Corona del Mar. 17-11, 6-4 in 1995-96. Coach: Paul Orris (11th year, 166-121). Prospects: Orris has no returning starters but his fundamental approach to teaching the game has always led to fine clubs. Seniors Nick Friend, a 6-1 guard, Corey Gority, a 6-7 center, and Charlie Peyton, a 6-3 forward, are back and they saw a lot of time off the bench last season. Up from the lower levels are Dennis Alshuler, a 6-5 sophomore, Cameron Conover, a 5-11 junior guard and Tim Thurman, a 6-6 junior center. Also in school are Laguna Beach transfer Ben Schaffer and Manhattan Beach Mira Costa transfer Scott Muckley. "We must learn what it takes to win on the varsity level," Orris said.
El Toro. 14-15, 3-7 in 1995-96. Coach: Todd Dixon (first year). Prospects: The Chargers are lacking height, but they'll be quick and fast and good from three-point range. Returning starters include 6-3 guard Fabrizio Mendiola and 6-1 guard Mark Wulfemeyer, who together averaged 19 points last season. Up from the junior varsity are forward Rob Covault, forward Josh Doddridge, forward Luke Johansen, guard Jayson Richards, guard Josh Rupprecht and guard Ryan Stone.
Irvine. 10-16, 4-6 in 1995-96. Coach: Steve Keith (ninth year, 150-97). Prospects: Keith is six games away from career victory No. 350. He has a single returner, 6-4 forward Scott Hanson. The Vaqueros have good height, led by 6-9 center Ted Miley, 6-4 forward Chris Davis and 6-2 guard Gregg Schneider. John Fudge, a 6-5 transfer from Edison, and 6-4 freshman Tim Rapp add depth on the front line, while point guards Chris Ferguson and Matt Hardeman, off-guard Steve Miller and forwards Nick Gorzkowski and Steve Ubl are vying for playing time.
Newport Harbor. 6-20, 1-9 in 1995-96. Coach: Larry Hirst (second year, 6-20). Prospects: The Sailors had a good summer and have four key players back. Starters Pete Cunningham, a 6-3 forward, and Matt Jameson, a 5-11 guard, are joined by Dan Pulido, a 6-4 forward who was missed most of last year because of a shoulder injury. Also returning is 6-1 guard Scott Archbold. Sophomore Adam Hearlson is 6-6 and freshman Dustin Illingworth is also expected to help out. "There are a lot of even teams, a lot of parity in the county this season," Hirst said.
Santa Margarita. 24-7, 8-2 in 1995-96. Coach: Jerry DeBusk (fifth year, 98-23). Prospects: All starters from last year's Division II-AA champion are gone, but the Eagles are favored to battle Woodbridge for the league title. Last year's sixth man, 6-4 senior Brad Gloger, is back, as are juniors 6-7 Dekker McKeever and 6-0 T.J. Williams, both of whom were reserves a year ago. There's a host of newcomers to choose from, including guards Jason Dunkel, Spencer Gloger, Al Jahnoumi, Craig Rice and Carl Smith and forwards such as 6-6 Grant Brown, 6-4 Kelly Kramer, 6-5 Carson Palmer and 6-5 Jake Rohe.
Woodbridge. 23-7, 8-2 in 1995-96. Coach: John Halagan (fifth year, 67-45). Prospects: This team underachieved last season and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. But with three starters returning, including one of the country's best post players, and a key transfer, the Warriors look like they could challenge Mater Dei for county supremacy. Duke-bound Chris Burgess, a 6-10 preseason All-American who led the county in scoring at 25.8, has only two goals in mind: Be named Times Player of the Year and win a Southern Section title. Also back is 6-6 Brandon Beeson, who has signed with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and William Stovall, a 6-2 guard. Former Servite point guard Peter Martinelli is also in the gym, which gives the team new dimensions. Stovall can take his jump shot outside more often. Kris Stevenson, Brad Thomas and Jason Tilton will also play.
--Capsules by PAUL McLEOD