With four starters returning and a 6-foot-11 sophomore joining the team, La Canada High probably will have its best basketball season during the coming school year.
"Talent-wise, I think it can be (the best team)," Spartan Coach Tom Hofman said. "We're way ahead of where I've ever had a team.
"A lot is going to depend on development."
Basketball season, of course, does not begin until the end of November.
But, like most high school coaches, Hofman does not leave much to chance.
Because the Southern and City sections do not regulate the number of games a team may play during the summer, high school basketball players see voluminous amounts of supervised court time.
By the end of the first week in August, for example, La Canada will have completed a summer schedule of almost 50 games.
"We get pretty much the max out of each summer," Hofman said.
So do most other Glendale-area programs.
Crescenta Valley will be in Las Vegas this weekend, putting the finishing touches on a 26-game summer calendar.
Ribet Academy, the defending Southern Section Small Schools Division champion, played 25 games and several members of the Fighting Frogs participated in all-star camps.
"You have to do it because everyone else is doing it," said Hoover Coach Kirt Kohlmeier, whose team played about 25 games this summer, including two tournaments. "If you didn't do it, it would be like losing a season."
Hofman, who played at Pasadena High in 1969-70, said summer leagues are all the rage because gym space no longer is available for pickup games.
"When I played in high school, we had open gyms where you were playing against good competition five nights a week," said Hofman, who has coached La Canada to three consecutive Rio Hondo League championships. "But now there aren't open gyms because of insurance liability.
"Kids just don't have the opportunity to play pickup games like they used to."
However, high school basketball players do pick up and go.
La Canada, for example, played seven games in two days earlier this summer because of scheduling snafus in two tournaments.
The Spartans recently began a day with a game at Dorsey High in South-Central Los Angeles. Then they drove to Pomona College in Claremont for a game, returned to Dorsey for an afternoon contest and headed east again to Claremont for a nightcap. La Canada finished 2-2 on the day.
"It was our worst day," said Hofman, whose team was 36-9 entering this week. "But we lost to some good teams."
Crescenta Valley, a perennial playoff participant, doesn't play as many games as La Canada but the Falcons don't get cheated when it comes to sharpening their skills.
Crescenta Valley Coach John Goffredo is one of the few coaches who conducts workouts during the summer.
Crescenta Valley players practice from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., help run a youth camp from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., then work as parking attendants at the Hollywood Bowl in the evenings.
"I know the kids are getting worn out," Goffredo said. "It's definitely more hectic than the regular year.
"Every one wants to keep up with the Joneses, so no one wants to stop."
Not all coaches, however, are even willing to start.
Subscribing to the theory that it's better to be good in January rather than in the summer, St. Francis Coach John Jordan scheduled only 12 games for the Golden Knights this summer.
"We use it (summer league) as a gauge for individuals, not so much the team," Jordan said. "We also share a lot of athletes with other sports at the school, so we don't want to overburden them."
From its summer program, each school will unearth a potential starter or contributor for next season.
At La Canada, 6-11 sophomore Richard Mandeville will replace departed Louie Nieto at center and could be the player who helps the Spartans advance past the Southern Section 3-A quarterfinals, which have been a stumbling block in each of the past three years.
Senior guard Christian Burgess emerged as Crescenta Valley's leading scorer this summer and St. Francis benefited from inspired play by sophomore guard Rudy Martinez and senior guard Tim Mathy.
Junior guard Dave Ulloa led a group of eight solid players at Hoover and junior forward Ken Vera and junior guard Tim Ramessar established themselves for Ribet Academy.
"Summer basketball allows players to gain confidence in themselves because they've played a lot of games against bigger, stronger, and in most cases older kids," Ribet Academy Coach Mike Miller said. "That pays off when they come back for the regular season with their confidence at an all-time high."