Huntington Beach Ocean View, with three starters returning from last season's 5-A finalist, is the No. 1-ranked team in The Times' preseason poll of Southern Section high school basketball teams.
But although Ocean View has done well and should continue to do well on the court, it has been less successful off.
The Southern Section stripped Ocean View of last season's second-place trophy and made the Seahawks ineligible for postseason play this season, when it ruled that Coach Jim Harris had used "undue influence" to see that two players enrolled at Ocean View.
The decision was appealed to the California Interscholastic Federation, which appointed a three-person panel that eventually upheld the Southern Section's action.
Thus, barring any further court action, which Harris does not rule out, Ocean View , which won but later had to forfeit 24 games, could end up being the best team in the Southern Section, but Santa Ana Mater Dei will be favored to win its third title in the last four years.
Here's a look at The Times' preseason Southern Section top 10 (last season's records are in parentheses):
1. OCEAN VIEW (0-28)--Despite Harris' denial that Ocean View will not be peaking in December and early January, it will be very difficult for the Seahawks not to be looking forward to the San Dimas Tournament of Champions, Dec. 16-21, where they could play Mater Dei in the final, and the King Cotton Classic in Pine Bluff, Ark., which will feature some of the best teams in the country. Center Ricky Butler (6-foot-7 junior) and guards Tony Panzica (6-7 senior) and Blaine DeBrouwer (6-0 senior) are all returning starters. "Butler is becoming a complete ball player," Harris said of his center, who averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds a game last season. "He will be the chairman of the boards. This year he will play more facing the basket. Along with DeBrouwer (who averaged 15 points and 4 assists), he's our best outside shooter. DeBrouwer has great confidence and that's what you need to direct a club. He a good ballhander and will be our press-breaker." Panzica, who averaged 8 points, 4 assists and 7 rebounds, will be playing his third position in three years. As a sophomore he was a point guard, last season he was the small forward, and this season he will be the off-guard. "He's a good passer and very sneaky around the boards," Harris said. Forward Desi Hazely (6-4 1/2 junior) and 6-8 senior center Mike Boatman round out the starting lineup. Brett Johnson (5-11 senior) and Steve Treskes (6-2 senior) are the top reserves. When asked what it will take to have a successful season, Harris said, "We have excellent individual players with some very good skills but they must complement one another rather than stand alone."
2. SANTA ANA MATER DEI (29-0)--The Monarchs reached the Southern Section final the last three years, winning two titles and losing a third, by one point, to eventual state titlist Long Beach Poly. Much of their success has been due to overall team height and this season should be no exception. "The strength of this year's team will be its height and depth," Coach Gary McKnight said. "We can run a lot of people at the opposition and most of them have size." Stuart Thomas (6-10 senior) started at center last season but has moved to forward. "Stuart has gained a lot of confidence this summer especially after being named the MVP of a national tournament in Tempe," McKnight said. The transfer of 6-10 junior Leron Ellis, the son of former Laker player Leroy Ellis, from Portland, Ore., has allowed McKnight to shift Thomas to forward. "Leron is very agile and quick for a 16-year-old," McKnight said. "He runs the court very well and causes everybody to alter their shot." Another returning starter is Tom Peabody (6-4 senior), who averaged 3 points and 7 assists in starting 28 of 29 games. "He will be a key for us at the point," McKnight said. Forward Jim Dwyer (6-5 senior) and guard John Mounce (6-2 senior) are the other starters. Kevin Rembert (6-4 sophomore), Chris Patton (6-2 junior) and John Peterson (6-6 senior) should all play.
