Basketball coaches at local junior colleges may choose different styles of play this season, but all of them are concentrating on one aspect more than any other--the transition game.
The phrase means more than simply switching quickly from offense to defense.
Canyons is adapting to life without a center, Moorpark is attempting to shift its dependence on an inside attack to the perimeter and Valley is getting reacquainted with a coach.
Canyons made the playoffs for the third year in a row last season and Moorpark just missed. Valley wasn't close. Canyons and Moorpark again seem likely contenders for postseason play. Valley should improve under Coach Jim Stephens, who returns to the position he held for a decade before a two-year stint as men's coach at Pierce and a similar tenure as coach of the women's team at Valley.
Canyons, which finished 15-15 overall and 6-7 in Western State Conference play, lost center Mitch McMullen (6-10), who was the best big man in the Valley area last season, averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds a game. The Cougars also lost forward Anthony Hines (6-6), who averaged 14 points and 14 rebounds a game. Hines, who led the state in rebounding, is now at Tulsa.
The tallest player on the Canyons roster is 6-6 center Don Barbene, but the Cougars will be led by sophomore guard Butch Mettinger, who averaged 12 points in conference games last season. Forward Rusty Morse, who averaged 16.7 points a game last season at Saugus High and led the Centurions to the Southern Section 3-A championship, is the top newcomer. Point guard Jorge Ramos, who averaged nine assists a game last season for Poly High, will challenge sophomore Darrin Moloznik for a starting spot.
"We're not going to be nearly as big as last season," said Canyon Coach Lee Smelser, who is in his 19th year with the program. "That's going to be a drastic change. Right now, there's so many question marks. I just hope by the end of December, we'll be pretty well settled."
At Moorpark, Coach Al Nordquist said he will scrap the platoon system the Raiders used last season when they finished 16-12 overall and 6-7 in Western State Conference play. Nordquist, however, still plans to rotate a lot of players.
"I think we've got more talent than last season and our outside people are more experienced," said Nordquist, who begins his 21st season with the Raiders. "But we'll have two guys for each spot and we're going to run an efficiency chart. We have 10 guys who are pretty even."
The Raiders run a three-guard offense that should showcase the outside shooting of sophomore guard Tom Neumayr, who was named to the All-Western State Conference first team last season when he averaged 12.8 points a game. Also returning is guard Merl Adams, whom Nordquist calls one of the best defensive guards at the junior college level. Sophomores Todd Johnson and Jerry Walker are battling for the starting position at point guard.
Freshmen Rich Murphy, who played at Simi Valley High, and Fred Parks, who went to high school in Philadelphia, will split time on the front line. They will team with 6-8 freshman center Jerry Markray, who attended high school in Louisiana.
Valley, which was 6-19 overall and 5-7 in Southern California Conference play last season, also should improve with the arrival of two-time All-Southern Section guard Steve Ward, who averaged 25.2 points a game last season at Calabasas High.
Michael Jackson, who transferred from a junior college in Illinois, and Jerrid Dorsey will start in the Monarchs' three-guard offense with Ward.
The key for Valley, however, will be the play of Orel Elrington, a 6-6 freshmen from Canoga Park High, who is the Monarchs' tallest player.
"Orel is going to be a great player, but he's very green," said Stephens, who coached the Valley women's team to records of 22-10 and 26-4 the past two seasons. "We're small, quick and can shoot the ball. They're good kids and they work hard, but they're adjusting to some structure."