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CIF-SS Large Enrollment Division Preview:
Del Rio League 2001-02--(Nov. 26, 2001)

DEL RIO LEAGUE
California
El Rancho
La Serna
Pioneer
Santa Fe
Whittier

The Del Rio League is generally not among the most competitive, and we can't remember the last time that a team from the league took a CIF title, but there's more to life than winning section titles, and sometimes the league turns out some pretty good players.  We're not sure whether this will be a year of feast or famine, and the blurbs that we've seen from the local media who cover the teams in this league (e.g., the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Whittier Daily News) have been, shall we say, singularly unilluminating... sure, the papers have published polls, which appear to make the selections based on the strength of what one coach says or doesn't say about his team, but we will be the first to say that we've seen very little in the way of good, solid roster information.

What follows is what we know about the teams thus far this season, which isn't a lot in some cases, other than an accurate schedule.   We've looked at old rosters (where available) and in a couple of cases, friends have sent us current rosters.  We encourage coaches to send us their official rosters (via e-mail) and any other information about their teams so we can update these previews.

Update 11/27/01:   The Whittier Daily News (one of the Los Angeles Newsgroup papers) has joined up with its sister papers and also has a newly redesigned "Prep Sports" website, featuring scores, updates and previews of teams in the paper's circulation area, i.e., Whittier.  Sometimes its hard to tell the difference between the coverage from the Pasadena Star News and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and there's often a lot of overlap, but more is usually better than less.  The Whittier edition of the paper featured a preview of the Del Rio League today written by Roger Murray, the staff writer who covers prep hoops for the paper, and it's got a lot of good info. Here's some excerpts pertaining to the league (the original article can be found at this link).   What follows is really a sort of mini-preview of Whittier, but there's more than that which follows:

"It's early, but the road to the Del Rio League boys basketball championship appears to run through perennial favorite La Serna High School. But this season, there appears to be a darkhorse ready to disrupt the Lancers' -- and everyone else's -- comfort zone. Whittier, with a new coach and new attitude, was given high marks by the league's coaches recently when they were asked to rank the league 1-2-3. They foresee improvement from a team that finished 1-9 in league last season and 7-16 overall. Michael Varos, an assistant last year at Rio Hondo College, takes the reins for the Cardinals and says his short-range goal is to begin league play in January with less than five losses. "Our big thing is to get our kids to be able to stay focused over 30 games," Varos said.

Del Rio League Rosters Del Rio League Schedules
California--9-1, 18-9 (1st) "Condors"

All five starters from a team which made it to the second round of the I-A playoffs last season graduated, and only three players with any significant experience return.  We don't have a roster available, so we can't say much about the players, and apparently neither did the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Whittier Daily News, both of which cover California.  Here's what the paper had to say in picking California as only the No. 4 team in the "area" (whatever that really means....): "Barber's Condors (18-9, 9-1), the defending Del Rio League champions, are No. 4, despite returning only three lettermen and no starters from last season. Barber's influence is the difference here."

We realize that's somewhat less than illuminating....We need a roster, so send it in.

Update 11/27/01:  The Whittier Daily News  and their  "Prep Sports" website featured a preview of the Del Rio League today written by Roger Murray, (the original article can be found at this link).  What follows is the portion pertaining to California:

Last season: 18-9, 9-1, first in league; Div.I-A playoffs: defeated Rio Mesa, 68-58, first round; lost to Arlington, 61-58, second round.

Returning starters:
None.

