Prep basketball fanatics rejoice. The season is just around the corner, and the moving and shaking has begun.
Banning, which won only four games last year, will open the season with almost an entirely different team.
Gary Cain has replaced 17-year Coach Don Nichols, no starters are back but four promising players have transferred to the Wilmington school.
Leading the newcomers is 6-foot-3 forward Terry Newman, a starter at Serra the last two years. The other transfers are 6-1 guard Keith Tieuel from Serra, 6-3 swing man Chris Charles from Pius X and 5-10 guard Chris Waller from Chadwick. All are seniors except Waller, a junior.
A case of recruiting? Cain says he was surprised when he learned of the arrivals.
"I didn't know they were coming," he said. "The first time I met these kids was at the beginning of the year."
Asked if he knew any reasons for the high number of transfers, Cain said: "I have no idea. I try not to get into why kids do certain things. I certainly have no control over it."
Serra Coach George McDaniel said Newman and Tieuel would have started this year. Tieuel transferred in the spring after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Newman, perhaps Serra's second-best player behind heavily recruited James Moses, left during the summer.
McDaniel said he didn't find out Newman had transferred until July when he noticed his name was not on the enrollment roster.
Newman reportedly told McDaniel that he had grown tired of playing in the shadow of Moses, a preseason All-American who averaged 28 points a game last year.
"He said that was one of the reasons," McDaniel said. "If he was tired of playing second-fiddle to Moses, he should have played harder and given a little more effort."
Charles, another defector from the Camino Real League, probably would have started for Pius X this season. Waller was a part-time starter for Chadwick last year as a sophomore.
All the athletes have apparently met City requirements for transfers.
Cain, an assistant coach at Cal State Los Angeles last year, previously assisted Nichols for two seasons (1984, '85) at Banning. He also was the head coach at Centennial, his alma mater, for one season.
The Stanford graduate says his first goal is to improve the academic level on the basketball team. He has established a study hall and wants his players to maintain at least a 2.5 grade-point average. A C-average (2.0 GPA) is required to participate in extracurricular activities.
Los Angeles City high schools also have a no-F requirement. Banning lost four players because of the rule last season when they were 4 and 15.
"I'm pushing the kids much harder academically than I am in basketball," Cain said.
Nichols will assist Cain with the varsity. He guided Banning to five league titles, eight appearances in the L.A. City semifinals and three games in the finals. The Pilots' only City title came in 1983 over Crenshaw on Ronnie Barber's last-second shot.
"I just kind of got tired of it," said Nichols, explaining his reason for stepping down. "I might go back to it. I don't know."
Nichols said one of the things that disillusioned him about coaching in the L.A. City Section was "open recruiting" between schools.
"It doesn't seem like there are any rules," he said. "Now you're not only a coach, you're a recruiter. When I started out, there wasn't anything like that."
The early signing period for high school basketball players is Nov. 11-18, but most of the South Bay's top seniors intend to wait until April before committing to a college, according to their coaches.
McDaniel said the 6-5 Moses has narrowed his choices to LSU, Iowa, Nevada-Las Vegas, Arizona and Syracuse.
"UCLA is still trying to get him, but he says he wants to go away from home," McDaniel said. "I thought he might want to play close to home so his parents could watch him, but most of the schools (he is interested in) play on ESPN. So they would get a chance to see him."
Westchester's Mike Brown, a 6-6 swing man, has verbally committed to Cal State Fullerton, after also considering Pepperdine and Nevada Las-Vegas.
Ed Azzam believes Brown is in the same class with the area's elite.
"Comparing (Brown) to Moses isn't even fair to Moses," he said. "He's twice the player Moses is. I'm a little biased, but my opinion is shared by other people."
Brown is one of three returning starters for Westchester. The others are All-City forward Zan Mason (6-7) and guard Sam Crawford, both juniors. The Comets lost a fourth returner when guard David Hollaway, the team's second-leading scorer last year, transferred to Crenshaw.
Inglewood guard Bobby Sears is being courted by Iowa, New Mexico, Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach, said Sentinels Coach Art Bias. Inglewood's best big man, 6-6 junior Warren Harrell, now attends school in Cleveland.
St. Bernard will open the season in the Pacific Shores Tournament on Dec. 1 with a formidable front line. The Vikings return 6-10 center Ed Stokes and 6-4 forwards Eric Nelson and Juno Armstrong.