Image isn't everything in Southern California high school basketball -- it's the only thing.
The logo that adorns a team's jersey and sneakers has become more important to many players than the pride that comes from playing for a particular coach or a hometown team.
Russell Otis learned that much during his first tenure as Compton Dominguez coach, when he parlayed a long-running affiliation with sports apparel giant Nike -- and the accompanying parade of transfers -- into four state titles.
Now that Otis is back at Dominguez after a two-season absence, one of his first orders of business figures to be securing another sponsorship deal. His friendship with Nike consultant George Raveling certainly won't hurt.
"With George Raveling at Nike, that would be our first choice," Otis said. "But we're open to whatever. If Nike decides they don't want to, I'm sure there are other shoe companies that wouldn't mind sponsoring [us]."
Eric Oberman, communications manager for Nike Basketball, said the company could not re-establish its ties with Otis until after this season. The company re-evaluates its relationships with high school programs during the off-season.
"As of right now, he is not with us," Oberman said. "That's not to say we will sign him or we won't."
Nike severed its nearly seven-year affiliation with Otis, which included a lucrative personal contract that reportedly paid him up to $15,000 a year, when the coach was fired in February 2001 for what a Compton Unified School District official said was his failure to obtain a permanent teaching credential.
At the time, Otis was ensnarled in a sexual molestation case brought by a former player. He was acquitted of all charges.
On his return to campus last week, Otis found a Dominguez roster so depleted of talent that he held open tryouts. The Dons (2-2) might not be ready to return to the Nike-funded national travel schedule, but observers say it's too early to rule out a quick return to prominence.
"Russell built that program into a national power," said Downey Coach Larry Shelton, who has been with the Dons' San Gabriel Valley League rival since 1988, a year after Otis' arrival at Dominguez. "I'm sure he is going to bring them great success again, and he'll do it in a hurry."
The Kahraman brothers made a big splash for Los Alamitos during the season's opening week, when Jon Kahraman was named most valuable player of the Buena Park tournament and Adam was selected top player of the junior varsity Garden Grove tournament.
Jon is a 6-foot-2 senior swingman who has averaged 20 points and eight rebounds during the Griffins' last five games; Adam is a 6-0 sophomore swingman who scored 23 points against Esperanza in the Garden Grove finale.
The brothers, both honors students, are expected to be varsity teammates if Los Alamitos (5-1) makes the playoffs.
Long Beach Jordan is only 2-3, but the Panthers deserve credit for playing an early-season schedule that has included four teams in The Times' rankings. Jordan beat ranked Redondo, 64-63, but has dropped games against L.A. Fairfax, Long Beach Poly and L.A. Fremont.... Eight ranked teams, led by No. 3 L.A. Westchester, play this week in the Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic, one of the premier holiday tournaments in the country. Top-ranked Santa Ana Mater Dei competes against a national field at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.