South Bay high school basketball watchers can be excused if they get a sense of deja vu this season.
On paper it appears that the rich have got richer, or at least maintained their status, and the usual names should be on top when the dust clears.
There are a few changes to note: San Pedro, which has been a City 3-A power the last three years, returns to 4-A this season and is back with traditional rivals Carson and Banning.
Several new coaches are on display, most of them familiar names--Cliff Warren, who had powerhouses at El Segundo in the 1960s before moving on to the college ranks and private business, is back at Rolling Hills. Carl Strong at Torrance High has been an assistant coach at El Camino College and Loyola Marymount University in recent years. Steve Shaw at Redondo has been an assistant there and was a star player in the 1970s. Rick Sabosky takes over at El Segundo, and Kirk Brown is at South Torrance. Mike Siler is the new face at Leuzinger.
The Possible Best
If survival belongs to the fittest, these teams should be the predators: Carson, Morningside and St. Bernard in the upper echelon, with Inglewood, Serra and Banning also to be feared, and Chadwick in the 1-A Division.
This week's Pacific Shores Tournament will give a quick check of the comparable strengths of Morningside, Carson and Serra. The semifinals are Thursday, the finals Friday at Redondo High.
Here are how the league races shape up:
Camino Real (CIF 5-A)--St. Bernard and Verbum Dei are expected to battle for the title, perhaps with St. Monica. Serra and St. Anthony will be in the running for playoff spots. This league includes several preseason All-Americans.
St. Bernard has two star seniors, Joe Hudson and Kirkland Howling, both 6-4, and junior standout David Whitmore, who made Street and Smith's preseason top 100. Whitmore is an exceptional leaper. "At times he can be unstoppable around the basket," Coach Jim McClune said. Hudson is a defensive standout. Others who will see considerable playing time are Langston Daniels, Eric Dunn, football star Eric Marrero and Ruben Monge. An early gut-check for the Vikings: a Friday the 13th showdown next week with defending CIF 5-A champ Mater Dei at Loyola Marymount.
Serra has one of the best small forwards around in Keith Malone, a Jamaal Wilkes type. The Cavaliers also picked up sophomore guard James Moses, a great shooter who transferred from Alemany where he starred as a freshman. Otherwise, Serra is green.
Mary Star of the Sea has no returning starters but should be quicker than last year. Center Mark Karmelich and forward Ron Rados are the senior leaders. Sophomore Dewey Dominguez figures to start at guard.
Verbum Dei returns several talented players led by All-CIF guard David Jones. St. Monica has its starting five intact including All-America guard Earl Duncan, who led the Camino Real in scoring last season and has signed with Syracuse. St. Anthony returns basketball's version of the Refrigerator, 6-8, 235-pound Jaime Cardriche.
Bay League (CIF 4-A)--Santa Monica is the odds-on favorite with South Torrance, Palos Verdes and Redondo counting on returning stars to lead them to the playoffs.
South Torrance has a solid nucleus returning including three-year starting guard Chris Jeffrey, a good shooter; 6-5 forward John Cassinelli, a blue collar-type forward, and 6-9 Rob Haddon. Brian Kelly, a 6-5 junior, lends bulk up front.
Redondo is led by 6-7 center-forward Steve Florentine, who averaged 20 points as a junior. "We'll be as good as Steve Florentine," Shaw said. Redondo also returns one veteran guard, Frank Herrera.
Palos Verdes has four players back. Jeff Pelton, a 6-4 forward who has signed with Montana, is the best player and tallest man on a small team. Coach John Mihaljevich expects to have a better shooting team than last year.
Rolling Hills has no lettermen and little size. However, the Titans are a good shooting squad featuring juniors--6-4 Doug Gehr and 6-3 Cameron Terry are the best.
West Torrance and Mira Costa are young and short and probably a year away. West has only two lettermen and seven underclassmen. Craig Carlson is the tallest player at 6-3. Three football players are still on the gridiron. "We'll start slow," Coach Dan McGee said. Mira Costa is rebuilding around 6-5 Scott Forsyth.
Ocean League (CIF 4-A)--Culver City and Inglewood should be the clear-cut upper crust here. Inglewood is relatively small but has five lettermen and three starters back, two of them all-leaguers--Stacy Anderson and Eric Jordan. Coach Art Bias is also high on 6-3 junior James Bowens, a leaper, and junior Corey Arnett. Jerry Gatewood, 6-6, is at center.
North Torrance returns 6-5 Mike Jurado, the team's best shooter last year. Torrance has no lettermen and only two seniors with experience. Jarrod Adams is the tallest at 6-5. "We'll take our lumps early," Strong said. Hawthorne has three starters back and should be quick.