Just Preps : No Call for Traveling : But That's What Many of the Area's Top Basketball Players Did in the Off-Season

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's basketball season, and, once again, transfermania is in full swing.

Many of the Southland's top teams have one or more players who were at different schools last year.

The lengthy list includes Schea Cotton, a junior guard who returned to St. John Bosco after two seasons at Santa Ana Mater Dei. Westchester lost two senior all-city players in guard Danny Walker and Jason Hart, who are now at Fremont and Inglewood, respectively. After three successful seasons at Long Beach Millikan, guard Ricky Sanders enrolled at Compton Dominguez.

"Kids are kids, and that hasn't changed much over the years," said veteran Fairfax Coach Harvey Kitani. "What has changed are the parents [encouraging the transfers], and that is having an unfortunate impact."

A look at the top teams, with no guarantees their players will stay put:

1. FREMONT

City Section Division 4-A

Outlook: The Pathfinders had impressive victories over Dominguez and Crenshaw in the Riverside North tournament last week. Their strength is in the backcourt, where all-city guard Dony Wilcher is joined by Walker. Forwards Raymond Sims and Ron Jenkins, each 6 feet 6, provide size.

2. COMPTON DOMINGUEZ

Southern Section Division II-A

Outlook: Despite the graduation of Tommy Prince, the Dons have one of the area's most talented lineups. Guard Kenny Brunner and forward Jason Thomas were key players on last year's team that advanced to the state tournament. They are joined by freshman forward Keith Kincade and Sanders.

3. ST. JOHN BOSCO

Southern Section Division I-AA

Outlook: Schea Cotton, a talented 6-5 junior forward who started his freshman year at St. John Bosco, is back after two years at Mater Dei and was the most valuable player in last week's Artesia tournament. The Braves also welcome back 6-5 forward Brian Johnson, who transferred to Dominguez last spring but decided not to stay.

4. CRENSHAW

City Section Division 4-A

Outlook: The Cougars seek their fourth consecutive 4-A title and appear to have the talent to win it. They don't have great size, but their running game should prosper with junior guards Alastair Faux and Kevin Bradley. Cory Williams, a 6-6 senior center, provides rebounding.

5. LAKEWOOD ARTESIA

Southern Section Division II-A

Outlook: The Pioneers are expected to return to the state tournament for the second year in a row. They have plenty of experience, with 6-5 forward James Lee and 5-9 guard DeAndre Moore as leaders.

6. SANTA ANA MATER DEI

Southern Section Division I-a

Outlook: The departure of Cotton was not unexpected, but it does create a void for the Monarchs. But they have plenty of players to step in, including 6-9 center Mike Vukovich and 5-10 guard Kevin Augustine. Mater Dei has won 11 section titles in the last 14 years.

7. FONTANA

Southern Section Division I-AA

Outlook: Preseason All-American candidate Corey Benjamin figures to take the Steelers far. The 6-6 forward/guard is the most recruited player on the West Coast. His supporting cast includes forwards Frank Noguera (6-4) and Keith Bean, a 6-8 freshman.

8. NORTH HOLLYWOOD HARVARD WESTLAKE

Southern Section Division III-A

Outlook: It's Year 3 for the Collins twins, Jason and Jarron, who have made the Wolverines a powerhouse. The 6-10 juniors are bigger and stronger than a year ago, when they combined for 35 points and 24 rebounds a game. The key will be the development of a young backcourt.

9. INGLEWOOD

Southern Section Division II-A

Outlook: Paul Pierce left for Kansas, but the Sentinels became an instant contender again with Hart, who averaged 17 points and six assists as a junior at Westchester and is one of the area's top college prospects.

10. LA PUENTE NOGALES

Southern Section Division I-A

Outlook: The Nobles welcome back four starters from a team that advanced to a divisional final. The only player not back, Shomario Richard, is replaced by 6-2 guard Will Porter, who averaged 18 points and three assists as a junior. A newcomer is 6-1 guard Byron Glass.

11. IRVINE WOODBRIDGE

Southern Section Division II-AA

Outlook: Center Chris Burgess, a 6-10 junior, is already being heavily recruited. He averaged 21 points and had 103 blocked shots last season. Burgess is joined on the front line by 6-5 junior forwards Brandon Beeson and Jared Dannis.

12. LONG BEACH JORDAN

Southern Section Division I-AA

Outlook: The Panthers have their most talented team since they won a section title in 1993. Their leader is 6-3 guard Ortege Jenkins, a prolific three-point shooter who was quarterback of the football team.

13. SANTA ANA VALLEY

Southern Section Division I-AA

Outlook: The Falcons have Olujimi Mann, a 6-5 guard who made an oral commitment to UCLA as a junior but still has not academically qualified. The talent doesn't stop there, with 6-7 center Ike Harmon and 6-1 guard Jason Parrott providing extra punch.

14. CRESCENTA VALLEY

Southern Section Division I-A

Outlook: The Falcons are going for their fourth consecutive 20-victory season and will do it with a lineup that averages 6-4. Senior forward Nathan Sinning, who averaged 14 points last year, is the go-to guy, and senior center Mike Greco is 100% after two injury-riddled seasons.

15. LONG BEACH POLY

Southern Section Division I-AA

Outlook: Coach Ron Palmer picked up his 400th victory Monday when the Jackrabbits defeated Fontana A.B. Miller, 75-68. Palmer, in his 17th season, has another team that should contend in the rugged Moore League. Senior forward-center Don Franklin and junior guard Michael McDonald are the top scoring threats.

16. RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA

Southern Section Division II-AA

Outlook: The Eagles advanced to the divisional semifinals last season but appeared a year away after losing to Tustin by 20 points. With nine players back, their time has come. The roster includes the Sea View League's most valuable player, 6-8 center Allen Krist, and senior guard Dennis Keane.

17. FAIRFAX

City Section Division 4-A

Outlook: It will be difficult to repeat last season's surprise visit to the City finals, especially with a starting five that includes two freshmen. But the Lions have a talented backcourt of senior Ivan Garner and sophomore Flinder Boyd.

18. RIVERSIDE NORTH

Southern Section Division II-AA

Outlook: After losing to Crenshaw, 121-60, last week, the Huskies may be questioning whether they can make it to the divisional title game for the sixth year in a row. They're playing without 6-4 forward Chris Claiborne, who is still playing football. Junior guard Dwight Slaughter, a transfer from Fontana, provides scoring help.

19. SANTA BARBARA

Southern Section Division II-AA

Outlook: The Dons' offense revolves around 6-1 guard Mike Garrett, a returning All-Southern Section player who averaged 19 points last season. Forward Spencer Rich (6-5) provides rebounding strength.

20. SANTA MONICA CROSSROADS

Southern Section Division IV-A

Outlook: Don't be fooled by the low division. The Roadrunners, who showed signs of promise last season, have plenty of talent to compete with the larger schools. At the head of the pack is 6-1 junior guard Baron Davis, a two-year starter who averaged 13 points as a sophomore, and 6-5 forward Kejuan Woods.

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