Orange League coaches are respecting tradition and fearing change for the 1987-88 basketball season.
The respect is for Brea-Olinda High School, which has won or shared seven of the last eight league championships.
The fear, or at least concern, is reserved for Savanna, which has three players 6-feet-6 or taller.
The Rebels are the last Orange League team to dethrone Brea-Olinda as they won the title in 1983. They also finished second in 1982, 1984 and 1985. During that string, Savanna had no player taller than 6-3.
Now, Coach Tom Gregory has a team that includes Eric Shinkle (6-9), Eric Preuss (6-7) and Tim Killman (6-6).
"We've been a fastbreak team for so long, I had to go back to the books to learn how to teach a post offense again," Gregory said.
Actually, Gregory is doing his best to downplay his team's uncharacteristic height. He points out that the Rebels have won only 12 games in two years.
"I've got to be honest, I like our potential," Gregory said. "But potential is a word that means untapped to me. The league is balanced this year. I think there are three teams that could win it, possibly five."
Gregory may be right, but the other coaches aren't buying it.
"In this league size creates problems and Savanna has double the size of anyone else," Anaheim Coach Conrad Byars said.
Put more bluntly: "If Savanna doesn't win the league, there should be an audit or an investigation of some kind," Western Coach Greg Hoffman said. "Savanna should dominate. And they have more than just a couple of big guys."
The Rebels also return point guard Richard Kemple and forward Robbie Booker, who both were all-league selections last season.
Whereas Savanna is blessed with height in numbers, Magnolia has the league's best big man in Mike Goff (6-6).
Goff was one of the reasons the Sentinels were tri-champions with Brea-Olinda and Valencia last season. He averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds per game, as Magnolia advanced to the semifinals of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs.
However, Goff is the only returning starter and Coach Al Walin will start four juniors.
"Realistically, we're in the middle of the pack," Walin said. "How well we do will depend on how the juniors come along and how dominating Goff can be."
Brea-Olinda was also hurt by graduation, but the Wildcats won or shared league titles on every level last season.
"Brea always has 12 guys that can shoot jumpers," Hoffman said.
"Valencia doesn't have a big man this year, Anaheim is always scrappy and we're sort of a paradox. It's going to be a fun league this year," Hoffman said.
Here's a closer look at the Orange League, with last season's records in parentheses:
Key personnel: Alvaro Osuna (6-2 forward/center), Kha Hoang (5-11 guard), Matt Buias (5-11, guard), Jerry Blair (6-2, forward).
Top newcomers: Marcus Mitchell (6-0, guard), Victor Zambrano (6-2, guard), Andy Sprague (6-5, center).
Outlook: The Colonists may improve their overall record, but it will still be rough going in league. Mitchell transferred from Dominguez Hills and should make Anaheim a vastly improved team. Byars is uncertain about Sprague, who played organized basketball for the first time last season. "Sprague improved a lot on the junior varsity last year," Byars said. "But if he doesn't come through this year, our tallest player will be 6-2." Anaheim does have seven returning players.
Key personnel: Matt Chamberlin (6-5, center), Rusty Ham (5-10, guard).
Top newcomers: Keith Walker (6-4, forward), David Hole (6-3, forward), David Chaffin (5-10, guard), Rodney Stewart (5-10, guard), David Bittman (6-1, guard).
Outlook: Not many teams could lose their top six players and still be considered a favorite to win the league title. However, Brea won league championships on all four levels last season. The Wildcats' strength is their outside shooting. Walker is expected to provide the bulk of the offense, as his brother Kevin did from 1983-85. Kevin Walker now plays at UCLA. Chaffin is the key, as he will have to develop as a point guard.
Key personnel: Mike Goff (6-6, center), Richard McKee (6-4, forward).
Top newcomers: Jerry Jones (5-10, guard), Jayson Nestor (6-0, guard), Khampou Singbandith (6-1, forward), Brian Wilson (6-2, forward).
Outlook: Goff is by far the league's best player. He can score from the outside and inside, but has to stay out of foul trouble. "We played Goff on the outside a lot during the summer," Walin said. "But we have to go inside with him to win." Walin will likely start four juniors with Goff. The Sentinels were the league's best defensive team last season, but lost a lot, most notably center Mark Lyons and guard Victor Banuelos. "We'll probably miss Banuelos the most," Walin said. "He consistently scored 13-17 points per game and killed people defensively." Magnolia doesn't appear to have the experience for a repeat performance.