Other key returnees:
Matt Amido 5'-9" Sr. PG
Chris Douthit 6'-3" Sr. F
Chris Kruse 6'-3" Sr. F

Key newcomers:
Forward

Kiel Kearney 6'-2" Jr. F
Marcus Hill  5'-9" Jr. G
Victor Flores 5'-10" Jr. G
Jarred Nutt 6'-1" Jr. F/G
Angel Morales 5'-5" Sr. PG
Andy Steepleton 5'-9" Jr. G
Korey Bradbury 6'-5" So C

"The Condors captured the league title last season but lost most of their key players. This season, second-year coach Brian Barber will be counting on players up from the junior varsity and transfers Hill (La Serna) and Morales (St. Paul) to step up. "At this point, we don't have a team strength, but we're improving every day," Barber said. "We lost 10 seniors, including two 6-6 kids, and 70 percent of our rebounds. Right now, we're looking for someone to step up to be our leader." "

 

California
Coach: Brian Barber

N 28 Bellflower
D 3-8 @ Fullerton Tourn
12 @ Foothill
14 @ Dos Pueblos
15 @ San Marcos
18 Wilson
21 Buena Park
26-29 @ Covina Tourn
J 09 *Pioneer
11 *Santa Fe
13 @ *La Serna
15 @ *Whittier
18 *El Rancho
23 @ *Pioneer
25 *La Serna
31 @ *Santa Fe
F 06 *Whittier
08 @ *El Rancho

La Serna--7-3, 21-7   (2nd)  "Lancers"

We don't have a current roster for La Serna, and from what we've read about the team, they pretty much graduated everyone.  According to the San Gabriel Valley News, La Serna is picked as the No. 3 team in the region.  Here's what the paper said: "La Serna (21-7, 7-3 last year) draws the No. 3 slot in the early rankings, based primarily on the strength of coach Mike Lowe. "It doesn't make much difference who La Serna loses (to graduation) or who's coming back,'' California coach Brian Barber said. "(Lowe) will make them a contender." '

The schedule at the right is accurate and we'll update this as soon as we get more reliable roster information.

Update 11/27/01:  The Whittier Daily News  and their  "Prep Sports" website featured a preview of the Del Rio League today written by Roger Murray, (the original article can be found at this link).  What follows is the portion pertaining to La Serna:

Last season: 21-7, 7-3, tied for second; Div.II-AA playoffs: lost to Westlake, 58-50, first round.

Returning starters:
John Picone 6'-4" Sr. C
Richard Perretta 6'-0" Sr. F

Other key returnees:
Damon Liebig  5'-11" Jr PG
Matt Spain  5'-11" Sr. G/F
Steve Gonzales 6'-1" Jr. F
Wes Carty 6'-0" Jr. F/G

Key newcomers:
Josh Zuver 5'-11" Sr G
Nathan Wong 5'-8" So. G
Brian Kepner 6'-1" Jr. F

"We'll be very young and we need to learn how to play hard the whole 32 minutes," Coach Mike Lowe said. "We have to eliminate inconsistencies.A year ago, we had three key people (Anthony Martinez, Jason Koza and Joey Duran) returning who were proven players. This year, I think we're more diversified with what we can do. There is more competition for playing time, which is good. The problem, however, is that guys sometimes worry more about playing time than winning."

 

La Serna
Coach: Mike Lowe

N 30 Montebello
D 3-8 @ Fullerton Tourn
10-15 @ Sonora Tourn
18 @ Los Altos
20 @ West Covina
26-30 @ Nogales Tourn
J 09 @ *Whittier
11 *Pioneer
14 *California
16 @ *El Rancho
18 *Santa Fe
23 *Whittier
25 @ *California
31 @ *Pioneer
F 06 *El Rancho
08 @ *Santa Fe

Santa Fe--7-3, 15-10 (3rd) "Chiefs"

Santa Fe graduated 9 seniors, including 4 of 5 starters, and dropped it's only postseason game in the Division I-A bracket last year after grabbing the last "automatic" berth from the league.  This year, they should return a team which is really lacking in height, so they'll depend upon some of the taller JV players moving up and newcomers for any hope of a frontcourt presence.  Here are the returning players:

Cyrus Mirabueno 5'-7" Sr. G
C.David Bellah 5'-9" Sr. G
Pablo Mendoza 5'-8" Sr. G
Duke Rivera 6'-0" Sr. F
Robert Ruiz 6'-0" Sr. G
Errol Davis 5'-8" Sr. G

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Whittier Daily News considered Santa Fe as one of the teams who "might" have a chance of breaking into the paper's eventual rankings during the season, but for now they were not ranked.

