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Boys: Santa Ana Mater Dei has some making up to do after two seasons of bitter endings.

November 30, 2000|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Ana Mater Dei lost in the boys' Division I state basketball championship game two years ago and in the Southern California regional final last season.

Will a team with so much talent fall short again in its quest for a state title?

That is only one question that will be answered this season, which began this week.

Here is a look at 10 teams to watch:

1. SANTA ANA MATER DEI

The Monarchs are regarded as one of the top teams in the country with senior guard Cedric Bozeman, who has signed with UCLA, and senior center Jamal Sampson, who has signed with California, leading the way.

Senior guard Ricky Porter, sophomore forward Harrison Schaen and junior swingman Mike Strawberry are back from a team that lost to Clovis West in the Southern California Regional championship game last season.

The Monarchs also have three high-profile transfers: Shaun Michel from Simi Valley and Wesley Washington and Travonte Nelson from Fontana.

2. COMPTON DOMINGUEZ

The Dons won a mythical national title last season, and 7-foot center Tyson Chandler, a possible lottery pick in next year's NBA draft, is back for his senior season.

But Dominguez's program must weather the absence of Coach Russell Otis, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he had sexual contact with one of his players. Otis, who guided Dominguez to four state Division II titles in the last five years, is on unpaid leave and might miss the entire season as his case makes its way through the courts.

Junior forward Darius Sanders is another top player for Dominguez, which will travel to several national tournaments.

3. WESTCHESTER

Junior guards Brandon Heath and Ashanti Cook and senior center Chad Bell are among the players who return from last season's City Section championship team.

The Comets also added guard Hassan Adams, a transfer from Verbum Dei.

Mark Jan. 10 and 31 on the calendar. Those are the dates the Comets play Western League games against Fairfax.

4. TORRANCE BISHOP MONTGOMERY

The Knights are heavy favorites to repeat as Southern Section Division III-A and state Division III champions.

USC-bound twins Errick and Derrick Craven give the Knights one of the most formidable backcourts in the nation.

5. FAIRFAX

The Lions will battle Westchester, Crenshaw, Fremont and Washington for supremacy in the City.

Fairfax features senior forward Craig Smith, who has signed with Boston College, and forward Evan Burns, regarded by many as the top junior in the nation.

6. INGLEWOOD

With a bevy of transfers, including guard Jason McKinney from Westchester, the Sentinels are among the most talented teams in the Southland.

But with so many new players vying for playing time, the question is whether there are enough minutes to go around.

7. LONG BEACH POLY

The defending Southern Section Division I-AA champions might start slowly, but that's only because top players such as Markee White and Marcedes Lewis, probably will be playing football until Dec. 9.

The Jackrabbits will be challenged in their division by a talented and experienced Upland team, among others.

8. FREMONT

The Pathfinders feature one of the Southland's most dynamic perimeter players in senior guard Kenton Paulino and one of the region's best athletes in sophomore Mark Bradford.

Coliseum League games against Crenshaw Jan. 24 and Feb. 9 are must-see events for high school basketball fans.

9. CRENSHAW

The Cougars lost guard Tommy Johnson, the City player of the year, and guard E.J. Harris from a team defeated soundly by Westchester in the City title game.

Sophomore guard Marcus Williams is among the players who could get Crenshaw back to the championship game.

10. LAKEWOOD MAYFAIR

With Stanford-bound marksman Josh Childress and Yale-bound Edwin Draughn in the fold, the Monsoons are capable of defeating any team on a given night.

Others to watch: Compton Centennial, Upland, Redondo Union, Corona Centennial, Washington.

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