Lance Hurdle was the new kid on a Palm Middle School playground in San Diego eight years ago. Marlon Pierce, a year older, was well connected because he had always hung out with an older group that included a brother three years his senior. So Pierce was often the one dividing up teams for pickup basketball games. He always chose the new kid. “I could tell he was a player so I always picked him on my team,” recalls Pierce, now 20. That bond grew stronger each day. Soon the two were inseperable, playing on the same youth and traveling teams. They also played together at traditional power Helix High School, winning one CIF title and narrowly missing another. (Hurdle was part of a second title team as a senior, the year after Pierce graduated). The two immediately traveled to San Bernardino to find an apartment, settling on one across to the Cal State campus. They attend each other’s games whenever their playing schedules don’t conflict. Living together hasn’t posed a problem. Hurdle is more on the quiet side while Pierce is the quiet prankster. The biggest difference is a subtle one. “I like stay up late,” Hurdle said. “He goes to bed early.” When they’re not on the court they enjoy competing at cards and Playstation. They enjoy old sitcoms such as Fresh Prince and Martin and the HBO crime drama The Wire. There is also friendly banter about who would win if their teams squared off. One thing that can’t be disputed is that both are having solid seasons. Hurdle is averaging 15 points, 3 assists and 3.4 rebounds, tallying 67 points in the last three regular season games. He had a season-high 28 in a first-place showdown with Chaffey Wednesday. He was voted conference Player of the Year by member coaches Sunday. Pierce is averaging 6.6 points and 3.1 assists despite splitting time with fellow junior Lance Ortiz at the point. Pierce leads the team in assists (68) and is tied for team high in steals (39). He made the key play in an 83-82 win over Chico State Friday, getting a steal and going in for a layup for the decisive points with eight seconds left. Both say the other is the better player with Hurdle adding that his friend has taught him about the mental part of the game. But Singer said they are different. He admits that Hurdle is the better athlete while Pierce has slightly better court instincts. “Lance is such a great athlete. He’s like a thoroughbread. He ought to be running at Los Alamitos,” said John Singer, their coach at Helix High School. “I used to get mad at Marlon because I didn’t think he was playing hard. I’m one of those coaches who thinks guys can play harder. Now I don’t think it is that he doesn’t play hard. He is just so smooth. He just sort of glides so it doesn’t look like he’s playing hard.” It might be natural for Hurdle to head to Cal State in the fall to join his pal. Coyotes coach Jeff Oliver and assistant Paul Trevor, who have scouted several SBVC games, would like nothing more. But Hurdle is headed to a Division I school. Many have already offered and his stock is soaring with his recent play and the Wolverines showing. San Diego State, Long Beach State, Marshall, Western Carolina and the University of Miami (Fla) are among the most interested. About a half a dozen college coaches were in attendance Wednesday with Pepperdine among them. “The thing about Lance is he doesn’t know how good he really is,” SBVC interim coach Gerry Wright said. Singer appreciates the character the two have shown off the court as well. “They’re not just good basketball players. They’re good people,” he said. “That’s the thing I am the most proud of.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The two have brought that friendship 100 miles north to San Bernardino where they are now starring for different teams in the same city five miles apart. Pierce, a 6-foot-2 junior point guard, is a key player for Cal State San Bernardino (18-5, 14-4) which is ranked second in the West Region and No. 20 nationally in Division II. Hurdle, a 6-3 sophomore point guard, is the offensive catalyst for Foothill Conference champion San Bernardino Valley College (26-6, 13-1), which is ranked seventh in the state and third in Southern California. “We have never had an argument,” said Hurdle, 19. “I can’t remember one. We have always gotten along from the first day we met.” Ending up in the same city was part coincidence though. Hurdle spent his freshman year at UC Santa Barbara but played little and wanted out. He had a friend that knew then-SBVC coach Phil Mathews. Meanwhile Pierce had wrapped up two years at Cuaymaca Junior College and had a handful of four-year schools looking at him, including Cal State. The choice was easy once the two had a chance to compare notes.