Two weeks ago on August 5th, SDSU assistant coach JayDee Luster’s high school honored him with an induction into the “Hoover High School Athletic Hall of Fame.” The ceremony held at the Lafayette Hotel Ballroom was emceed by the voice of the LA Galaxy, Hoover High alum, Joe Tutino.
Hoover’s Hall of Famers, known as “Legends,” have their pictures displayed inside the school’s gymnasium. Luster’s image, which will be revealed to the student body in October as part of the school’s Homecoming festivities, will hang alongside these great alumni in perpetuity.
“JayDee met the stringent criteria set by the founders of the Hoover Legends Hall of Fame,” David Mitrovich, the organizer of the event, told EVT. “…JayDee was inducted along with four other deserving Hoover athletes, Eddie Williams (MLB), Tye Waller (MLB), Andre Hardy (NFL), Anai Novoa (Wrestling High School All-American). … Present-day students will be able to look up at the giant pictures on the gym wall and see a youngster that was no different from them and hopefully aspire to achieve what he has. JayDee said he used to look up at the pictures and dreamed about being up there one day.”
Luster starred for the Cardinals from 2003-2007 and helped lead a resurgence for the program. The three seasons prior to his arrival, Hoover had an 18-59 record. They had not appeared in a CIF final in 30 years or won a CIF Championship since 1962.
On his way to winning 2004 California Freshman of the Year, Luster led the Cardinals to a 24-10 record, an undefeated Harbor League Title, and a trip to the CIF finals. During his junior season, Luster’s team set the school record (at the time) with 28 wins, suffering only six losses while bringing home the Division 2 Championship.
During his four seasons, Hoover went 88-31. Students Sports Magazine named Luster an All-American his sophomore, junior, and senior year. When he graduated, his 857 assists and 559 steals were San Diego section records (at the time). Luster also poured in 1,890 points in his career. These accolades and what he has gone on to do since leaving Hoover earned him this prestigious honor. For Luster, the award was not just for him, but for all the people who helped him in his career.
“It was a big-time honor,” Luster told EVT. “Really for me, I was more proud to share the moment with the people who’ve been so important, so vital in my growth on and off the court and just in life. It was a way for me to celebrate the people that matter most to me, the people that are in my hall of fame as I call it – my mom, my grandfather, my high school coach, my best friend, Todd Doxey.”
Doxey, whose picture is also on the “Hoover Legends” wall, was a student at Hoover at the same time as Luster. He was an outstanding football and basketball player, earning a gridiron scholarship to the University of Oregon. In July 2008, Doxey accidentally drowned in the McKenzie River. Luster used his induction to publicly celebrate Doxey and his inner circle.
The meaning of Luster’s success goes way beyond just his immediate friends and family. According to Hoover’s School Accountability Report Card for 2007-2008, the year after Luster graduated, 100% of the school’s 2,123 students were “Socioeconomically Disadvantaged.” During Luster’s sophomore year, the graduation rate was 63.5%. It grew to 70.5% his senior year and was up to 85.1% the year after he left. While singling out one factor as the main cause is impossible, the positive correlation between high school sports, school climate, and graduation rates is well-documented.
“JayDee is an incredible person who personifies the phrase student-athlete,” Luster’s high school coach Ollie Goulston told EVT. “He always won on the basketball court and he continues to win in life. He has overcome adversity at every turn on his path to success and is a great example to the Hoover community that through hard work, focus and perseverance, you can achieve anything. While he might be one of the smallest Legends on the wall in height, he is one of the biggest Legends in terms of character, integrity, and generosity of spirit.”
While other stakeholders at Hoover also deserve credit for that school’s improvement, the 5’9 150-pound point guard’s impact should not be forgotten. Hoover honoring Luster will ensure that future Cardinals continue to be inspired by his story.
“During JayDee’s time at Hoover, he was a great role model for his peers,” Goulston explained. “He worked hard in the classroom and on the court, was an excellent citizen, and helped keep his teammates and classmates accountable. He always wanted to see those around him succeed. He was very driven and hardworking and consistently made good choices. He and Todd helped set the bar very high and were very well-liked and popular among their classmates at Hoover. The large turnout at his induction was indicative of how many people rooted for him and wanted to see him succeed.”
One year at SDSU
Luster’s induction took place one year to the month of his hire at SDSU. The success he has had in such a short time already shows head coach Brian Dutcher brought in the right person for the job. According to Luster, his role on the coaching staff is to fill in wherever he can. No matter the task, the results are the same. Luster actualizes his best in everything he does.