Update 11/27/01:  The Whittier Daily News  and their  "Prep Sports" website featured a preview of the Del Rio League today written by Roger Murray, (the original article can be found at this link).  What follows is the portion pertaining to Santa Fe:

Last season: 15-10, 7-3, tied for second; Div.I-A playoffs: lost to Newport Harbor, 55-50, first round.

Returning starters:
Robert Ruiz 6'-1" Sr. F

Other key returnees:
Duke Rivera 6'-1" Sr. F
David Bellah 5'-11" Sr. G
Cyrus Mirabueno 5'-7" Sr. G

Key newcomers:
Brandon Jones 6'-0 So. G
Josh Silva 5'-10" Jr. G
Jimmy Fuentes 6'-3" Sr. C
Jesse Maciel 6'-1" Sr F

"If one player can carry a team to the top, it might be Ruiz, a tremendous outside shooter who has the green light to fire whenever from wherever. 'We expect Robert to have a good season,' Coach Mike Geren said. "He worked hard in our weight program over the summer and he's put on a lot of muscle. His range (for shooting) begins when he enters the parking lot.' Santa Fe challenged the league leaders much of last season before stumbling in the stretch. Geren also is expecting strong efforts from his three-guard offense (among Bellah, Mirabueno, Jones and Silva), all of whom he says can shoot, pass and defend. Inside, Geren is looking for physical games from football types Fuentes and Maciel, whom he says gives the Chiefs a 'solid presence around the basket.' "

 

Santa Fe
Coach: Mike Geren

N 28 Los Altos
29 @ Schurr
D 3-8 @ El Rancho Tourn
11-15 @ Alhambra Tourn
19 Fullerton
D-26/J-2 @ Fr. Lopez/FL Tourn
J 04 @ Sierra Vista
09 @ *El Rancho
11 *Pioneer
14 *Whittier
16 @ *California
18 @ *La Serna
23 *El Rancho
25 @ *Pioneer
F 01 *California
06 @ *Whittier
08 *La Serna

El Rancho-- 4-6,  13-13 (4th)  Dons

El Rancho qualified for the playoffs in Division I-AAA as an At-Large entry, and had the unfortunate bad luck of pulling the No. 1 seed in that bracket last year, which turned out to be the eventual Section Champions, Upland, and since Upland went on to win, you can surmise the result of the game wasn't a win for El Rancho.   Only five players graduated in June, and they return some decent size and good guards.  Here's who we expect to see: 

Al Santa Cruz  6'-1" Sr. G
Robert Hernandez  5'-10" Jr. G
Francis Chiong  6'-0" Sr. G/F
Gabriel Garcia  6'-1" So. F
Dan Fonseca  6'-0" Sr. F
Daniel Carrera  6'-5" Jr. C
Robbie Dominguez  6'-2" Jr. F
Matt Quiroz  6'-0" So. G
Bobby Miller  6'-3" Sr. F
Chris Cerda  6'-4" Jr. C

Surprisingly, the local papers who cover El Rancho must know something we don't about the other teams in the league, because the Dons don't rate as one of the top 10 teams in the San Gabriel Valley region, at least according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.   We'll see....

Update 11/27/01:  The Whittier Daily News  and their  "Prep Sports" website featured a preview of the Del Rio League today written by Roger Murray, (the original article can be found at this link).  What follows is the portion pertaining to El Rancho:

Last season: 13-13, 4-6, fourth; Div.I-AAA playoffs: lost to Upland, 71-38, first round.

