Canyon. 21-7, 7-3 in 1995-96. Coach: Rob Alexander (first year). Prospects: Ali Goodman, a 6-6 junior forward, is the only player returning from last season's team that lost to eventual Division II-AA champion Santa Margarita in the second round. Longtime Coach Steve Sabin has retired, so Alexander, a former assistant at USC, has to find a way to rebuild in a league where Villa Park is the favorite to win the title. He's counting on newcomers Neil Hammad, Justin Haney or Scott Reed, a 6-6 junior forward, to step up. "We will have four or five sophomores, so we may be one of the youngest teams in the county," Alexander said. "Our strength will be defense."

El Modena. 12-14, 4-6 in 1995-96. Coach: Joe Roussel (third year, 29-27). Prospects: With three starters and seven lettermen back, Roussel says he sees a second- or third-place finish in the cards. 6-4 center Mario Garcia, 6-1 guard George Gurrola and 6-3 forward Tommy Ngo return, as do senior Loc Bach and juniors Brian Church, Matt Garcia and Santosh Swamidass. Others battling for spots are Mater Dei transfer Nick Soderstrom, and Joseph Cortez, Danny Melton, Prince Ralph and Frank Wise. Look for this team to fast break and play stingy defense, but might be hurt by a lack of rebounding.

Foothill. 7-16, 3-7 in 1995-96. Coach: Bob Thate (fourth year, 32-47). Prospects: Only two players with varsity experience return: 6-0 wing Ryan Fries and 5-9 point guard Rashad Sager, both seniors. Roger Alfaro, Larry Cambra, Chet Johnson, Ryan Newby, a transfer from Tustin, Ben Rubin and Jarad Sams will contend for playing time. "We just want to win one game at a time . . . somehow. One game . . . sometime," Thate said. "We're the dark horse."

Orange. 11-12, 4-6 in 1995-96. Coach: Rich Bossenmeyer (seventh year, 72-53). Prospects: With three senior starters back, the Panthers should crank it up a notch this season and be a league contender. Juan Dotson and Steve Lein, both 6-4, and 6-0 Brian Krauss provide balance. Also back are Malcolm Moon, a 6-3 swingman, and Matt Garcia, a 6-4 center. Top newcomers include guard Stephen Miller and forward Gerald Morel. "We're experienced. I project we'll start five seniors," Bossenmeyer said. "No one player will have to carry the load."

Santa Ana Valley. 10-16, 6-4 in 1995-96. Coach: Kevin Stipp (second year, 24-12). Prospects: Things have quieted down since last season, when speculation ran wild about standout Olujimi Mann's college plans and the forfeit of three games that dropped the team from 9-1 and an outright league title into a first-place tie with Villa Park. This team figures to be quicker and shorter than previous teams, but will have its hands full trying to catch Villa Park. Starters Tim Werdel, a 6-1 guard, and Dave Williams, a 6-5 center, return, as does Milton Fields, a 6-3 forward. Others making a run at playing time include Koa Bartlett, Eddie Oregel, Seth Roblee, Dennis Salgado and Sal Santoyo. "We should contend for a playoff spot," Stipp said.

Villa Park. 18-6, 8-2 in 1995-96. Coach: Kevin Reynolds (second year, 18-6). Prospects: The Spartans compiled the best overall record at the school in 20 years and Reynolds figures they can do even better. Leading the way is 7-0 center Eric Chenowith, who has signed with Kansas. He averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Isaiah Cavaco also returns. He averaged 10 points and seven assists. He's headed to Yale next fall. Underrated wing Matt Poutsma, who averaged 10 points, is back, and the Spartans also have 6-9 junior Alan Verzani, who led the junior varsity in scoring and rebounding.

--Capsules by PAUL McLEOD

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