This year, one area where Dutcher has utilized him is in recruiting. He was instrumental in bringing Darrion Trammel, Micah Parrish, Miles Byrd, and Elijah Saunders to the Mesa. Those four make up one of the best incoming class of players in program history. Luster was humble when asked about his part in the recruiting process.
“As a staff, I think we’ve all done a great job,” Luster explained. “As an assistant, you’re always recruiting for the head coach. These guys come here for the head coach, so Brian Dutcher gets all the credit.”
Compared to most programs around the country, SDSU has one of the most stable coaching situations. When compared to its own history, however, the staff has had a lot of movement since Steve Fisher’s retirement in 2017. During Fisher’s final year, every coach on staff had deep roots on the Mesa. They brought an understanding of what makes SDSU special.
When Fisher retired and Justin Hutson and Tim Shelton left the program a year later, Dutcher replaced them with coaches from outside the program. Though Luster had never officially been part of the program before, his proximity to it in high school and in college make him an insider.
Hoover is less than four miles away from SDSU. That gave Luster a front-row seat to the turnaround Fisher and Dutcher orchestrated. In college, Luster saw firsthand the juggernaut they created. He played three seasons at conference rival Wyoming with two of those years coinciding with Kawhi Leonard’s tenure with the program.
During the magical 34-3 Sweet Sixteen season, the Aztecs lost two regular season games. Both came at the hands of rival BYU. Before SDSU could avenge those defeats with a win over the Cougars in the conference tournament championship, they took their frustration out on Luster and the Cowboys.
The Mountain West had a round-robin schedule that pitted SDSU against Wyoming the games following BYU. Rebounding from a defeat on both occasions, the Aztecs won 96-57 and 85-58 in the two contests against the Cowboys.
More than history, Luster knows the people who have made the Aztecs great. His admiration and appreciation of Dutcher dates back more than a decade.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience (working for Dutcher),” Luster said. “Coach Dutcher, I tell people, he’s one of the most underrated coaches in the country. More importantly, one of the most underrated people in the country. He understands the work/family balance. He’s a guy that allows you to grow as an assistant coach. … He’s done it for a long time so he’s elite at a lot of different areas of coaching whether it’s recruiting or whether it’s game planning for opponents. One of the best things he does, he is very mature emotionally. He is never too high, never too low, with the moment. He’s a guy whose glass is always half full. He’s the best I’ve seen at instilling confidence in guys. He’s always pouring into guys and giving them confidence.”
When Luster describes a “typical Aztec,” he has Jamaal Franklin in mind as the lengthy, athletic, versatile, and tough player, who works on and off the court with a chip on his shoulder. In bringing in Trammell, Parrish, Byrd, and Saunders, he sees similarities in them to the Aztecs that have made SDSU great.
Luster provided a scouting report on each.
Darrion Trammel: “He’s a guy who is elite in a lot of different areas. He’s a guy who can score the ball at a high level. He’s a guy that can get in the paint for others. And then the thing that he does really well that I think Aztec Nation will be excited about is, he can really guard.”
Micah Parrish: “He’s similar to the guys San Diego State has had in the past. 6’7, long, athletic, can shoot the ball, and another guy that can get downhill, get a piece of the paint and rebound at a high level from the wing.”
Miles Byrd: “(He) has been very exciting this past year. I think he is elite in a lot of areas. He can really shoot the ball. He has an incredible feel, can really pass the ball. As he gets stronger and he learns the schematics, he can do things at San Diego State. He’s going to be a fan favorite. … He’s definitely a wing. He can play the one through three. I think as he goes further in his career, he’ll play more one.”
Elijah Saunders: “Our freshman class, I cannot say enough good things about. That pair, Elijah and Miles Byrd, I think the Aztec Nation and our fans will be in for a treat as these guys keep growing and developing in the program. Elijah’s a guy who’s physically ready to get thrown into the fire right away. He’s extremely athletic, he’s smart beyond his years from a basketball IQ (standpoint). He’s a guy more than anything – both of those guys. They are an incredible young man, high character guys.”
The team is currently at the end of a nearly two-week break between the end of summer and the start of the fall semester. SDSU is expected to be ranked in the preseason polls and if they can win at the beginning of the year, should be ranked the entire season. Chief among the reasons for that potential success will be a true hometown hero.
“I’m hoping that they understand the power of God,” Luster said when asked about what he hopes people will say about him and the legacy he left at Hoover. “I tell people all the time. Every obstacle and statistic that they tell you, ‘they won’t make it,’ I had to get through those. A single-parent household, going to an inner-city, underperforming school, whatever the case may be, I had those circumstances against me. I’m where I’m at now because of the grace and mercy of God. It shows what can happen when you put him first and just trust in His plan.”