May 20, 1999
Jason Kapono, a 6-8, 210-pounder from Artesia HS in Lakewood who was one of the most honored prep basketball players in the nation during the 1998-99 season, has signed a grant-in-aid contract to attend UCLA. He will be a freshman next fall.
Kapono's efforts in 1998-99 earned him first-team prep All-America honors from McDonald's, Parade and Street & Smith magazines. Playing for the west team at the McDonald's All-America game on March 24 in Ames, IA, won by the west squad 141-128, Kapono won the three-point shooting competition and in the game played 19 minutes, with 12 points and seven rebounds. His other senior honors included--John Wooden High School Player of the Year, CIF Div. I Player of the Year, Cal-Hi Sports first-team All-State and the Gatorade Circle of Champions CA State Player of the Year. Entering his senior season, Kapono was the second-leading vote-getter on the first-ever Orange County Register Fab 15 Basketball team (honoring the top prep mens basketball players in the western portion of the U. S.). As a junior in 1997-98, Kapono averaged 21.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
"The UCLA coaching staff is thrilled to have Jason Kapono join our basketball program," said Bruin head coach Steve Lavin. "Jason comes from a great family and from a high school basketball team with an established national reputation under head coach Wayne Merino. Being from southern California, Jason is a model student-athlete who is a perfect fit for our University. UCLA's long tradition of success is based on our program's ability to sign the top players in southern California while also recruiting successfully on the national and international levels."
In 1998-99, Kapono led Artesia to 32 wins, tying a school record, against just two losses. The Pioneers were CIF Southern California Div. I finalists, CIF Southern Section IAA champions and winners of the Suburban League title. Kapono led the team in scoring (23.5) and assists (7.6), was second in rebounding (9.0) and third in steals (3.3) and blocked shots (1.4), while leading his squad in foul shooting (92.5). He set the school's single-season scoring record (823) and scored a school-record 52 points in a game last season.
Kapono joins the O'Bannon brothers, Ed and Charles, who starred at Merino's Artesia program and also signed with UCLA. In his career, Kapono is Artesia's all-time leader in games played (132, ahead of No. 2 C. O'Bannon, 126), scoring (2,678, ahead of No. 2 C. O'Bannon, 2,177), three-pointers (211); free throws (403) and percentage (87.5) and assists (817). The single-season (823 points) and single-game (52 points) records Kapono set in 1998-99 broke E. O'Bannon's Artesia marks (814 points in a season, 1990 and 50 points in a game, 1990).