And when the Cubs' coach, Tim Hatch, learned that he was going to have the 6-foot-6 junior in the fold this season, all signs pointed to the head honcho hoping to have Rounds simply come in and contribute on some level. Expectations were tempered, at best. Rightfully so.

But surprise, Rounds has made it seem as if he never left this place.

“I've got to be honest with you, we didn't know much about him when he stepped foot on campus here, other than the obvious, his size. He's been a pleasant addition,'' Hatch said of Rounds, who leads Citrus Hill with averages of 18.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game thus far.

Heading into Wednesday's showdown for sole possession of first place in the Mountain Pass League against host San Jacinto (10-11, 4-0), Rounds has finished with a double-double in 12 of 20 games for the Cubs (11-9, 4-0).

In late December, he opened plenty of eyes in a 57-51 victory over Palm Desert when he ended up with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Two weeks later, Rounds scored 27 points and added 18 rebounds in a 10-point win over Beaumont. A mere seven days after that standout effort, he scored 36 points to go along with 21 rebounds in a 67-55 victory over Hemet Tahquitz.

“The transition of moving back to California has been easy, I wasn't nervous, I was more excited than anything else,'' said Rounds, who played at Carrollton Central High (Ga.) as a sophomore and Franklin Heard County High (Ga.) during his freshman season.

“My teammates at Citrus Hill have been great. We have some good chemistry. I think this is a good fit for me and my confidence is high right about now. With every single game, I'm feeling better. I always knew that I could help out this team this year.''

In doing so, Rounds has caught the attention of several NCAA Division I colleges. Programs such as Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State have expressed varied levels of interest, although he has no offers yet.

All of that, however, could be on the verge of changing.

Especially if he continues playing at an incredibly high level.

“We think Anthony has a really bright future,'' Hatch said.”The best part about him is, he's young. He has a whole other year to improve and he's already getting better and better with each day. We're sure glad to have him around here, I can tell you that much.''

It appears as if Rounds is happy about being back around here too. And one need not look any further than his play out on the hardwood for further proof.