High School Basketball Previews : MONDAY: SEA VIEW LEAGUE : Keefe's Gone, But Don't Cry for Woodbridge

Times Staff Writer

Woodbridge High School lost the greatest player in the history of the school, one of the best in the history of Orange County, and, boy, are the condolences rolling in.

"I have no sympathy for them whatsoever," said Ed Bowen, Laguna Beach coach.

"If they sing the blues, I hope people see right through that," said Rainer Wulf, Trabuco Hills coach.

"Boy, I'm glad we finally got rid of that guy," said Joe Reid, Laguna Hills coach. "I don't feel sorry for Woodbridge at all."

Kind of gets you right in the old ticker, doesn't it?

That guy is 6-foot 10-inch Adam Keefe, who, last season, was second in the county in scoring (26.3), fourth in rebounding (13.8) and eighth in shooting percentage (61.7%).

Keefe is now at Stanford, which leaves Woodbridge Coach Bill Shannon a bit misty. "There will never be another one like Adam," Shannon said.

Still, Woodbridge is in great shape.

The Warriors went 40-0 in the Pacific Coast League on all 4 playing levels (varsity, junior varsity, sophomore and freshman) last year, and its coffers are just busting with players. Fifty-six kids tried out for the freshman team.

"I wouldn't feel sorry for us," Shannon said.

Definitely do not cry for Woodbridge. The varsity has not lost a league game in the 2-year existence of the Pacific Coast League. And most coaches, though they would question another undefeated run, think Woodbridge is the favorite again this season.

If the favorite doesn't change, at least the focus given the league's top players will. For the past 3 seasons, all have played within Keefe's red-headed shadow. His departure means other players, most notably Laguna Hills guard Chris Sheff and Trabuco Hills center Rick Swanwick, will have their chance to shine.

Not surprisingly, Laguna Hills and Trabuco Hills are the two schools given the best chance of unseating Woodbridge. Each has three starters returning.

Sheff is probably the league's best all-around player. He averaged 16 points a game last season.

Swanwick (6-10) is the tall man in a short league. Schools such as Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa and Orange don't have players over 6-3. Swanwick, who averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds last season, has shed enough pounds in the past year--going from 275 to 222--to create a point guard.

"Rick went from eating four Big Macs to just one," Wulf said.

Here's the rest of the league on a platter:

COSTA MESA--Dean Cooper becomes Costa Mesa's fourth coach in 4 years. Cooper, who moved to California 2 years ago, coached 26 years in Ohio, compiling a 233-78 record at Carey and Montpelier high schools. Cooper has his work cut out for him with a program that was 11 games below .500 and whose tallest player is a 6-2 foreign-exchange student.

The player is Jose Casas, and he joins returning starting guards Tuan Vu, who averaged 7 assists a game, and Tim Nguyen. Up from the junior varsity is 6-foot Steve Kunst.

Cooper said his team will try to run, but to run you need rebounds. He said he would depend on Kunst and Casas to take care of the boards, which is a pretty tall order for 2 guys who aren't, at least in basketball terms.

As Cooper acknowledges, "How well or how poorly we do this year all depends on how badly we get hammered on the boards."

LAGUNA BEACH--Another team short on size, Laguna Beach lists Dain Blanton, John McKeown and Sean Stafford--all 6-3--as its tallest players. But unlike some others, Laguna Beach Coach Ed Bowen doesn't think lack of size is a reason to run.

"If you want to run, you have to board," he said. "We're going to try to control the pace because if we shoot and miss, chances are we're not getting a second chance."

Other problems for Bowen are that he coaches at a school with an enrollment of 800 and whose summer basketball program amounted to a paltry six games.

But consider that Bowen had the same team makeup and problems last year, when his team made the playoffs. The three players mentioned can all jump, especially Stafford, who is one of Southern California's top boys' volleyball players. Laguna Beach lost only 1 league game at home last season, that to Woodbridge.

"We've got a real advantage when we get to our place," Bowen said. "These kids can shoot. They're not bad ballplayers, they're just not tall."

