Freeway League coaches decided it wasn't enough to revamp their teams this basketball season. They opted for a league-wide new look, borrowing heavily from the college game.
Coaches approved starting a postseason tournament this season to determine which teams qualify for the playoffs. And the Freeway League joins the Sunset in adopting the three-point shot.
The league champion receives a first-round bye and must win one of two tournament games to make the playoffs. Second- and third-place league finishers have to win as many games (three) as the last-place team to qualify for the playoffs.
So league coaches will tell you it's still important to win the league title . . . although not quite as important as it used to be.
"It will keep interest up for the whole season and every team will have an equal chance to make the playoffs," said George Fairchild, La Habra coach.
Fullerton Coach Randy Forgette likes the new format because of the options it provides. "If you have a key player injured or a young kid who started the season slowly, it will help you out," he said.
Another difference this year will be opening day, in which all six teams will play in the same gym, on the same day.
Not everything figures to change this season in the Freeway League, however.
Troy, which was 10-0 last season and has four starters back, is the coaches' overwhelming favorite to repeat as champion.
And most coaches think the league, dominated by young teams, will get only better.
"In two years, we should have some pretty good basketball teams," said Ken Bell, Buena Park coach. "At least we've got that straight."
Top newcomers--Kevin Grady (6-4, center), Gene Law (5-5, guard).
Outlook--The Coyotes may be without one of their two transfer students, Law from Montgomery High School in San Diego. He is questionable after injuring his left arm in an automobile accident two weeks ago. Grady, from Jordan in Los Angeles, played in summer league and is expected to make an immediate impact. He may have to as Buena Park has only two seniors.
Outlook--As the backcourt goes, so goes Fullerton. Wilber and Hetland will be counted on to run the offense and score most of the points. Hetland led the county in assists last season. "Except for Greg or Mike, we don't have great half-court players," Forgette said. If opponents overplay the guards, Lewis, who grew an inch in the summer, may become the focal point of the offense. "In past years, we've been big and slow," Forgette said. "We're going to try to play a pressure game this year."
Allan Newman (6-5, center), Nelson Bergamo (5-10, guard), Jason Reese (6-3, forward), Jaime Delgadillo (5-9, guard), Carlos Ontiveros (6-2, forward).
Top newcomers--Bob Small (6-0, guard), Ed Perez (6-3, forward).
Outlook--It won't be difficult for the Highlanders (1-19) to improve on last season. Fairchild says this is his best team since becoming coach three years ago. "To get into the playoffs is a realistic goal," Fairchild said. "We're a lot bigger this season and have a lot of experience." Newman, one of three returning starters, should be the key player. "This is the best balanced team we've had since I've been here," Fairchild said. Despite being a bigger team, La Habra will continue its run-and-gun offense.
Grayle Humphrey (5-11, guard), Brent Cannon (6-3, forward), Kris Kramer (6-2, forward), Geoff Crow (6-6, center).
Most of the other coaches list the Raiders at or near the bottom of the league. The Raiders have also had some bad luck, with a couple of players--Eric Johnson and Scott Goldfarb--slowed by football injuries. The Raiders are experienced--with five seniors--and have a solid center in Crow.
Top newcomers--Marcus Hopkins (6-4 1/2, center), Jeff White (6-1 1/2, guard).
Outlook--The youngest and possibly most talented team in the league, Sunny Hills' inexperience is a mixed blessing. The Lancers should make the playoffs for the first time since 1982, but it may take a while for the team to come together. "The next couple of years, we should be one of the top teams," White said. "We have good height and (Eric) Carpenter and (Chris) Drakos are legitimate players." Several sophomores have moved up to the varsity after going 23-1 last year on the freshman team. "Jeff (White) and Marcus (Hopkins) could be two of the best sophomores in Orange County," White said. Chisum, Carpenter and Jeff White haven't joined the team yet because they are on Sunny Hills' football team, which is still in the playoffs.
Top newcomers--Scott Frenette (5-7, guard), Austin Yu (6-5, center), Pat Brain (5-8, guard), Jimmy Bridges (5-9, guard).
Outlook--The league favorites start four seniors and under first-year Coach Graham can look forward to scoring more points this season. Graham calls Ferren his "3-D" player because he can "drive, draw and dish the ball while going to the basket." Most of the outside scoring will come from Rudometkin, who can take advantage of the three-point shot. A possible addition to the team is 6-foot 6-inch Jim Cody, a transfer from Servite. He is appealing to the Southern Section to have his eligibility reinstated. "We don't have great size, but we're very aggressive and have a deep bench," Graham said.