SAN DIEGO — The City Central League has an abundance of big men this season. The best of them--6-foot 5-inch Charlie Applegate--is also on the best team--St. Augustine.
It is generally believed that Applegate is as good as any player in the county this season, but stopping him doesn't mean stopping St. Augustine. In a league of teams dominated by underclassmen, new coaches and rebuilding programs, St. Augustine--with 8 of its 11 players seniors--is experienced and balanced.
"I expect our kids will do well," said Dick Hardick, St. Augustine coach. "I feel they come to play and they come to play hard."
Applegate leads the team in scoring (21.8 points per game) and rebounding (12).
"He's a very fine shooter and becoming a fine defensive player," Hardick said. "He's a better rebounder and his shot selection is improving. He's quick and he's big. He's head and shoulders above everybody."
Head and shoulders in ability, but not height. Lincoln, one of the tallest teams in the county, has two players--junior Roger Johnson and sophomore Aaron Willhite--at 6-6. Willhite leads the team in rebounding (9.5) and is second in scoring (12.5).
Hoover's 6-6 sophomore transfer Odell Williams is still learning the system but should make an impact by season's end. Christian's 6-5 sophomore Darrell White is in his second year on varsity.
Crawford's 6-4 junior James Henry leads his team in scoring (16.8), rebounding (15) and blocked shots (8).
Last season's record: 4-6, 13-10.
This season's record: 9-4.
Coach: Randy Wright.
Top returnees: Jon Okken (6-2, 170, Sr.), Joe Vraneza (6-3, 180, Sr.), Doug Lake (5-10, 155, Sr.), Mike Hausam (6-2, 175, Sr.), David Jeremiah (6-0, 170, So.) and Darrell White (6-5, 210, So.).
Top newcomer: Brian Wilbur (5-9, 145, Sr.), Kurt McClung (6-2, 170 Jr.) and John Halverson (5-10, 150, Jr.).
Outlook: "If we play smart, with intensity and within our game, we can compete with any team in the league," Wright said. Sophomores Jeremiah and White are in their second year of varsity competition. Jeremiah leads the team with a 13.0 scoring average, Vraneza is second at 11.0. Okken, quarterback on the football team, is point guard.
"We're not a team that's going to dominate with one guy," Wright said. "It takes a team effort for us to win. One of our strengths is overall balance. You can't shut out one guy and beat us. If we are moving on all cylinders, we have playoff potential."
Last season's record: 2-8, 9-13.
This season's record: 3-9.
Coach: John King.
Top returnees: Tony Coronado (6-3, 190, Sr.) and Dewey Brown (6-3, 190, Sr.).
Top newcomers: James Henry (6-4, 165, Jr.), Louis Savage (5-6, 130, Jr.) and Chris Johnson (6-0, 170, So.).
Outlook: King moves from the junior varsity and brings most of an 8-2 team with him. "Each of those losses were by one point to Lincoln," he said.
Crawford's best player thus far has been Henry. "We're learning how to play with him," King said. "With a guy like him, you're going to be in every ballgame."
Last season's record: 6-4, 12-13.
Finish: Tied for second.
This season's record: 5-11.
Coach: Hal Mitrovich.
Top returnees: Michael Walker (5-9, 160, Sr.), Tyrone Bell (6-2, 175, Sr.) and Tony Thomas (5-7, 150, Sr.).
Top newcomers: Odell Williams (6-6, 215, So.) and Darrell Jamison (5-11, 170, Jr.).
Outlook: While the football team went to the playoffs, the basketball team started 0-7. But since playmaker Walker and forward Stacy Domaille have returned, the team has won five of nine. Walker scored 27 points in his first game back and has kept his averaged near 20 points. Of Williams, a transfer from Virginia, Mitrovich says: "He's still learning the system and he's pretty inexperienced, but it's encouraging to have someone that size and quality in the program."
Bell and John Page--a 6-5, 190-pound senior--provide the rebounding for a team that must run to be successful. "We have to be able to play transition basketball," Mitrovich said. "If we get in a half-court game, we're in trouble."
Last season's record: 10-0, 17-6.
This season's record: 7-5.
Coach: Ron Loneski.
Top returnees: Roger Johnson (6-6, 175, Jr.) and Frank Edmond (5-8, 148, Sr.).
Top newcomers: Aaron Willhite (6-6, 210, So.), Ken Thompson (6-3, 210, Sr.), Joe Temple (6-2, 160, So.) and Ellison Hawkins (6-0, 165, Jr.).
Outlook: "We're about a year away," said Loneski, whose only returning players have limited experience. Last season, Lincoln won the league title and came within two points of playing for the 2-A championship. This season, Loneski is teaching basketball. "We have to spend a lot of time teaching fundamentals," he said.
Thompson leads in scoring with a 14.5 average, followed by sophomore Willhite (12.5). Willhite and sophomore Temple lead the team in rebounding. Lincoln is shooting only 54% from the free-throw line.
Last season's record: 6-4, 13-12.
Finish: Tied for second.
This season's record: 8-3.
Coach: Dick Hardick.