Just down the road a piece, an outstanding student-athlete named Sam Singery received one of the greatest accolades a high-schooler can get. He was just one of six basketball players from the CIF-Southern Section to be named a winner of a John Wooden Scholar-Athlete Award.

It's easy to see why Wooden, the famed former UCLA coach, would select Singery, a senior at Apple Valley Christian. On the local athletics scene he is a veritable stud. Besides earning all-Agape League honors in basketball and cross country, he also is handy with a set of golf clubs. But in the classroom, the teen is absolutely stupendous. Unless he succumbs to a severe case of senioritis, Singery should graduate AVC with the school's highest-ever grade point average.

Certainly the hard-working student has been told about the accomplishments of John Wooden, who at the age of 97 on Dec. 8 was on hand at the Honda Center in Anaheim to present the award to Singery and the others. Clearly the greatest college basketball coach with 10 NCAA National Championships, Wooden coached many name players including Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walt Hazzard and Bill Walton. Under the "Wizard of Westwood," the Bruins won seven NCAA championships in a row, had a record winning streak of 88 games and had four perfect 30-0 seasons.

But UCLA's on-court accomplishments didn't come because Wooden beat the players with a stick or yelled in their faces. That wasn't his style. Certainly things could get intense during a game, and that intensity was reflected in his eyes, but winning for Wooden was simply a minute-by-minute, day-by-day process of doing the right things one at a time.

Formally, Wooden, who has become one of our greatest motivational speakers and thinkers, created "The Pyramid of Success" to help bring his tenets to life for others. At the base of the pyramid are industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation and enthusiasm. Next are self-control, alertness, initiative and intentness followed by condition, skill and team spirit. Above that are poise and confidence. Topping the pyramid is competitive greatness.

The first thing Wooden would teach his players is how to tie their athletic sneakers. While certainly it demonstrated who was boss from the outset, Wooden believes that it literally created a firm foundation for the players to stand on.

We have had many great leaders over the last century or people wouldn't continue pouring into country by jet, boat or on foot. While we generally consider the best of those who showed us the way to be politicians like Reagan, Kennedy or FDR, the best man is Coach Wooden. Talk about a person who made the greatest difference in his domain, Wooden is the one.

While we are agonizing over this tortuously long presidential candidate selection process, we debate which one is the best to lead our country. But the best one is standing on the sidelines.

Are you kidding, if he ran for office, even at the age of 97, I'd vote for Wooden in a heartbeat.