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City Western League Preview : Coaches Call Conference Stronger and More Balanced

Editor's Note: This is part of a continuing series of previews on San Diego County boys' basketball leagues. Next: City Central League.

January 14, 1987|JEFFREY PARENTI

SAN DIEGO — Last season the City Western League was split in half as three teams tied for first place with 8-2 records and the other three teams combined for six victories.

How quickly things have changed. So it seems.

The coaches in the City Western League think that this season any team could win it, and that the overall league balance makes it possibly the strongest league in the county.

"I think it's fairly even top to bottom," said La Jolla Coach Rick Eveleth. "Our league is by far the strongest in the county."

City Western teams have fared well in the nonleague season. La Jolla (9-4) finished second in two tournaments, the Hilltop and the Limited Division of the Kiwanis. Kearny (10-3) has won four of six games against the powerful City Eastern League, including a 69-65 upset of Mira Mesa. Much improved Clairemont (10-3) placed second in the Classified Division of the Kiwanis Tournament and Mission Bay (5-5) placed third. Also, University City upset St. Augustine, 56-48.

The main reason for the divided power structure of the league is the overall use of underclassmen.

"Our league has so many good young players," said Mission Bay Coach Mike Seaman. "There is more talent on more of the teams this year."

Most of the talent in the 1987 version of the City Western League is young. For example, three teams (Clairemont, La Jolla and Mission Bay) start at least one sophomore and La Jolla starts two sophomores and two juniors. Two other teams, Kearny and University City start three juniors.

Although the consensus favors Kearny or La Jolla to win the league, Clairemont, coached by ex-UCLA star Greg Lee, has made the biggest turnaround. The Chiefs won only one game in 23 tries last season and were winless in league play. Thus far this season, Lee has led his team to a 10-3 mark.

With the power structure more divided this year and with the expanded playoff format, it would seem likely that at least three teams will get a postseason berth. Last season La Jolla won the coin flip as the league's top representative and Kearny and University of San Diego High School played off for the other spot. USDHS earned the second playoff spot with a 63-62 overtime victory.

"Last year Kearny was one of the better teams in the 2-A and they didn't get to go to the playoffs," said USDHS Coach Pat Murphy. "This year, that wrong has been righted."

Clairemont

Last season's record: 0-10, 1-22.

Finish: Sixth.

This season's record: 10-3.

Coach: Greg Lee.

Top returnees: Jason Deal (6-4, 185, Sr.), Lamont Jackson (6-1, 165, Jr.), Ray McDavid (6-1, 170, So.).

Top newcomer: Vic Baer (6-6, 190, Sr.).

Outlook: For Clairemont to continue its early season winning ways, it needs to run. In a nonleague game, San Dieguito played slow-down with Clairemont and won, 48-32. Lee thinks that he gets the best use of his athletes, namely guards McDavid and Jackson, when the Chiefs are running the fast break.

Baer, who transferred from Mt. Carmel last year at mid-semester, is averaging 18 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and has been overall consistent despite a 1-for-14 shooting effort against Crawford.

Deal, who is the only returning senior in the starting lineup, is averaging 17.5 points and 9 rebounds per game.

"I doubt that there are too many players in the league who can shoot from the outside like he can," said Lee.

Kearny

Last season's record: 8-2, 17-10.

Finish: Tied for first.

This season's record: 10-3.

Coach: Bill Peterson.

Top returnees: Tim Garlin (5-10, 160, Sr.), John Williamson (6-7, 215, Jr.), Dion Osborne (5-10, 155, Sr.).

Top newcomer: Randy Robinson (6-3, 175, Jr.), Chris Ortiz (5-11, 155, Jr.).

Outlook: Kearny uses three guards and two post players and has achieved a fine balance thus far. Robinson, who was a junior varsity reserve a year ago, is greatly improved and is averaging 11.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Williamson averages 12.9 points and 11.2 rebounds and Garlin averaged 16.5 points.

On the horizon is 6-foot 7-inch junior Darrin Weeks, who was the leading scorer on the junior varsity last season and is quickly developing into a varsity player. "He will get a lot of playing time down the stretch," Peterson said.

The Komets are shooting 66% as a team from the free throw line and their 31 of 38 was a major part of the Mira Mesa upset.

Kearny's best asset is its guards. With a more open, running style offense, Osborne, Ortiz, Garlin and 5-7 senior Chinh Duong are the keys to the team's success. They are also excellent ball handlers.

La Jolla

Last season's record: 8-2, 17-6.

Finish: Tied for first.

This season's record: 9-4.

Coach: Rick Eveleth.

Top returnees: None.

Top newcomer: Sean Rodgers (6-3, 170, Jr.), Adam Kleid (6-1, 165, So.), Jerome Sherman (5-11, 160, Jr.).

Outlook: Entering this season without a top returner, Eveleth was not real optimistic, but with second-place finishes in both the Hilltop and Kiwanis tournaments, his attitude has changed.

"We have matured a lot quicker than anybody has expected," said Eveleth.

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