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SOUTHERN SECTION BASKETBALL PREVIEW : MARMONTE LEAGUE : Agoura

COACH: Kevin Pasky, 5th season

LAST SEASON: 15-9; tied for 4th in league, 8-6

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Returning starters include senior guards Eddie Corridori (6-foot-4) and John West (6-2). Corridori has started since his sophomore year and averaged 15 points last season. Senior guard Brent Finch (5-10) and junior forward-center Jeff Niemann (6-3) are returning lettermen who will start along with junior guard J.C. Padilla (5-9). Adding depth are junior forward Lloyd Silvers (6-3), senior guard Steve Lieberman (5-8), sophomore guard Benon Ureda (6-3), sophomore forward Peter Sury (6-3) and freshman forward Ben Richardson (6-5).

OUTLOOK: Agoura will improve as the season progresses, which will allow Pasky--one of the region’s most respected young coaches--an opportunity to bring along the Chargers’ inexperienced players. Sean Martin, Agoura’s leading scorer at 24.5 points a game last season, now attends UC Davis. But the Chargers, entering their second season in the league, still are expected to challenge Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley for the title. Corridori is one of the league’s finest players and the Chargers again will employ accurate perimeter shooters. Agoura will not run as much as it has in the past. Pasky said the Chargers will have a strong defensive team.

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Camarillo

COACH: Mike Prewitt, 2nd season

LAST SEASON: 16-8; 3rd in league, 9-5

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The team’s lone returning starter is senior center Geoff Gordon (6-3), who averaged 6.9 rebounds last season. The only other returning letterman is senior forward Tony Bartolotto (6-2). Senior point guard Ruben Flores (5-10) and junior Jaime Jaquez (6-2) might start. Junior Jimmy Harper (6-2) has improved at forward and will provide strength underneath the basket. Seniors Brandon McFadden (6-1) and Danny Wachter (5-11) will add depth at guard. The front line will receive help from seniors Alex Burke (6-2) and Chad Bourget (6-3) and junior Dennis Lundberg (6-4). Jimmy Harbour, brother of former Camarillo standout David Harbour, will contribute at forward. Camarillo suffered a setback when junior John Freedman, a promising player as a sophomore, elected not to play because of a recurring back injury.

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OUTLOOK: Camarillo is small and inexperienced and must replace guard David Harbour, the school’s all-time leading scorer who averaged 26.9 points and 8.8 rebounds last season. Expect the Scorpions to counter with strong team play that utilizes their quickness and depth. Prewitt will draw from a junior varsity team that was 15-6 and won the league title last season. “Maybe our greatest asset is that they play hard,” Prewitt said.

Channel Islands

COACH: Gary Abraham, 1st season

LAST SEASON: 20-6; tie for 1st in league, 11-3

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PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior forward Noe Noyola (6-2) is one of only two returning lettermen and perhaps is the team’s best player. Junior guard-forward Raycean Campbell (6-0), another returning letterman, is academically ineligible but the Raiders are seeking hardship eligibility. Junior Jason Ullegue (6-1) will start at forward and junior Dewaun Nunnery (5-9) will start at point guard. Junior Aron Wisherd (5-11) and junior Fred Gaines (6-2), the younger brother of former Raider standout Kevin Venable, are contending to start at forward. Senior Silas Loveless (5-10) and senior Omar Soto (5-8) are battling for a starting guard position. Senior forward Santos Juarez (6-1), junior guard Ruben Mijares (5-9), junior forward-center Demetrius Hawkins (6-1) and senior guard Jay DeJesus (5-9) complete the roster.

OUTLOOK: Abraham built a successful women’s program at Moorpark College because of his ability to implement a full-court, trapping defense. Once again, the Raiders are small and quick, so expect Abraham to utilize that quickness with an aggressive defense. The graduation of Stephane Brown, an All-Ventura County player last season, has left the Raiders looking for a proven scorer and rebounder. “Hopefully, we’ll surprise some people,” Abraham said. With its lack of size and experience, Channel Islands likely is a year away from contending for a league title.

Newbury Park

COACH: Greg Ropes, 3rd season

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LAST SEASON: 2-20; 8th in league, 2-12

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior center Sean McKeown (6-4), senior forward Jason Patterson (6-2) and senior guard Robert Fick (6-0) are returning starters. The other two starters are senior forward Jeff Hook (6-4) and sophomore guard Keith Smith (6-0), who threw for 2,371 yards as the varsity quarterback. Senior forward Ryan Grady (6-3), senior guard Bryant Fick (5-10), junior guard Luke Borghi (5-11), senior guard Jason Rosebaugh (5-10), senior forward Jason Brooks (6-2) and senior forward Josh Currier (6-1) will provide depth.

OUTLOOK: It’s an uphill battle for Newbury Park, which has the league’s smallest enrollment and failed to post a winning record at any level last season. The Panthers lack a proven scorer, but possess some talented athletes that will give them one of their better teams of late. “We think we’re going to have a good ballclub at the 3-AA level,” Ropes said. Unfortunately for the Panthers, many of the league’s teams compete at the 1-A and 2-A levels.

Royal

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COACH: Ira Sollod, 1st season

LAST SEASON: 18-10; tied for 4th in league, 8-6

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior forward Ryan Fien (6-4), who shot 35% (17 of 48) from three-point range last season, is the lone returning starter. But his progress has been slowed because of the success of the football team, for which Fien played quarterback. Senior shooting guard Brett Osterhoudt (6-1), senior point guard Pratik Patel (5-10) and senior forward Kerry White (6-5) are returning lettermen. Osterhoudt and Pratel will start in the backcourt. The remainder of the team will be composed of players from last year’s junior varsity, which finished 17-5. White and junior Steve Hodge (6-2), who was the junior varsity’s most valuable player, will start at forward. Junior Josh Penrod (6-5) will start at center. “He’s a little raw, but he has long arms and is going to be a good player,” Sollod said. Senior guard Darren Mitchell (6-0) will add perimeter shooting off the bench. Junior forward Khamisi Thurman (6-2), sophomore forward Anthony Young (6-2), junior guard Jared White (6-1) and sophomore guard Rommel Butler (6-0) will add depth.

