Corona del Mar. 4-22, 0-10 in 1996-97. Coach: Paul Orris (12th year, 170-141). The Sea Kings had a frustrating experience last season and will spend much of the first half of 1997-'98 "relearning how to win," according to Orris. "We have size, depth and experience." Point guards Ryan Cooper, a 5-11 senior, and Cam Conover, a 5-11 senior, are back. Wing players include Dennis Alshuler, a 6-5 junior, Mike Finn, a 6-1 senior and Ben Shaffer, a 6-3 senior. There's good height with 6-5 senior post Ryan France and 6-6 senior post Tim Thurman.
El Toro. 18-10, 5-5 in 1996-97. Coach: Todd Dixon (second year, 18-10). Mark Wulfemeyer, a 6-0 senior shooting guard, is expected to lead the Chargers to a playoff berth. A first-team all-league selection, he averaged 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists last season. His backcourt mate, 6-0 senior Jayson Richards, who averaged six points and four assists, also returns, as do five senior reserves who combined to average 20 points last season. They are 6-5 forward Justin Butler, 6-2 forward Luke Johansen, 6-4 forward Nick Robertson, 6-1 guard Ryan Stone and 6-3 forward Scott Waterman. Two swingmen, 6-3 sophomore Wes DeCoite and 6-1 junior Pat Marks are also expected to play.
Irvine. 2-24, 2-8 in 1996-97. Coach: Steve Keith (11th year, 161-112). The Vaqueros aren't that tall, but should shoot pretty well. Keith figures to start a four-guard offense, including all-league point guard Chris Ferguson, a 6-0 junior who averaged 12 points a game. Guard Matt Hardeman, a 5-9 junior, averaged five assists last season. Wingers include John Mavros, a 6-1 junior, and Steve Miller, a 6-0 senior. Forwards Clay Carlson, a 6-3 senior, and Tim Rapp, a 6-4 junior, are the tallest players. Three others, 6-0 senior Simon Hanif, 5-11 junior Kellen Moore and 5-10 sophomore Matt Roggero are battling for time at guard.
Newport Harbor. 15-12, 5-5 in 1996-97. Coach: Larry Hirst (third year, 21-30). Hirst received bad news last week when 6-6 senior Chuck Loo quit to concentrate on track. It's likely he will start only one senior. The only returning starter is 5-11 second-team all-league senior point guard Matt Jameson, who averaged 12.7 points and 3.4 assists. Senior 6-0 guard Scott Archbold and sophomore 6-4 forward Dustin Illingworth return. Mark Ward, a junior guard transfer from Washington state, and junior point guard Gary Robinson are vying for starting roles.
Santa Margarita. 18-8, 8-2 in 1996-97. Coach: Jerry DeBusk (sixth year, 117-31). With five senior starters back, the Eagles are the flat-out favorite to win the league title, and perhaps a Southern Section crown. Guards Ryan Forehan-Kelly (6-4), Craig Rice (6-2) and T.J. Williams (6-0) combined for 31 points a game last season. Williams averaged six assists. Dekker McKeever, a 6-7 center, and Jake Rohe, a 6-5 forward, combined to average 11 rebounds. Carson Palmer, a 6-5 senior forward, figures to get out late because he is the quarterback on the Eagles' second-ranked football team. Others returning include juniors Spencer Gloger, a 6-3 guard, and Kelly Kramer, a 6-4 forward, and senior Grant Brown, a 6-6 center, and two 5-9 senior guards, Al Jahroumi and Steve Pearce.
Woodbridge. 28-4, 10-0 in 1996-97. Coach: John Halagan (sixth year, 95-49). Life after All-American Chris Burgess (Duke) graduated promises to be a challenge for Halagan, who guided the Warriors to the Southern Section II-AA title. No starters return. Scott Barlow, a 6-0 junior guard, Jeff Green, a 6-3 senior center/forward, and Matt Sills, a 6-0 senior guard, are back. Newcomers include 6-5 senior forward Charles Clark, 5-10 sophomore guard Shane Harris and 6-3 senior guard Brent Weiss.