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No way to contain Mater Dei star

01/02/2014, 12:01am PST
By Steve Brand, Special to the U-T

No matter if it’s football or basketball, Iman Chatman finds his way to the top.

Senior Iman Chatman is a two-sport star at Mater Dei Catholic High.

— Don’t try to corner Iman Chatman, it won’t work.

Whether on the field, in the gym or with penetrating questions, the Mater Dei High senior is virtually impossible to contain.

Chatman is one of the San Diego Section’s top football players, a second team All-CIF wide receiver and first team All-Metro Pacific player for the Crusaders.

He’s also one of section’s most dependable guards in basketball, as was evident when he scored 25 points in last year’s Division IV Championship against Army-Navy Academy.

So, the question is, which does he like better?

“When I’m playing football, I like football better, but when I’m playing basketball, I like basketball more,” said the 17-year-old. He’s not really dodging the question, just answering it the way you’d expect from someone who gives his all to the task at hand.

In a recent game at the Under Armour Holiday Classic at La Costa Canyon, for example, he scored 14 points, collected 10 rebounds, had six assists and seven steals.

Even more telling is when the game was close, Chatman stepped up, burying a long three-pointer, stealing the ball and dishing it off for a layup and then driving the basket himself for two in a 7-0 run.

“I just play my role,” said Chatman, who leads the offense but also is part of a team that prides itself on its defense. He said he is driven by both the highlight and lowlight of his career.

That would be last year’s title game against Army-Navy at Viejas Arena.

The Crusaders, behind Chatman, jumped on top 9-2 and still led by 10 midway through the third quarter. That’s when Army-Navy made its run, eventually winning, 56-50.

“I don’t want to ever feel like that again,” said Chatman of his disappointment. “I had the turnover to give them the lead. (Devin) Watson stole the ball from me when I got trapped and made the go-ahead basket. I remember it like it was yesterday.

“We had it and we let it slip away. I was sad, mad and disappointed.”

That’s the competitive side. It has also proven to be the motivation in the Crusaders’ fast start this season.

“I look at that game at San Diego State as the highlight of my career so far,” said Chatman showing the flip side.

“What an experience. We weren’t even supposed to be there or be able to play against their 7-foot center. But we did and what happened at the end won’t happen again.”

Football is also major in his mind and he credits his quick first step to the basket in hoops from playing wide receiver where he had to find a way to separate himself from the defender.

He has some football nibbles from colleges like Northern Arizona and Humboldt State and some of the Pac-12 schools are inquiring, as you might expect from a 6-foot-1, 187-pounder who covers the 40 in 4.5.

His basketball coach, Kenny Caesar, believes Chatman could play either sport, especially at a smaller Division I or II school.

“He’s very athletic and has a physicality to his game that colleges like,” Caesar said. “He’s so versatile, he’ll do whatever you need in either sport. If he plays college basketball, he’ll be an undersized guard.”

As for Chatman, he’s just enjoying the ride, trying to help the Crusaders back into the playoffs, where they will be in Division II this year.

Asked if he wants the ball with the game on the line, his answer is predictable:

“If I have it, I’ll take it but anyone on this team could take it, too.”

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