3. PLAYA DEL REY ST. BERNARD (17-8)--Last season as a sophomore, David Whitmore (6-4 junior) didn't start but he still was the team's leading scorer with 12 points a game and averaged 4 rebounds. Whitmore is an explosive jumper. He has increased both his weight, from 175 to 190, and his upper body strength. "He can go to the basket very strong and power up," Coach Jim McClune said. "I have not seen him stopped once he gets the ball within 10 feet of the basket." Joe Hudson (6-4 senior) and Kirkland Howling (6-4 senior) are also returning starters. Each averaged just under 10 points a game. "Hudson has been our best defensive player the last two years," McClune said. "Howling is our best outside shooter but he needs to improve his defense." Eric Marrero (6-5 senior) was a starter in the summer but will get a late start because he was out for football, in which he was a 257-pound all-league defensive tackle. Eric Dunn (6-5 senior), Langston Daniels (6-2 senior) and Rubin Monge (6-0 senior) will fight it out for the remaining starting berths. "Our quickness is very good and we should be able to play pressure defense and fast break," McClune said. "Our rebounding could be a problem and we'll have to find a way to stop a big man."
4. SANTA MONICA (0-26)--The Vikings were 21-5 on the court last season but had to forfeit all of their victories because they used an ineligible player. Forward Keith Harris (6-6 senior) and guard Carrick DeHart (6-4 senior) are both returning starters. Harris, who has signed at Kansas, averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds. Coach Cliff Hunter said: "He could become the best player I've ever coached. He is a good ball handler and passer. He also has quickness and excellent jumping ability." DeHart, who has signed at UC Santa Barbara, averaged 12 points and 3 assists. "Carrick has excellent range with his jumper and is a smart player," Hunter said. Also starting are forwards Craig Forsyth (6-3 1/2 senior) and Kelvin Harris (6-5 senior), and point guard Tyrone Cueva (5-11 senior). Keith Neal (6-2 senior) and Danny Price (6-3 junior) are the leading reserves. "If we can rebound and keep the turnovers down, we will be a very good team," Hunter said.
5. MISSION VIEJO CAPISTRANO VALLEY (22-7)--The look of the Cougars will change as the season progresses. Forwards Jason Trask (6-7 senior) and Shawn Reed (6-3 senior), center John Waikle (6-9 senior) and guards Nathan Call (6-0 senior) and Scott Stark (6-2 senior) were the starters on this summer's team but both guards are on the football team that is in the playoffs. Coach Mark Thornton also indicated that four other players could start and will definitely play.Ronnell Balago (5-11 senior) and Todd Beightol (5-11 senior) will be at the guards at least until Call and Stark return. Center Robert Beinder (6-5 senior) and forward John Davy (6-4 senior) are also fighting for starting positions. Call, who averaged 12 points and 11 assists as a junior, is a "very skilled player," Thornton said. "He passes well, shoots well and rarely makes a bad decision on the court. He's the type of player who can get a team going." This is Reed's third year on the varsity. "He has an excellent outside shot and could be our leading scorer," Thornton said. "We have size we haven't had in the past and because our big players run so well we'll continue to play an up-tempo game. How well our big people perform will go a long way in determining how well we do this season."
6. VERBUM DEI (12-12)--Last season the Eagles came within one loss of having the unspeakable happen--a losing season. Things should improve this season. Both guards, David Jones (5-10 senior) and Kevin Williams (6-2 senior), are returning starters. Jones, an All-Southern Section performer, averaged 22.5 points and 7 assists a game. "He's a pure point guard who can run the offense," Coach Cliff Sanchez said. "He's fundamentally sound and has improved his outside shooting. Kevin came through in several key games last season and plays very well with David." The front line will be made up of forwards Rashone Lewis (6-5 junior) and Cameron Wilson (6-2 senior) and center Phillipe Briggs (6-5 senior). Guard Ronnie Gipson (6-2 junior) averaged 22 points for the JV team last season and should get playing time at both point guard and off-guard. Pepper Jenkins (6-3 1/2 senior) was a starter last season but has been establishing himself as one of the best linebackers in the state and will get a late start. Two players to watch are freshmen Renaud Gordon (6-6) and Zan Mason (6-6 1/2). "Gordon has potential unlimited," Sanchez said. "We have much more experience this year and are making the plays that we have to make to have a successful season."
