Huntington Beach Ocean View, with three starters returning from last season's 5-A finalist, is the No. 1-ranked team in The Times' preseason poll of Southern Section high school basketball teams.
But although Ocean View has done well and should continue to do well on the court, it has been less successful off.
The Southern Section stripped Ocean View of last season's second-place trophy and made the Seahawks ineligible for postseason play this season, when it ruled that Coach Jim Harris had used "undue influence" to see that two players enrolled at Ocean View.
The decision was appealed to the California Interscholastic Federation, which appointed a three-person panel that eventually upheld the Southern Section's action.
Thus, barring any further court action, which Harris does not rule out, Ocean View , which won but later had to forfeit 24 games, could end up being the best team in the Southern Section, but Santa Ana Mater Dei will be favored to win its third title in the last four years.
Here's a look at The Times' preseason Southern Section top 10 (last season's records are in parentheses):
1. OCEAN VIEW (0-28)--Despite Harris' denial that Ocean View will not be peaking in December and early January, it will be very difficult for the Seahawks not to be looking forward to the San Dimas Tournament of Champions, Dec. 16-21, where they could play Mater Dei in the final, and the King Cotton Classic in Pine Bluff, Ark., which will feature some of the best teams in the country. Center Ricky Butler (6-foot-7 junior) and guards Tony Panzica (6-7 senior) and Blaine DeBrouwer (6-0 senior) are all returning starters. "Butler is becoming a complete ball player," Harris said of his center, who averaged 12 points and 11 rebounds a game last season. "He will be the chairman of the boards. This year he will play more facing the basket. Along with DeBrouwer (who averaged 15 points and 4 assists), he's our best outside shooter. DeBrouwer has great confidence and that's what you need to direct a club. He a good ballhander and will be our press-breaker." Panzica, who averaged 8 points, 4 assists and 7 rebounds, will be playing his third position in three years. As a sophomore he was a point guard, last season he was the small forward, and this season he will be the off-guard. "He's a good passer and very sneaky around the boards," Harris said. Forward Desi Hazely (6-4 1/2 junior) and 6-8 senior center Mike Boatman round out the starting lineup. Brett Johnson (5-11 senior) and Steve Treskes (6-2 senior) are the top reserves. When asked what it will take to have a successful season, Harris said, "We have excellent individual players with some very good skills but they must complement one another rather than stand alone."
2. SANTA ANA MATER DEI (29-0)--The Monarchs reached the Southern Section final the last three years, winning two titles and losing a third, by one point, to eventual state titlist Long Beach Poly. Much of their success has been due to overall team height and this season should be no exception. "The strength of this year's team will be its height and depth," Coach Gary McKnight said. "We can run a lot of people at the opposition and most of them have size." Stuart Thomas (6-10 senior) started at center last season but has moved to forward. "Stuart has gained a lot of confidence this summer especially after being named the MVP of a national tournament in Tempe," McKnight said. The transfer of 6-10 junior Leron Ellis, the son of former Laker player Leroy Ellis, from Portland, Ore., has allowed McKnight to shift Thomas to forward. "Leron is very agile and quick for a 16-year-old," McKnight said. "He runs the court very well and causes everybody to alter their shot." Another returning starter is Tom Peabody (6-4 senior), who averaged 3 points and 7 assists in starting 28 of 29 games. "He will be a key for us at the point," McKnight said. Forward Jim Dwyer (6-5 senior) and guard John Mounce (6-2 senior) are the other starters. Kevin Rembert (6-4 sophomore), Chris Patton (6-2 junior) and John Peterson (6-6 senior) should all play.