Some of the top prep basketball players in the state, a strong rivalry and an appearance by a perennial girls' basketball power highlight the second John R. Wooden High School Classic tonight at the Arrowhead Pond.
Los Alamitos plays defending San Diego Section large-school champion Vista Rancho Buena Vista at 6:30 p.m. in one of three boys' basketball games. One of the Griffins' top players figures to be Sweden's Andrew Pleick, a 6-4 senior guard who played on the European National age-group team last year.
"He could end up being the best player to ever play at Los Alamitos," Coach Steve Brooks said. "He provides leadership, maturity and ballhandling. He can shoot the ball, rebound and play defense well."
Jeff Grgas, a 6-8 junior forward/center, returns for the Griffins.
Rancho Buena Vista was 27-3 last season and returns three two-year starters who helped the team advance to the state semifinals last season.
"That's what you look for in a [nonleague] game," Brooks said. "You want to get ready for league and the playoffs by looking for good ball games."
In tonight's 9 p.m. game, the county's top-ranked boys' team, Mater Dei, renews its rivalry with Glendora, the defending Southern Section Division I-A champion. Glendora is led by returning section player of the year Casey Jacobsen, who averaged 32 points last season.
The Monarchs won five consecutive section titles from 1993-97.
A Mater Dei player to keep an eye on is 6-5 freshman forward Mike Strawberry, nephew of New York Yankee Darryl Strawberry. Mike drew rave reviews during summer play. He joins a team that features five players 6-7 or taller.
The day's only girls' game begins at 4:30 p.m., when Brea Olinda (33-1 and state Division II champions last season) meets Chino Hills Ayala. The Bulldogs (23-7), who defeated the Ladycats during summer league play, feature shooting guard Candice Allen, but are known more for their tenacious pressure defense and rebounding.
Ayala is one of few teams that can match the quickness of Brea, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today. "They shoot pretty well," Ladycat Coach Jeff Sink said. "They pose problems."
In the 7:30 boys' game, defending Southern Section Division II-A champion Compton Dominguez plays Houston Waltrip, the defending Texas state 4-A titlist.