Behind a spirited group, the Burbank High boys’ basketball team had a historic 2016-17 season. However, most of that group has graduated.
Providence won a Liberty League championship a season ago and will look to repeat under a new coach and its top player having departed early.
For Burroughs, it lost its top player to graduation but still has returning talent, while Lycee International of Los Angeles will look to build from a season in which it made its first playoff appearance.
At Bellarmine-Jefferson, the program will play its final season under a new coach.
Here is a look at how the teams are shaping up.
Burbank (25-10) enjoyed a record-breaking season after finishing fourth in the Pacific League (8-6). The Bulldogs advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA championship game — the program's first title appearance in 91 years — and made their deepest run in the state playoffs, losing in the Southern California Regional semifinals.
Burbank lost seven seniors to graduation from that squad, including a pair of All-CIF contributors.
“We did lose a group of very good players, but our culture is still the same,” said Bulldogs coach Jamayne Potts, last season’s All-Area Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year. “That’s what we’re going to fall back on. The last group was successful because of their hard work, their preparation and they held themselves to a high standard. And that’s what we’re doing now.
“The group we have this year is just not as experienced as the one last season. We know that we are going to probably go through our share of ups and downs and we will try and persevere through that. …We just need to get the reps in and the new guys need to understand the level is very different on varsity.”
Potts also has the problem of being without a full squad at this point in the season, as a group of his players are still with the school’s football team, which advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Returning for the Bulldogs will be a core of juniors in Tyrese Willis, Duncan Smith, Chance Van Hook, Jared Pasion and Luke Johnson. New to the team are sophomores Xavier Davis and Leo Tahmasian, along with a pair of junior transfers from Village Christian, Justin DeSales and Jalen Clark.
“Right now we have under 10 guys, so we can’t even run five-on-five stuff and there’s a lot of challenges with that,” Potts said. “We will just have to wait for the football guys to get back and that will help.
“But we are looking forward to the season and I expect good things from this group.”
Brandon Lincoln, a former player at the University of Oregon and an assistant at Division I Montana State the past three seasons, takes over for the Pioneers.
Lincoln inherits a Providence program that went 19-9, 10-0 in the Independence League to capture the program's first title in five years. The Pioneers defeated Vistamar (76-62) in the first round of the Division V-AA playoffs before falling in the quarterfinals to Hesperia Christian (70-58).
“It’s been a good experience so far with this group,” Lincoln said. “We are learning about each other, not just them learning about me and what I like to do, but me learning about them and trying to put them in a position that matches their skill set and they are comfortable in what we’re trying to get done.
“This team had success last year and they know what that feels like and they know what it takes to be successful. I think although we have a lot of work ahead of us, we’ve turned a corner and things are starting to turn in our direction.”
Providence was to have its best player returning in senior David Grigoryan, but Lincoln said Thursday he has “left the team … for personal reasons.” Last season, Grigoryan was an All-Area selection and the Independence League Player of the Year.
Senior AJ Bautista (10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.7 steals a game) and sophomore Bryce Whitaker (9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals), as well as senior Joe Whelan, are set to return, however.
New to the squad are senior Tevan Khudatyan, a transfer from Maranatha, and freshman Collin Ferrel.
The Indians (13-14, 5-9) finished fifth in the Pacific League and fell in the first round of the Division II-AA playoffs to Santa Maria St. Joseph, 81-67.
Burroughs lost a big contributor to graduation in All-CIF player Tristen Hall.
“It’s hard to replace Tristin and it’s been a different adjustment period,” Burroughs coach Allan Ellis said. “He was our big man, in a lot of ways with him being 6[-foot-]6. Now our biggest guy is 6-2, so that’s a big difference just not having a big guy like that to go to.”
“We played a lot of summer league game and a lot of fall league games, so the guys have been putting in the work. The team has five seniors and a lot of new kids, so we are going to have those ups and downs at times, but we’re becoming a lot more consistent, especially on the defensive end.”
The Indians have a core of returners in seniors DJ Hubbell, Stefon Foster, Omar Searcy and Carson Clarke, along with junior Zion Bazzell.
New to the team is senior Amir Montgomery, a transfer from Bonita, and sophomores Emery Goulet and Quinton Roberts.
“I have a good group of guys who were on the team last year and they are accustomed to what is expected of them and accustomed to the grind of the season — and they’re ready,” Ellis said. “They are relishing the opportunity now and I think they are going to be up for the challenge.”
The Guards (2-20, 0-10 for sixth in the Camino Real League) struggled through the 2016-17 season, as the program was left with a small group after some players left following the departure of coach Ray Witt.
Bell-Jeff, which is slated to close after the 2017-18 school year, will not field a girls’ basketball team this season.
Taking over the boys’ coaching duties is Bell-Jeff athletic director Fred Martinez.
“We have 13 players now, which is good,” Martinez said. “The good part of that is they are all working hard in practice and they are trying the best that they can.
“I think we are stronger than we were at the end of last season when some players left. We do have some athletes out there and this is just a great group of kids.”
Players expected to contribute are seniors Canaan Williams and Ryan Tolintino, juniors Chris Antee and Austin Boyd and sophomore Adrian Machuca.
“We are hoping to compete,” Martinez said. “But the tough thing is that we’re in the Camino Real League and it’s like a playoff game every night. But we’re happy to have a team.”
The Lions went 8-6 a year ago and placed fourth in the International League. In the program’s first berth in the playoffs, LILA lost in the first round of the Division V-A tournament to Riverside County Education Academy, 74-70.
“We come into our second year in the CIF with high expectations,” Lions coach Marilyn Dubon said. “Despite losing lots of our key players to graduation, the new players have high hopes and are looking to continue the great play of last year.”
Key players for LILA are senior Jonathan Rabenjanahary and junior Carsun Hall.
“Alongside the rest of the returning players and the new players, we are hoping to be in contention for the [league] crown,” Dubon said.