LAGUNA HILLS--With three experienced players returning from last season's 16-10 team that finished second in the league, Coach Joe Reid said things are looking pretty rosy. He believes he has one of the best guard tandems in the county in 6-4 Sheff and 6-1 Beau Hossler. At center, he has Trent DeVreugd, a 3-year starter who averaged 11 rebounds and 12 points a game last season.

"I'm very happy with this bunch," Reid said.

Happy about the bunch, but absolutely giddy about Sheff, a 4-year varsity starter. Sheff averaged 16 points a game last season, he's got good speed and can drive the lane or hit from the perimeter.

"He's my best 3-point shooter, he's very quick coming off his first step, he's just something special," Reid said. "He hasn't got too much attention, maybe because of Keefe. I sure hope he gets the spotlight this season. I really think he's the league's premier player."

He's not a bad outfielder, either. Sheff hit .440 and had 23 stolen bases for Laguna Hills, last season's Pacific Coast League baseball champion.

ORANGE--Yet another team whose tallest player is 6-3. That's Ronnie Salinger, who moves up from the junior varsity. First-year Coach Don Burnette has three players with varsity experience returning--John Rodriguez (6-1), Robbie Salinger (6-0) and John Emigh (5-11).

Asked what he'd like to see done differently after last season's 4-18 flop, Burnette said: "I don't know what can be changed when we're still small. We'll play hard this year, try to play with intelligence and not throw the ball away."

Realistically, Burnette says a .500 season would be considered a success. He said he was encouraged by the team's record (just under .500) this summer.

"I don't think people expect much from us," Burnette said.

Very true.

TRABUCO HILLS--The team's biggest gain figures to be the 50 or so pounds Swanwick lost during the off-season. Through weightlifting, running and diet, Swanwick shed the pounds. That accomplished, Wulf says Swanwick's next challenge is what to do with his new frame.

"He gets off the ground now," Wulf said. "Last year, he was a flat-footed player. He's much quicker, it's just a matter of him realizing how much he can now do with this new body."

Besides Swanwick, Trabuco Hills has good size in 6-5 Erich Allen, up from the junior varsity, and 6-4 John Goodman, a transfer from El Toro.

Returning starters are guards Chad Poulos, in his third varsity season, and junior Tim Manning.

Trabuco Hills will run this season, according to Wulf, a former player and coach under UC Irvine's Bill Mulligan.

"Playing for Bill taught me a lot about running," he said.

But the team's success is obviously linked to Swanwick.

"Rick has to be dominating in the middle," Wulf said. "I told him his goal should be to lead the county in rebounding."

He already leads the county in reducing.

WOODBRIDGE--Shannon seems happy with this team, sans Keefe, but he's not comparing it to the team that won the 1986-87 2-A and state championships or last year's 2-A finalist. Shannon says this team reminds him of his Woodbridge team of 3 seasons ago, with a lot of young talent.

That team went 21-7.

"Like that year, we have have some experience and we have some very good young talent," Shannon said.

The experience comes from three players--Fred Schweer, a 6-3 point guard; Ryan Nash, a 5-11 guard; and 6-6 forward P.A. Emerson.

Most impressive among the young talent are sophomores Bryant McLemore and Romalis Taylor (both 6-3) and juniors Joey Cohen (6-3) and Bo Ashkenazy (5-11).

Shannon said Woodbridge will continue to play a pressure, man defense, but without Keefe in the middle, they will direct ballhandlers toward the HIGH SCHOOL sidelines instead of toward the middle.

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE 1987-88 overall, league records in parentheses SCHOOL1988-89 COMMENT

Costa Mesa (6-17, 3-7) Dean Cooper is fourth coach in past four seasons. Laguna Beach (9-15, 5-5) Must control pace to have successful season. Laguna Hills (16-10, 7-3) Senior guard Chris Sheff starts for fourth season. Orange (4-18, 1-9) First-year Coach Don Burnette hopes for .500. Trabuco Hills (13-10, 4-6) At 6-10, Rick Swanwick is the tallest in league. Woodbridge (23-7, 10-0) Picked to win third league title in a row.

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