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The New Era in Boys Basketball
January, 2009 - Issue #51
The valley's best player - he's gone.

The valley's best playmaker - he's gone.

The Foothill League's Most Valuable Player - he's gone, too.

Even the league's longest-serving coach is gone.

That begs the question - what's left?
Actually, better days.

When you have fledgling high schools West Ranch and Golden Valley not only being competitive but vying for this year's league title, common sense dictates that we might be arriving at a golden age of boys basketball in the Santa Clarita Valley.

We've had a CIF champion in Saugus in 1987 and a CIF finalist this decade in Hart in 2005, but have we truly had a league as full of parody as this?

Take last season as the start of this era. All six Foothill teams made the postseason.

So Cody Anderson, the first area boys basketball player to get an NCAA Division I scholarship in nearly two decades, is gone.

So is his Canyon teammate, do-it-all point guard Mark Lewis.

John Otavka, the league's MVP, graduated.

And Jeff Hallman resigned as Saugus head coach.

Like a brand-new basketball, the Foothill League will be pumped with new life this season.

Take West Ranch as an example. Two seasons ago the Wildcats were winless in their league debut. They surprised many last year by finishing 6-4.

Now, dare we say it, they may be the favorite to win the league title. It stems from the Wildcats employing the AASAA (attack, attack, skip, attack, attack) offense. It has its other names - dribble-drive motion, the Memphis Attack - but it's run the same.

In basic terms, four players work on the perimeter, with the center holding down the low-post. The point guard will create offense by driving inside.

It worked well for the Wildcats last year and will only get better for them because of experience.

The Wildcats have 11 seniors on this 2008-09 squad. Seven kids are third-year varsity players.

Three players stick out for West Ranch: David Franklin, Garry Bradley and Will Tate.

Franklin is a combo guard who could score a lot. Bradley, a 6-foot-5-inch power forward, has developed a solid short-range jumper. And Tate, a swingman, will fill up the stat sheet.

The West Ranch offense is so effective that others are employing it. Look across town; Canyon is now using it.

For eight years, the Cowboys ran an effective half-court offense under head coach Chad Phillips. The coach has made the switch and says it has invigorated him.

But Canyon is young. A little experience comes from swingman Mike Edwards (who can shoot from all points on the floor) and the athletic Jon Watson.

Canyon might also have the most exciting freshman in the valley this season: 6-foot-6-inch Brandon Perry.

Perry is polished for a freshman, Phillips says. He is strong and a formidable opponent at 225 pounds. He has a nice touch and he can finish spectacularly.

Another team shifting gears is Saugus.

First-year head coach Derek Ballard says the Centurions' new attack might cause Hallman to get sick, but the old Princeton offense is out and a new more up-tempo style is in - ala the Wildcats' offense.

Seven players graduated from last year's Saugus team, but there still is experience as the top five, maybe six, players are seniors this year.

Pesky point guard Mark Watanabe will be leading the offense and defense. Noel Mansour has a lot of range, so the backcourt situation is good. The question will be the frontcourt.
There are plenty of questions with Valencia as well.

The Vikings made it all the way to the CIF-Southern Section II-AA quarterfinals last season, but three key Vikings graduated: Otavka, Jim Baughman and Terrez Scott.

Last year's top freshman, Lonnie Jackson, will have a chance to show just how much potential he has. The smooth shooting guard should have a bigger role this season.

Another key player will be Emmanuel Anumba, a forward who has a chance to be an all-league player.

Hart lost a key all-league point guard in Levi Wenrich, but the Indians might be a dark-horse, league-title candidate.
Brad Wyche, primarily a perimeter player in the past, has moved into the point guard role, which should allow the public to see a more complete game from him.

Parker Dominguez showed toughness inside and a knack for rebounding last season as a junior. Head coach Tom Kelly says Dominguez has improved his game.

The Indians also have a newcomer who could make some waves in senior wingman Patrick Abbott. Abbott has come back to Hart after two years in South Carolina. He's the kind of player, Kelly says, who can do everything.

The last team to be mentioned in the league might be its biggest surprise. Golden Valley has three legitimate Division I possibilities in senior marksman Maverick Ahanmisi, junior Trevor Wiseman and Stevie Thornton, who returns to the Grizzlies after a stay at Chatsworth High. Wiseman has moved from point guard to a point-forward role, and Thornton is a finisher.
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