Dealing with many departures

You could form a pretty lethal basketball team just from the list of all-league, and in some cases All-CIF, players who graduated from the four area boys' teams that made the CIF playoffs last season.

Flintridge Prep will forge on without its four-year starting backcourt of Edmund Chow and Jonathan Woo, while Crescenta Valley lost its pair of aces in the post, Coltrane Powdrill and Nick Dragovich.

Renaissance Academy is a vastly different team without its Big Three of Gil Tacita, Dushon Carter and Bryan Bourgeoise and St. Francis bid farewell to standout guard Tommy Jordan.

These teams will be going in a new direction for the 2010-11 season personnel-wise, but not exactly with the mindset of starting over, as the hope among all is that a younger wave of players will be able to step in and quickly provide some continued stability.

Renassiance went the farthest in the area last season, advancing to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division V-A playoffs. They also lost the most, as senior point guard Ed Burrows and junior center Jessy Cantinol are the only returning varsity starters, with junior guard Troy Fontinilla also back. Other than that, the Wildcats have a lineup consisting of underclassmen, first-time varsity players and transfers.

"It's going to be interesting, it might be tough," said Wildcats Coach Sid Cooke, who likes the potential of his new additions. "Ed's going to be really the guy to keep it in line and run things."

Also different for Renaissance this year is its transition from freelance status into being a member of the Harbor League, which includes Division VI-A champion Ribet Academy. The Wildcats have not been affiliated with a league since going 8-0 to win the American League title in the 2005-06 season.

"It was hard to motivate guys all the way through [the season]," Cooke said of the days when his team simply had to amass enough quality regular-season wins to qualify as an at-large playoff team. "Now we play Ribet the last game of the year at their place and maybe it will be for a league championship. It's good because this group has never played for a league championship, so it will be something new. Maybe we'll get more respect as far as CIF seeding."

St. Francis will try to qualify for the Division III playoffs for the second year in a row and, although it will have to do so without its best overall player from last season, co-Coach Ray O'Brien feels the team is well-equipped to sustain its progress.

"Probably more than any year we have deeper scoring," said O'Brien, who, along with Jeff Stephens, has guided the Golden Knights to the second round of the postseason each of the last two years. "We don't rely on just one or two guys. We did lose Tommy Jordan and that will be an adjustment, but we have any of six guys that can shoot and score, so we have a more balanced threat."

With sharpshooting guards Emerson Castaneda and Zack Gardea leading the way, the Golden Knights will primarily utilize a guard-heavy six-man rotation and look to make up for a size disadvantage with tenacious rebounding and strong defense, which O'Brien cites as the team's overriding focus this season.

"We're not that big, but I think probably the best defensive team that we'll ever put out there in terms of speed and discipline," O'Brien said. "Chemistry is a big part of it and they've probably played more than 50 games together between the spring, summer and fall. We're very happy with the hard work they've put in and the chemistry that's developed."

With a top-four finish in the Mission League likely not within reach, the Golden Knights figure to once again look to put together a campaign worthy of at-large consideration, which has been their ticket to the playoffs the past two years.

Flintridge Prep, winner of the last three Prep League titles and eight of the last nine overall, will go through a transition this season, as the Rebels look to assemble a new starting lineup around All-CIF senior center Kenyatta Smith.

Junior Kory Hamane is the only other returning starter in a three-guard unit that will also include freshman Robert Cartwright at the point.

"Those two guys were two four-year starters who brought a lot of stability and obviously good guard play," Ohara said of Chow and Woo. "But Kory being a junior is great, he's had a lot of experience, and [senior forward] Jared [Norsworthy] is ready to step into the starting lineup, so I really feel comfortable there."

"[Cartwright] does a lot of things well. He can handle the ball, he's got decent size and shoots well."

The Rebels are still smarting from a first-round Division V-AA loss at home last season.

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