7. LONG BEACH POLY (19-8)--The Jackrabbits are another team that will be hurt by the football playoffs. Two starters from last season's squad, forward Chris Roscoe (6-3 senior) and point guard Michael Herring (6-0 senior) are starters on the football team who could be playing until mid-December. Another starter on this season's basketball team, 6-6 senior center Demetrius Camper, is also playing football. Roscoe, who averaged 10 and 8 rebounds, "always seems to be in the right place," Coach Chris Kinder said. "He's a great anticipator. Herring has got to be our team leader, then play defense and then score." Keith Crawford (6-3 junior), Joshua Robinson (5-7 senior) and Fernard Vinson (6-5 senior) will replace Roscoe, Herring and Camper, respectively, early in the season. Roy Wade (6-7 senior) will join part of a double-post alignment, and Osei Appiah (6-3 senior) will be at the other forward. "This team is very quick," Kinder said. "We run the break well and shoot well from the outside."
8. INGLEWOOD MORNINGSIDE (23-4)--The Monarchs won the 3-A title last season and return a defensive intimidator in 6-9 senior center Eldon Campbell. "He's a great shot blocker," Coach Carl Franklin said. "He enables us to change defenses and we can cheat a little bit on the other players. Offensively, he's a much better player this year and we can go to him to get scoring." At the forwards it will be Leon Covington (6-5 senior), a starter at the end of last season, and Marcus Psalms (6-4 senior). "Covington is a good offensive player," Franklin said. "and he gives a double threat around the basket." Tarron Wiley (6-3 senior) and Mark Hammock (6-5 senior) are the starting guards. Raymond Scott (5-8 senior) was a starter last season but got a late start since he was on the football team. "This well be a much better rebounding team then I've had in the past," Franklin said. "And we should run the break very well." One possible problem is a relative lack of quickness. This Morningside team appears to be a bit slower than previous squads.
9. SIMI VALLEY (14-8)--The Pioneers were only the No. 3 team in the Marmonte League last season but the emergence of two sophomores this season has put them in the spotlight. Center Don McLean (6-8) averaged 38 points and 10 rebounds on his junior high team and showed this summer, while playing for Simi Valley, that he will have an immediate impact at the high school level. "He's a pretty complete player for a sophomore," Coach Bob Hawking said. "He has power skills in the key, shoots well from the outside and handles the ball well." Forward Shawn DeLaittre (6-4), playing on a different junior high team, averaged 24 points a game. "He has many of the same skills as McLean, but is four inches shorter," Hawking said. Also back is returning starter Mike Hankins (5-10 senior), a guard who averaged 7 points and 2 assists. Todd Johnson (5-10 senior) will be the point guard. Steve Jenner (6-2 senior), Doug Irwin (6-2 senior) and Tippy Wilcox (6-3 senior) are in a close battle for the remaining forward spot. Another player to watch is Gus Gates (6-0 senior), a transfer who started at Palo Alto. "We're young in experience but should get good performances from all eight players," Hawking said.
10. PASADENA MUIR (20-7)--The Mustangs' offense will revolve around center Stacy Augman (6-8 senior) and guard Derek Brown (5-11 junior). Both were starters at the end of last season. "Stacy is a very competitive person, a team leader," Coach Mike O'Connor said. "He's a good shooter and he's very fast. Derek Brown is experienced and has a good knowledge of the game. He's a good ball handler and passer." Kirk Wagner (6-6 junior) will form a double post with Augman. Keyjohnna Owens (6-1 junior) and Leroy McCullough (6-4 senior) will start at the forwards. A sophomore who could break into the starting lineup is William Womak (6-7), a transfer from New Jersey. "William is young but eventually he is going to be very good," O'Connor said. "He has excellent potential." In assessing his team, O'Connor said, "We have speed and experience but we will have to play consistent defense to be successful."
OTHERS TO WATCH--Anaheim Katella, Brea-Olinda, Cerritos, Compton Dominguez, Culver City, Hacienda Heights Wilson, La Verne Damien, Long Beach St. Anthony, Mission Viejo, Murphy, Pomona, Riverside North, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica St. Monica.