“It was a surprise I got selected,” said Darby, a native of Pacoima. “It’s 300-something schools and a lot of guys that can get picked. I’m going to try to put on a good show, not only for people at Long Beach State, but my high school and everybody who knows me.” Darby is 6-foot-5, 210 pounds and a powerful leaper, but he also has handicaps to overcome. Namely, his hands. The classic Dr. J dunk – taking off at the free-throw line – or Michael Jordan’s iconic splay-legged, tongue-wagging, one-hander? Darby’s hands are so small, he can only palm certain basketballs. “He always has to cradle the ball with two hands,” Coopman said. “He can’t handle it like a grapefruit like Michael Jordan.” Because he needed two hands to dunk, he also got in the habit of dunking off two feet. “I can’t jump off one foot real good,” Darby said. “I’d have to say my dunking is weird, a little unorthodox. I never really tried dunking off one foot and I never got accustomed to it.” Another place Darby has jumped in with both feet is the classroom. Ineligible under Proposition 48 standards, Darby saw any hope of going to USC or Seton Hall – his first two choices – dashed. He also had to sit out his freshman season, when the 49ers were 5-22. “Before I ever started playing, I wanted to transfer to Fullerton or Pepperdine,” Darby said. “My aunt told me it’s a good school and I decided to stay. It turned out real good in the end.” He had a 3.7 grade-point average as a freshman, earned his lost year back by staying on track academically, and is taking the two classes he needs to graduate in May with a degree in communications. “It feels good to make it this far – I’m the only one in my family who ever went to a university,” Darby said. Things also worked out well in basketball. He was chosen for the All-Big West freshman team in 2004, and was a key role player for the 49ers this year as they won the Big West Conference regular-season and tournament titles and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. If his athletic ability catches anyone’s eyes, he’ll continue in basketball. But he’d like to go into broadcasting. “I want to work my way up from the bottom,” Darby said. “I’d like to be like Charles Barkley, except I’m not trying to be mayor or governor.” Even if it’s no slam dunk. [email protected] (818) 713-3621160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Louis Darby is still formulating his game plan, but when he takes the floor tonight in Atlanta for dunking portion of the 19th Annual State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships, he promises to do something to get the judges’ attention. “Maybe I’ll try to find a celebrity and jump over them,” Darby said. “I’ve got a couple of tricks in my bag to wow the crowd.” Darby’s best trick may have been simply getting to Atlanta. The Sylmar High graduate is the first 49er to ever participate in the event. Darby managed to wrangle an invitation despite his rather pedestrian role as a sixth man who – judging from his 5.3per game scoring average – didn’t dunk all that often. As it turned out, half the trouble of being invited was asking. “Louis asked us toward the end of the season how they pick the guys for the dunk contest,” said Scott Coopman, the Long Beach State basketball team’s video coordinator and administrative assistant. “I didn’t know, so I called and they said this phone call is your nomination.” One day after practice, Coopman took a video camera out to the court and Darby, sometimes using teammates as props, laid out his best work. There’s the basic windmill, a between-the-legs, a leap over teammates and one where he stands behind the basket, tosses the ball off the back of the backboard, catches it and then twists into a 180-degree turn and dunks the ball. Coopman took those dunks, along with several during the season – including an alley-oop against UC Irvine – and put them on a DVD that he set to music and sent to the event’s promoter. Earlier this month, Darby was notified he’d been selected as one of eight contestants, along with Weber State’s David Patten, who began his career at Pepperdine. USC’s Eshaya Murphy and UCLA’s Noelle Quinn will participate in the women’s three-point shooting contest. The event will be televised tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN, and shown again throughout the weekend.