It looks as if it's going to be a merry-go-round season for Sea View League basketball this year. Those who easily get dizzied, step aside.
According to coaches, every team has a reasonable shot at the league title, although Saddleback, University and Tustin are voted slight favorites.
But . . .
"Each team in the league will have to play hard every night," said Pat Quinn, Saddleback coach. "No one can let up. I don't care where you're picked, if you're down one night, you'll probably get upset. No team can be counted out."
Particularly Quinn's. The Roadrunners, fifth last season, return four starters who together make up what may be the league's most talented team.
Saddleback is led by Gylan Dottin, a 6-foot 5-inch senior forward, who averaged 16.4 points and 11.2 rebounds a game last season.
According to Quinn, Dottin has greatly improved the weak link in his game--his outside shot. He is expected to be one of the league's best all-around players.
University, third last season, is noted first and foremost for its height. The Trojans' 12-man roster carries two players at 6-4, and one each at 6-6, 6-7, and 6-8.
Tustin has a new coach, Tom McCluskey, who took over when former Tiller Coach Tim O'Brien left for Estancia.
The Tillers lost to graduation Rog Middleton, a Times All-County selection who led the county in field goal percentage (69.9%) and was fourth-highest in scoring (averaging 22.3 points a game).
But Tustin returns three starters, including senior Leo Parker, a 6-6 center/forward who averaged 14 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Corona del Mar, the defending league champion, lost every starter and all varsity players but one--Geoff Probst--from last season's squad.
But opposing coaches refuse to dismiss the Sea Kings as has-beens. A strong basketball tradition has helped Corona del Mar. And Probst is expected to make an impact this season.
Newport Harbor, 1-9 in league last season, returns five varsity players--the most of any of the league's teams.
But three starters--Jim Geerlings (cross-country), Chris Hall and Drew Sheward (football)--have been involved in other sports and haven't practiced with the team.
Estancia lacks height (its tallest player is 6-3), experience (it has only one varsity returnee) and confidence (2-13 in summer league play). But league coaches see the arrival of O'Brien as someone who can make Estancia competitive.
"I was hoping they (Estancia) would hire someone really bad," said Newport Harbor Coach Jerry DeBusk. "But then they go out and hire Tim, another quality coach in a long line of quality coaches there.
"People better not (discount) the Sailors and the (Estancia) Eagles this year, or they're going to get beat."
Here's a closer look at the Sea View League, with last season's records in parentheses:
CORONA DEL MAR (8-2, 24-7)
Key personnel--Geoff Probst (5-11, guard).
Top newcomers--Marc Luesebrink (5-10, guard), Matt Cwiertnia (6-2, forward), Matt Herrington (6-3, forward), Brian Spratt (6-4, center).
Outlook--"We're basically starting from scratch," said Paul Orris, Sea King coach. "It's a wait-and-see situation." Probst, a senior, need not wait. He can run, shoot and--possibly the most important skill for the young Sea King squad--lead. Corona del Mar, a 4-A semifinalist last season, will rely on quickness, good shooting, and its traditional man-to-man, full-court press defense.
ESTANCIA (5-5, 11-13)
Key personnel--Osmin Campos (6-1, guard)
Top newcomers--Chris Rupsa (6-3, center), Tim Kjar (6-2, forward), Tom Sampson (6-1, guard), Mike Curtis (6-0, guard).
Outlook--O'Brien said he came to Estancia for the opportunities to develop a year-round basketball program. With only three seniors on the team, development had better start soon. "We've got our work cut out for us, that's for sure," he said. "But changes are going to take time."
NEWPORT HARBOR (7-16, 1-9)
Key personnel--Drew Sheward (6-0, guard), Eric Drageset (5-11, guard), Jim Geerlings (6-1, forward), Mike Hardin (6-0, guard), Tyler Koon (6-4, center).
Top newcomers--Scott Gray (6-2, forward)
Outlook--The Sailors have depth (9-10 players of equal talent) and five returning starters. Despite the fact that three players haven't had much practice time--Geerlings will have one day of practice in between the state cross-country meet Saturday and the Sailors' first game Tuesday against Mater Dei--Newport Harbor should be much improved by mid-January. It's quicker than last season, and hopes to dictate the tempo more often. "I don't think we'll be flying up and down the court much," DeBusk said. "But we'll play any way we have to to win."
SADDLEBACK (3-7, 7-15)
Key personnel--Gylan Dottin (6-5, forward), Malru Dottin (6-6, forward/center), Craig Marshall (6-1, guard)
Top newcomers--Sean Simon (5-9, guard), Paul O'Hearn (6-5, center), Tony Agnew (6-1, guar).