When it comes to boys high school basketball for the 1989-90 season, everything appears to be coming up roses.
That is, the City of Roses--Pasadena.
Cross-town rivals Muir and Pasadena appear to have the top teams in the San Gabriel Valley.
Both have been powers in the valley over the years, but with a surplus of outstanding players returning, Muir seems to be slightly ahead of Pasadena.
As for the overall outlook for valley teams, the forecast may be a little down. It may be difficult for a team to duplicate the success of Glendora, which reached the championship game of the state CIF Division II playoffs last season.
But that doesn't mean that the valley doesn't have top-notch teams again.
In addition to Muir and Pasadena, traditional powers Bishop Amat and Glendora figure to rank among the best. Others in the top echelon of valley teams include West Covina, Pomona, Damien, Diamond Bar, Nogales and Azusa.
Here's a look at the top 10:
1--Muir (Pacific League; 4-A Division)--What a difference a year could make in the fortunes of the Mustang basketball team.
Last season, with an inexperienced team and a first-year coach, the Mustangs struggled to a 10-13 record.
But there were positive signs. The Mustangs showed improvement as the season went along, finishing with a 5-5 record and third place in the Pacific League and reaching the second round of the 4-A Division playoffs.
With four starters returning and added confidence from an impressive summer league season, the prospects appear considerably better for Muir.
The Mustangs are still young, with only two seniors in their starting lineup, but the experience is there.
The leader is forward LaDay Smith, a 6-6 1/2 senior who averaged 16 points last season and has signed a national letter of intent to attend UC Berkeley. "He's a versatile athlete," Coach Craig Noyes said. "He can play anywhere from forward to the point (guard)."
The other starters returning for Muir are juniors Phillip Turner (6-2) at guard, Erid Scott (6-7) at center and Darren Greene (6-6) at forward. Senior Andre Akins (6-3) is also expected to start at guard.
Muir, which will also bring a good forward off the bench in senior Jermaine Davis (6-5), has as much size as any team in the valley and versatility will also be a plus.
"Everybody's interchangeable in our lineup," Noyes said. "With our size we can cause problems and create mismatches for the other team."
2--Pasadena (Pacific League; 5-A)--After years of struggle, there was a renaissance in the Bulldog basketball program last season, and Coach Bill Duwe says it wasn't a fluke.
While the Bulldogs return only one starter from a squad that went 24-3 and reached the 5-AA Division semifinals, the coach said the talent is nearly equal to last season.
"If I didn't have last year's team staring me in the face, I'd say this is the best team I've had in the last five or six years," Duwe said.
It will be led by senior guard Don Mitchell (6-2 1/2, who averaged 14 points and was named to the All-CIF Division I second team last season. "I think he's probably as good an all-around player, offensively and defensively, as there is in the San Gabriel Valley," Duwe says.
Two other key figures are guard Raymond Maberry, a 5-10 junior, and center Todd Lewis, a 6-7 senior who Duwe said is the best inside player the team has had in recent years. Pasadena's twin-post offense also features junior Kenric Marshall (6-3) at center and senior guards Shan Newby and Rey Luna.
Except for the team's inexperience, Duwe said the Bulldogs will be similar to last season.
"We can score and that's one of our big strengths," he said. "We just have to play good defense, and that's something I've always stressed."
3--Bishop Amat (Angelus League; 4-A)--Over the last two seasons under Coach Alex Acosta, the Lancers have been one of the top teams in the valley (43-14 record).
They finished at 16-10 and advanced to the 4-A Division quarterfinals last season, and with two starters returning and five seniors in the starting lineup, Bishop Amat expects to rank among the top teams again.
The Lancer fortunes will revolve around forward Jason Green, a 6-4 senior who averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds last season in earning second team All-CIF Division II honors. He is also a major-college recruit as a tight end in football.
"Jason Green's a real big-time player," Acosta said. "When you have a player like Jason, it just picks up the level of everyone else."
Bishop Amat also has returning starter J. D. Romero (6-5) on its front line along with forward Keith Parker (6-3), and the guards are Marty Avalos (5-10) and Jeff Martin (6-2). The Lancers will play four sophomores, including 6-8 center David Ng and 6-2 guard Randy Edwards.
It will not be Acosta's tallest team, but the Lancers will pose problems with their quickness.
"We have five guys who have the ability to (play well) together, and we have a guy we can go to when we really need a basket," Acosta said.