COACH: Gary Shair, 20th season LAST SEASON: 3-16; 4th in league, 0-10
PLAYERS TO WATCH: The consensusamong league coaches who saw the Chancellors in summer-league play is that the team has the talent to climb out of the cellar--if not win a league title. Returning are guards Eric Isaac (5-foot-10) and Christian Dunbar (6-0), both of whom started last season as sophomores. Shair received some outside assistance at forward too. John Paul Labrador (6-2) transferred from West Torrance High and Chan Manor (6-3) is an exchange student from Israel. Senior football standouts Delvon Hardaway (6-1) and Rayna Stewart (6-2) are returning lettermen who will play at forward. Junior Charles Snell (6-4) and sophomore Brady Mertes (6-5, 240) will play at center-forward. Shair thinks the team has potential--now the players just need to realize it. "I'm very enthusiastic, very pleased this year," he said. "If we work hard, these kids can be as good as they want to be."
OUTLOOK: Blessed with a surplus of athletic ability, Shair finds himself in a strange position. "We're gonna run it up and down the floor," he said. "We haven't done that much, and I don't know if I'm going to be real comfortable with it." The Chancellors could very well have the ability to climb from last to first place, but Shair is climbing this ladder one rung at a time. "There's only one place to go, and that's up," he said.
COACH: Jeff Halpern, 3rd season LAST SEASON: 13-9; tied for 1st in Mid-Valley League, 8-2
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Reseda was movedinto the West Valley League this year from the Mid-Valley, where it enjoyed a superlative season in 1989-90. With a lack of height, however, hopes of repeating as a league titlist have dimmed. "It may be the smallest team I've ever had," said Halpern, who previously coached at Van Nuys and Birmingham. "And that counts the B teams I've coached." Halpern does have one of the conference's best players in swingman Marquis Burns, who averaged 10.7 points and six rebounds last season as a sophomore. But Burns (6-4) will be a marked man, so Halpern is trying to deflect the pressure. "The rest of these guys have to be in the ballgame," Halpern said. The best of the rest includes James Chen, a returning starter at point guard who will choreograph the offense. Chen (5-11) was an all-league selection as a junior after averaging 7.7 assists. Ian Crawford (5-11), up from the junior varsity, is the third starter in Halpern's three-guard attack. Letterman James Pigford (6-0) returns at forward. The remainder of the Regents' diminutive frontcourt played on the junior varsity last season: Bennie Scott (6-1), Demetrius Walker (5-11) and Jeff Gilmore (6-1).
OUTLOOK: Halpern is justifiably proud of the coaching job he did with an unheralded team last season, yet he might have to pick it up a notch to experience similar success. "We have to get every ounce of potential out of these kids, like we did last year," he said. Reseda has some daunting problems to address. "Not having any outside shooting doesn't help when you're small," he said. Burns also might be the team's best perimeter player.
El Camino Real
COACH: Mike McNulty, 9th season LAST SEASON: 9-11; 2nd in league, 6-4
PLAYERS TO WATCH: ElCaminoRealhasjust one returning letterman, senior reserve Adam Kodish, but has a talented team. Youth and inexperience are the Conquistadores' biggest hurdles. Of the team's seven best players, four are underclassmen. Rotating in the frontcourt will be junior Jaffers Bailey (6-5), senior Chris Teich (6-4) and sophomore Markee Brown (6-2). Kodish (6-0), junior Kalin Green (5-8), senior Clyde Price (6-2) and sophomore Sam Sarpong (5-11) will play both guard and swingman. Sarpong, who played for the C team a year ago, is perhaps the most improved player on the team. "He's a good ballhandler and a good shooter," McNulty said. Brown might be the team's best all-around player. "He's a good, strong kid," McNulty said. "A real good athlete." The Conquistadores won't be able to hammer it down low, McNulty said, but the team is faster and more athletic than last season. "We don't board well," he said. "Our strength is quickness. We'll have to run."
OUTLOOK: Speed is the key--as in how fast can this team run and how fast can it learn the offense? "We'll be pretty quick if everybody stays eligible," McNulty said. "It's a real young team and we're not far along yet. We hope to be in good shape by midseason." With its relative youth, El Camino Real might be a season or two away from reaching its zenith, but there could be occasional flashes of brilliance.
COACH: Dick Crowell, 10th season LAST SEASON: 16-7; 1st in league, 7-3
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Thistrulyisateam in transition, a team in search of an identity. Since the end of last season, Crowell has experimented with a Loyola Marymount-style running attack as well as a slow-down game. "We're going with something in-between," he said. Three lettermen return, led by 6-2 swingman Gerald Harris, a starter as a junior. Senior Gabe Vidana (5-9) and Tim Myles (5-11) will start at off-guard and point guard. George Garcia (6-2) and Garrick Simpson (6-3), both promoted from the junior varsity, will start at forward. A pair of transfers could help: Forward Ivan Ferrero (6-2) is from Grant and guard Chris Brown (5-10) is from Kennedy. "We're going to have to mix it up because we're outmanned underneath," Crowell said. "We'll have to use a lot of different defenses and shoot a lot of three-pointers."
OUTLOOK: Relying on the perimeter game is a calculated risk that Crowell is willing--if not forced--to take. "We're streak shooters, but you only have to make about three out of 10 (from three-point range) to make a difference. But we can be cold, real cold." How does Crowell rate his team's chances of repeating as league champion? "We'll be the underdog every time we walk out on the floor," he said.