OUTLOOK: Sollod takes over a program that Joe Malkinson rebuilt before moving to the Bay Area. Royal posted a school-record 20 wins in 1989-90. Sollod is an accomplished coach who led Burbank to Foothill League titles in 1988-89 and 1989-90, but his work is cut out for him. Four starters from last year’s team graduated, and Sollod was not hired until late August. “We’re going to take our lumps early because of inexperience and lack of depth,” he said. Fien and Osterhoudt will provide Royal with strong outside shooting and talented players from last year’s junior varsity will make the Highlanders competitive. “We’ll get better as the year goes on,” Sollod said.

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Simi Valley

COACH: Dean Bradshaw, 4th season

LAST SEASON: 9-17; 6th in league, 4-10

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Three starters return, including senior guard Gordon Stolla (6-3), senior forward Danny Alexander (6-5) and junior point guard Ryan Briggs (5-10). Alexander, who averaged 13.3 points last season, could develop into one of the league’s finest players. Stolla, who averaged only 7.0 points last season, is expected to provide scoring and leadership. Sophomore forward Nathan Simmons (6-3) has broken four all-time school fitness records and might start. “By the end of the year, he may be averaging in double figures,” Bradshaw said. “He is thick, he is strong, and he’s a pretty good shooter for a sophomore.” Senior forward Luis Lopez (6-3) is a strong rebounder. Senior guard Kevin DeJong (6-1) was a starter throughout much of the summer but is recovering from an injury. Junior Craig Griffin (5-10) might be Simi Valley’s finest defender. Junior guard Curtis Cardinez (5-6) will back up Briggs and junior guards David Quitazol (5-10) and Jason Conmay (6-2) will add depth.

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OUTLOOK: After winning at least a share of five consecutive league titles, the Pioneers endured their worst season since 1972-73. But players such as Stolla, Briggs, and Alexander could push the Pioneers back into contention for a league title. The Pioneers lack proven rebounders, but have strong shooting skills and quickness. “If we can limit teams to one shot, we’ll do pretty good,” Bradshaw said. “I really think we’re one big guy away from being outstanding.” Expect the Pioneers to contend with Thousand Oaks for at least a share of their eighth league title since 1981-82.

Thousand Oaks

COACH: Ed Chevalier, 13th season

LAST SEASON: 22-5; tied for 1st in league, 11-3

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PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Lancers’ top returning player is senior guard Andrew Borg (5-11), a strong outside shooter who averaged 10 points and was second-team All-Ventura County last season. Another returning starter is senior center Shane Graham (6-6), a second-team all-league selection who provides Thousand Oaks with strong rebounding. Senior Kirk Pederson (6-4) will start at forward and junior Nick Foster (6-5), the most valuable player on a sophomore team that finished 20-2 last season, will start at center. Junior Phil Otto (6-5), expected to add depth on the front line, has been hampered by a back injury and might not play until January. Paul Foster (6-5), Nick’s twin brother, is a proven scorer and rebounder at the lower levels who was the most valuable player on a junior-varsity team that was 18-5 last season. Senior forward David Stringer (6-2) was the leading scorer on the junior varsity. Senior Shane Haas (6-3), junior David Nowack (6-2), and sophomore Jason Hartman (6-4) add strength underneath the basket. Senior Jeff Perrault (5-11), who was injured most of last season, senior Doug DeMaio (6-0), and junior Aviv Hever (5-9) add depth at guard. The Lancers also bring up talent from the sophomore team, including junior guard Denny LeVine (5-11) and junior guard Peter Lauer (5-11), who is a strong shooter.

OUTLOOK: Last season, Thousand Oaks set a school record for victories and won a share of its first league title since 1977. Although leading scorer and rebounder Chris Loll, the Ventura County player of the year, has graduated, a wealth of talent, size and depth puts the Lancers in contention for their second consecutive league title. The Lancers lack experience, won’t be as strong offensively, and found difficulty pushing the ball upcourt against full-court pressure during the summer. But they have the league’s tallest front line and perhaps the most depth.

Westlake

COACH: Gary Grayson, 2nd season

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LAST SEASON: 6-18; 7th in league, 3-11

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior forward Joey Leavitt (6-5) is one of the league’s finest front-line players. The lone returning starter is senior point guard Lonny Chavez (5-9). Junior center Brad Schwan (6-6), the younger brother of former Westlake standout Kurt Schwan, will combine with Leavitt to give Westlake a formidable one-two punch on the front line. Junior guard Ramin Kabir (5-8) and sophomore guard Jason Bedell (5-8), who averaged 23 points for the freshman team last season, are potential starters. Junior forward Chris Hayden (6-0) and senior forward Jasen Neilsen (6-2) will provide strong outside shooting. Senior guard Tim Kirksey (6-0) is recovering from injuries sustained on the football field but should contribute defensively.

OUTLOOK: Westlake’s deliberate offensive approach will be tossed out this season in favor of rapid firing from three-point range. “There were too many games in which we had as many field goals as our opponents, but they had more three-point shots and beat us,” Grayson said. Leavitt and Schwan also will enable the Warriors to go down low when needed. The Warriors lack experience, but Grayson said he expects to contend with Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks for the league title. “We’ll at least finish in the upper echelon,” he said. “Our kids will have a better attitude than last year and they’ve developed a lot of confidence in our system.”


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