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High School Basketball Previews : FRONTIER LEAGUE : Talent of Santa Clara Matches Its Tradition

December 15, 1988|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

Observers have various theories on why Santa Clara has won 9 of the past 10 league titles, including . . .

Their shaved scalps are worth at least 5 rebounds a game by making every Saint look like a sinner.

Their sharply pressed blue and yellow uniforms shock opponents into committing turnovers because the players inside those uniforms press sharply.

The bellowing voice of Coach Lou Cvijanovich carries across the floor like a long cane and latches onto the collar of any Santa Clara player not performing well.

This season, however, the Saints could wear their hair as long as Ozzy Osbourne's, their outfits as wrinkled as, well, Ozzy Osbourne's and Cvijanovich's voice could be as raspy as, yep, Ozzy Osbourne's. They would still win.

The reason is the big T, and that stands for talent, not technical fouls.

Three returning starters--Bubba Burrage, John McGill and Art Santana--are joined by transfer Shon Tarver to form a solid nucleus. Foster Cole, a 6-4 220-pound swingman, and Kasha Clemons, a versatile member of the Santa Clara football team, round out the top 6.

Santa Clara won the Simi Valley tournament over much larger schools and will play a preleague schedule against teams much better than the balance of the Frontier League.

Cvijanovich, who is beginning his 31st season at Santa Clara, has directed the Saints to 9 Southern Section titles, the most recent in 1985. So getting by league foes is only the first step in a series of team goals.

"People say that we're a better team than in 1985, but they haven't won anything yet," Cvijanovich said. "That team won 27 games. This one has won 5.

"That's the criteria I'm going by, and I'm not saying we're going to reach it, but the potential is there."

A look at each Frontier team follows:

* Santa Clara--Tarver, MVP of the Simi Valley tournament, is the accomplished shooter the Saints needed to become a well-rounded team. The 6-5 junior forward is a transfer from Rim of the World, where he was All-Southern Section.

Burrage and McGill give the Saints (19-9, 8-0 last season) a pair of strong inside players who can shoot and rebound. Clemons and Santana are expert ballhandlers and defensive players.

* Agoura--With size underneath the basket and experience at guard, second-year Coach Kevin Pasky believes his team has playoff capabilities. The question is whether the key front-line personnel--Eric Fuller, Tim Nanson and Tony Marko--can adjust from junior varsity to varsity competition.

Guards Zac Miller and Jeff Ingalls give the Chargers (10-14, 3-5) solid defense, decent scoring and a touch of savvy.

* Nordhoff--Only guard Rob Fournier, forwards Steve Blundell and Trevor Taylor return for the Rangers (10-13, 3-5). Blundell (6-1), however, might be the best athlete at the school. Fournier is a scrappy player who excels at defense.

Senior George Flannery and juniors Jacob Kunde, Warren Provost and Moran Alstot are expected to contribute.

* Santa Ynez--The Pirates moved up from the Tri-Valley League and Coach Jerry Swanitz did not bring any experienced players with him. The junior varsity won the league title last season, however, behind the play of Jim Halvorson, Russell Long and Jeff Ward. All three are being counted upon to break in the varsity to the Frontier League.

* Santa Paula--Like Nordhoff, Santa Paula's tallest player is 6-1. Four players--seniors Ray Blaskey and Dan Alvarez and juniors Jimmy Jordan and Matt Torres--return from last year's team that finished 5-18, 0-8 in league play.

* Calabasas--First-year Coach David Hoffman has no returning players at a program that is used to winning in recent years. Junior Jim Friedlander and seniors Jamie Boyce and Guy Hamilton may be the top players, but Hoffman is considering playing 3 sophomores--Tom Hoover, Jason Young and Greg Waugh.

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