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High Schools | BOYS' BASKETBALL

Fairfax Finds It's Now the Favorite

November 27, 2005|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

After four consecutive seasons of losing in the City Section championship game, Coach Harvey Kitani of Los Angeles Fairfax remains upbeat.

"The team is pretty resilient," Kitani said. "I'm learning from them."

The Lions have four returning starters and begin as the section favorite with 6-foot-5 senior guard Jerren Shipp, 6-8 junior forward Chace Stanback, 6-9 senior forward Matt Shaw, 6-0 junior guard JaShon Hampton and 6-1 senior guard Donovan White having played many quality minutes last season.

Defending champion Westchester can't be overlooked even though the Comets don't have a big man in the mold of 6-10 center Amir Johnson, who led the Comets to the state title last season.

"They're the most athletic team and play at a different level of confidence," Woodland Hills Taft Coach Derrick Taylor said of the Comets.

Westchester has won three of the last four state Division I titles and has at least 18 former players playing college or professional basketball.

Look for Los Angeles Fremont to make another run deep in the City playoffs with the addition of a top center prospect from the Boston area.

Troy Gillenwater, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior who played last season at Charlestown, Mass., was the talk of the summer basketball scene.

"He's the best big man in the City," Taft's Taylor said.

Fremont Coach Sam Sullivan said the rave reviews are legitimate, particularly for Gillenwater's offensive skills.

"Offensively, he's very good," Sullivan said. "He can post up, then he can face the basket and hit the 15-foot shot. I haven't had a big man who can do the things he can do."

Defensively, though, Sullivan said Gillenwater has a lot of work to do.

Fremont, which reached the City Section semifinals last season, lost All-City point guard Mark Hill to graduation, but junior Jacques Streeter is ready to take over, and the Pathfinders could end up challenging Westchester and Fairfax in the playoffs.

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The basketball season begins Monday, and there are many teams with four or five starters returning that should be immediately successful.

Phelan Serrano has four starters back from a 17-10 team, led by junior point guard Harrison Gaines, who averaged 23.6 points and was the most valuable player of the Mojave River League.

Riverside King has five starters back from a 19-6 team, including guards Rashad Bias and Carlon Brown.

Paso Robles has 6-6 Derrick Jasper, 6-6 Ty Armstrong and 6-7 Gerrell Knightshead back from last season's 19-7 team.

Sun Valley Poly, with four starters returning from its Sunset Six League championship team, will find out just how good it is on Dec. 5 with a 6 p.m. game against Dominguez in the opening round of the Westchester tournament.

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Santa Ana Mater Dei could have the best set of big basketball twins since Jason and Jarron Collins of North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake in the 1990s.

Freshmen Travis and David Wear are 6-8, coordinated and tough.

"They're very, very gifted," Coach Gary McKnight said. "They'll be two of the most talked-about players in the nation in the next couple of years."

The Wear brothers are expected to come off the Monarchs' bench, along with another freshman, 6-7 Andy Brown.

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The Southern Section has released its basketball playoff divisions, which are based on school enrollment, and Division II-AA appears to be the toughest.

The division includes Mater Dei, Compton Dominguez, Villa Park and Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley. Three of those teams could be among the top five in Southern California this season.

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