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SoCalHoops HS Preview

LA City Section: West Valley
League Preview--(Nov. 20, 2002)

This will be the first of our series of LA City Section League previews, and for the task of evaluating the teams in this year's City Section race, we've enlisted the help of Jack Pollon, who is one of those guys who knows the players and teams in the Section, especially the San Fernando Valley, as well as the surrounding regions,  about as well as anyone does.  We may not always agree with his assessments of how good a team is or who the best players are on a team, but Jack's views are usually interesting and spark some interesting discussion because he sometimes knows things about players that not a lot of other people do considering that he's coached, written about players, and also now runs tournaments and events. 

This year, at SoCalHoops we're going to continue to focus our efforts on the CIF-SS as well as the LA City Section, but we've also got a surprise in store when it comes to San Diego:  Starting next Monday or Tuesday morning, we'll also have a very comprehensive view of the entire San Diego CIF Section, it's leagues, teams, top players, and just about everything you ever wanted to know about San Diego CIF basketball (including a very interesting "where are they now" feature).  But given the additional breadth of coverage this year, we needed some assistance getting back to our own roots covering LA City Section hoops, as well as writing the previews and profiles, so Jack Pollon agreed to help out.

If you want to get an idea of how large the LA City Section is, take a look at this link, and you'll clearly see how many teams there are.  Sure, in comparison to the CIF-SS, it's miniscule, but 60+ teams (not everyone in the Magnet Conference actually fields a team, and none of the Magnet teams are eligible for the City Championship) is still quite a chunk to break off, so you'll understand why we enlisted Pollon's support.  We can't promise to feature every team and every league within the City Section, but that's the goal, and the goal is, of course, to have this finished before the season gets too far along.  We'll try to get it done, but no promises.

Here's Jack's first crack at a preview (with a slight bit of editing), this one of the LA City Section West Valley League. 

Pollon's Previews: 
LA City Section West Valley League
Best In The Valley

The LA City Section West Valley League is perhaps the deepest and toughest of the City Section leagues located in the San Fernando Valley. There are two other leagues, with 11 other teams from the SF Valley, and no league really comes close this year in terms of talent, top to bottom.  Not only will you find possibly the two best teams in the entire Valley region among the City teams (Taft and Cleveland), but the number of top players is also deeper, top to bottom than in any other league in the Valley.

Taft of Woodland Hills
has to be considered the clear favorite this season, with it's outstanding backcourt of Steve Smith and junior Jordan Farmar. Farmar attracted a lot of attention this summer after transferring from Birmingham of Lake Balboa, where he was a not particularly highly regarded freshman, but who is now receiving serious recruiting attention from schools up and down the West Coast.  And as for Smith, well, he's got no shortage of offers for football, with a distinct possibility that he'll be able to play both sports in college if he wants to.  Taft also has junior Joey Street a 6'-8" transfer from Burbank High School who has played club ball mostly with the Los Angeles Rockfish.   They also feature Eddie Miller and Lance Broadus, both of whom are also top football players. Dwight Grant can shoot the three and sophomore Austin Reed is ready to explode. Coach Derrick Taylor has a lot of talent to work with and the Toreadors will play in the prestigious Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic as a tuneup for their great league race with Cleveland.

Cleveland of Reseda has a lot of individual talent and the question will be can the cavaliers play as team. Head Coach Andre Chevalier's Cavaliers feature 5 solid players in Nick Young, Gabe Bernard, Allen McMillian, Frank Livingston and Chris Booker. Chevalier has steadily improved the program since inheriting a 1-18 team two years ago. Last year Cleveland won 14 games and made the City Championship bracket, which was of course, won by Westchester, which also happened to win a State Title, and in the process, counted Cleveland among one of their victims in the playoffs. Cleveland will play a frenetic full-court pressure game for 32 minutes, and might just have one of the toughest non-league schedules in the region. They are set to play Dorsey,  Chaminade of West Hills and Brentwood in single games, and will also participate in the Westchester Tip-Off Tournament, as well as the Las Vegas Powerade Holiday Prep Classic in the Silver Bracket, as well as the Hart Holiday Classic locally at the end of December.

Granada Hills is a much improved team, and might have the most experienced team in the league, but recently suffered a tragedy when their coach, Bob Patterson died in his sleep shortly before the start of approved practice sessions, literally on the eve of the season.  If the Granada Hills players can overcome the loss and find a way to pull together, they could be surprisingly good.   Led by Mike Castaneda and Manny Cortez, the Highlanders  also feature Jared Honig who returns for his senior season, as well as Adam Beckler and intriguing soph prospect Savoy Fraine, a 6'-7" wing player with the arm-span of a 7-footer.   If summer league competition is any gauge of how they'll do (and it might not really be, but what the heck), Granada Hills shredded Rolling Hills Prep, the defending V-AA CIF-SS champs, so you know they aren't a soft team. New Head Coach Sean Collyer is young and energetic and will have his work cut out for him getting Granada Hills ready to go this season.

El Camino Real of Woodland Hills has three solid returning starters:  Junior point guard Rai Colston will be counted on to take the Conquistadores far this year, as will Todd Wolfson (6'-7" Sr. F), who is an integral part of Head Coach John Gould's plans.  Soph Jordan Warren will also figure prominently, and he probably has the most potential at the next level of just about any player in the league, and like Joey Street at Taft, is also a Rockfish player in the off-season and summer.  In fact, we wouldn't be at all surprised to see El Camino Real sneak up on a lot of teams and throw a real monkey wrench into the league standings during the weeks immediately preceding the playoff bracket announcments, and they could very well also find themselves in the LA City Championship bracket as one of the top 16 teams overall.  ECR will be in early action at the Simi Valley Tip-Off Classic in the first week of December, and the following week will play at the Winter Slam Jam Tourney at Cleveland HS from Dec. 9-14.

Chatsworth HS of Chatsworth has, at least for the past few years, always seemed to be the forgotten team.  A few years ago, no one forgot about them, but lately they've had some problems, including some instability among the players and the coaching staff.  No longer, and as they say, "don't sleep on Chatsworth."   This year the Chancellors picked up transfer Alex Ingram who immediately makes the them a contender.  Add in senior guards Sterling Stegall and Charles Murphy and Chatsworth has a potent and dangerous trio of guards.  A favorable early season schedule will give Chatsworth the confidence and boost it will need going in to league. Coach Chris Dunbar leads Chatsworth this year, and hopefully will bring them some success as well as some much-needed continuity and emotional leadership which the Chancellors have not had since Fluke Fluker (now the AD) was at the helm several years ago.

Birmingham of Lake Balboa (the new and fancier name for what really is still part of Van Nuys), is the big unknown this year in the league. In fact, they are literally an unknown quantity, mainly due to the fact that the Patriots have had so many transfers out in the past two years that no can be exactly certain (other than the registrar's office) about who's still on the team.  Add to this misfortune the recent resignation of former longtime Head Coach Al Bennet (whose resignation was largely triggered by his personal disgust over what he says was rampant recruiting of his players by others, and its effect on his program), and you can see why Birmingham might be bringing up the rear until things settle down a bit.  Or, they could just surprise us all, and be really good too....Remember, Birmingham used to have a player (before he too transferred out to Grant) named Gilbert Arenas....who is now doing his thing in the NBA for the Warriors....Sometimes you just never know where the next great player is going to come from.

Pollon's Predicted Order of Finish

LA City Section
West Valley League

1. Taft
2. Granada Hills
3. Cleveland
4. El Camino Real
5. Chatsworth
6. Birmingham

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