The City Section 3-A Division does not always boast the best boys' basketball teams in Southern California, but it probably can lay claim to having the most competitive ones this season.
The City 3-A is the only division that is not expanding its playoff format to include every team.
Both the Southern Section 3-A and 4-A playoffs will include the top three qualifiers from each league and any other team from those divisions that petitions to participate.
The City 4-A playoffs will include every one of the 12 member schools.
Only the City 3-A division still limits its playoff field to the top two finishers from each league.
City Section basketball games involving Glendale-area teams, therefore, figure to be hotly contested as Marshall, Franklin, Eagle Rock and Verdugo Hills highs compete for 3-A playoff berths.
Here is a look at Glendale-area City Section teams:
Eagle Rock--The Eagles finished 12-12 last season and 8-4 in the Northeastern League, falling one game shy of the playoffs.
Coach Bill Whiting lost all but two players from last year, including guards John Padilla--the school's career assist leader--and Ruben Des Los Reyes.
Eagle Rock, however, has one of the area's most talented players in 5-foot-11 senior guard Johnny Lam, who averaged 11.3 points a game last season.
Lam, a great jumper who also was all-league in volleyball last season, is moving to point guard to fill the void left by Padilla.
"Johnny is going to look for his shots, but he's not going to be a 25-point scorer," said Whiting, in his seventh season with the Eagles. "We need him to stabilize things and this group is pretty good about spreading things around."
Junior guard Charles Garcia also returns and will team with Lam and newcomer Tim Park to give the Eagles three threats from three-point range.
Junior Larry Corbi and Stephane Losey, a 6-6 exchange student from Switzerland, provide size in the frontcourt.
"We're not as quick as we've been in the past," Whiting said. "I like man-to-man defense, but because we're bigger and slower, we'll probably play more zone than we have in the past."
Whiting chooses Wilson as the favorite in the Northeastern League, which also includes Franklin and Verdugo Hills.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," Whiting said of his team's playoff chances. "We think we have a shot at it."
Franklin--The Panthers are rebuilding after losing three key players who have moved on to play at Glendale College.
Gone are All-City guard Alphonso Pule, who averaged 20 points a game, forward Juwan Smith (20 points) and guard Brad Mills (11).
The trio helped Franklin to an 18-6 season that ended with a loss to Locke in the first round of the playoffs.
"Last year, any one of those three guys could take over a game," Franklin Coach Robin Cardona said. "This year, we don't have that luxury, so we have to play team ball."
Senior guard Jose Molina is the lone returning starter. Forward Art Gamez, the sixth man last season, also should provide experience in a starting role.
Senior guard Johnny Flores, junior forwards Philip Molina and Jaime Preciado and sophomore center Tony Delgado are top newcomers to the varsity.
The Panthers will compete in the Crescenta Valley, Alhambra and Palisades tournaments before beginning the bulk of their league schedule.
Cardona, in his third season with the Panthers, said his team is a playoff contender, this season and next.
"We're a little young," Cardona said. "Whatever we do this year, I know we'll be able to duplicate or improve next year."
Marshall--The Barristers, under fifth-year Coach Henfred Brard, are hoping depth and balance can overcome the absence of a dominant scorer.
Hank Hou (18 points a game) and Mark Umemoto (eight points) graduated from a team that was 17-10 last season and lost to San Fernando in the first round of the playoffs.
Junior center Jahmin Assa and senior forward Hung Diep are the Barristers' top players.
Junior guard Phanh Diep, senior forward Arvin Valle and senior guard Jeff Baba round out the starting lineup.
"We have some quickness and size and work the boards pretty well," Brard said.
"We had a pretty good team two years ago when we won the league title and I think we're getting to that point."
The Barristers, who finished second in the Burbank-Hoover tournament last week, will compete in the L. A. Invitational and Chaminade tournaments during their preleague schedule.
Verdugo Hills--The Dons aspire to make the playoffs but a .500 record would be a good achievement for a team that finished 2-19 last season.
Kent Purser, who averaged 22 points a game, has graduated, leaving senior Tuyen Tran as the Dons' best player.
Tran will have to improve on last season's six-point average and Coach Bruce Kemple will have to get the maximum from his small but quick team to keep up with the Dons' Northeast League opponents.