After falling just shy of a Pacific League championship the past three years, one could argue the Crescenta Valley High boys' basketball team would be the early favorite heading into the 2014 season.
The league found itself in a wave of change this offseason, as Pasadena — the nine-time reining champion — had its coach of 18 years, Tim Tucker, step down and accept an open position at Maranatha in March.
Even without the All-Area Player of the Year in Cole Currie, it appeared the Falcons were in the strongest position to not only take league but make another run in the CIF Southern Section Division I-A playoffs with a trio of key returners.
It turns out CV will also be hit with some unexpected change after learning the centerpiece of those returners, guard Nick Springer, plans to transfer to Maranatha High for his senior season.
"We were surprised, but at this point we've mentally moved on and are preparing to be without him," said Zargarian, who learned Springer intended to transfer about a month ago. "We are preparing other guys to fill in his spot and they're excited to have the opportunity.
"Like we do every single year, we'll find a way."
Springer, who had been at CV since his sophomore year when he transferred in after moving from where he grew up in Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands, said he made the decision to transfer because his mom wanted him to attend a Christian school.
"Really, basketball had nothing to do it, my experience at CV was a good one," Springer said. "I am a Christian and a strong believer that everything happens for a reason."
While it came as news to Tucker, he was excited by the thought.
"Any player of his caliber is a welcome addition to Maranatha, but I don't know anything," said Tucker, who added he's heard rumors about a number of players, "but you don't know anything until they're there the first day of school."
Springer earned all-league, All Pacific League first-team honors as a junior when he averaged 13.1 points, 5.3 rebounds a game in league. Crescenta Valley went on to take second in league, impressively advanced to the Division I-A semifinals in consecutive campaigns and finish with a 23-9, 11-3 in league record.
Springer figured to be the team's top offensive threat with Berj Krikorian running the point, Eric Patten providing some offense down low and Kevin Dinges, a transfer from Renaissance Academy, ready to make an impact.
"Nick has been with us for a couple of years and we were looking forward to him finishing out his senior year," Zargarian said, "but this is high school basketball nowadays and things like this happen for whatever reason. You've got to move on and figure out a new path."
Last year, Springer had some of his best games against Tucker. He posted a double-double (22 points and 10 rebounds) and carried his team in the first half of a 57-54 victory over Pasadena on Jan. 16 and scored 23 points in a 75-68 loss to Pasadena on Feb. 5.
"Obviously, he can shoot it," Tucker said of Springer. "He's one of the players known for shooting the three-pointer and he's got upside. I think his upside is great. … Any player of his caliber is a welcome addition to Maranatha."
While it will be an adjustment playing with Tucker, Springer believes they'll make a good team.
"I know Mr. Tucker is Christian, too. I know we'll get along good," Springer said. "It is starting from a blank slate, though."
Springer's transfer would mark the second year in a row a rather high-profile former opponent of Tucker has transferred to play on his team, with former Burbank High standout Andre Spight transferring to Pasadena for his senior season last year.
"Some people think you have something to do with it and an undue influence," Tucker said, "but I've been blessed to have guys that want to come play, and if you talk to those kids' parents they'll say honestly there's no undue influence or anything. It does feel great when guys say, 'Hey, I want to go play for a coach that maybe can help and impact my game or help me get to the next level.'"
Spight went on to pick up co-Pacific League Player of the Year honors with Currie, a league title and average 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals a game under Tucker. He also committed to play for the University of Texas at El Paso.
Springer also hopes to commit to play for a NCAA Division I program, which is what he dreamed of when he moved to California.
"Basketball is why I came out here," Springer said, "hopefully to get a Division I scholarship.
"God is good. He laid the path for me and I'm going to have to walk it."