Returning starters:
Danny Carrera 6'-4" Jr C
Al Santa Cruz 6'-1" Sr G
Bobby Miller 6'-3" Sr F

Other key returnees:
Matt Quiroz 6'-2" So F
Robbie Dominguez 6'-3" Jr. F
Francis Chong 6'-1" Sr. F
Dan Fonseca 6'-2" Sr. F
Rudy Naverete 5'-8" Fr. PG
Robert Hernandez 5'-8" Jr. PG
Gabriel Garcia 6'-1" So F

"Coach Frank Llanes expects this year's group to be a better passing team than in recent years and he emphasizes how unselfish his players are. 'Last year, we did not have much ball movement," Llanes said. "We've also got to box out on the boards. Last year, we allowed double-figure rebounding by our opponents.'  The Dons probably will start Naverete at the point and will look for heavy scoring from 3-point shooter Miller. Gone is last year's leading scorer, Mark Elisaldez, who was a four-year starter."

 

El Rancho
Coach: Frank Llanes

N 27 Schurr
29 Bell Gardens
D 03 El Rancho Tourn
11 @ Alhambra Tourn
21 @ Chino
26 @ Chino Tourn
J 02 @ Montebello
09 *Santa Fe
11 @ *Whittier
14 @ *Pioneer
16 *La Serna
18 *California
23 @ *Santa Fe
25 *Pioneer
31 *Whittier
F 06 @ *La Serna
08 *California

Pioneer--2-8, 3-14 (5th)

Here's the roster for Pioneer. We're not sure exactly where we received it, but it looks pretty accurate.

David Ochoa 11 6' 2" 173
Ricky Parnell 11 6' 0" 170
Ricky Reyes 11 6' 0" 170
Ben Lopez 11 6' 0" 170
Carlos Martinez 11 6' 4" 210
Michael Rubalcava 11 6' 0" 165
Danny Diaz 11 6' 2" 195
Mark Palmer 12 6' 0" 175
Bruce Carlos 11 5' 8" 150
William Moore 11 5' 11" 150
Robert Castellano 12 5' 6" 134
Jose Valdez 12 5' 9" 131
Ray Naudin 10 5' 7" 118
Albert Sarabia 11 6' 3" 215

Pioneer didn't qualify for the playoffs last season, not with a record of only 3 overall wins and a 5th place league finish, but had they qualified they would have been in Division II-A, which is where they're likely to be this season. Only time will tell if this group has what it takes to qualify for a run at post-season play and a sufficiently high league finish to get there.

Update 11/27/01:  The Whittier Daily News  and their  "Prep Sports" website featured a preview of the Del Rio League today written by Roger Murray, (the original article can be found at this link).  What follows is the portion pertaining to Pioneer:

Last season: 4-18, 2-8, fifth.

Returning starter:
David Ochoa 5'-10" Jr. PG

Other key returner:
Mark Palmer 6'-0" Sr. G/F

Key newcomers:
Ricky Reyes 5'-10" Jr. G
Ricky Parnell 5'-8" Jr. G
Carlos Martinez 6'-2' Jr. C
Ben Lopez 6'-0" Jr. F
Michael Rubacava 5'-8" Jr F

"There are not a lot of goals for a team that won only four games last season, so for first-year coach Joey Mata, playing hard, disciplined basketball tops the list. Keeping touch with reality, Mata said going .500 during the preseason would be a big step up, but he admits the Titans face a rugged nonleague schedule. 'We'd like to at least be competitive by league,' Mata said. 'I have to give these kids credit. We got beat up pretty good in the summer, but they never gave up. They played with heart and intensity.' "

 

Pioneer
Coach:

DID NOT SUBMIT SCHEDULE

Whittier--1-9, 7-16 (6th)

This is a team which finished last, which, as you can see, won only 1 league game and just 7 overall, but the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Whittier Daily News have picked them as the No. 2 team in their coverage region.

We don't have a roster for Whittier, so if anyone has one, send it in, so we can see what the papers are so excited about.   By the way, the No. 1 team in the region?  St. Paul of the Del Rey League.    We're not sure what naming Whittier as the "No. 2" team means at this point, nor are we sure just what the "region" ranking will mean in the long run,  but here's what the paper had to say about its selection:

" Whittier is the surprise pick for No. 2 in the early rankings. The Cardinals were 7-16 overall and just 1-9 in the Del Rio League last season. But a new coach in Michael Varos, renewed interest among the players, an impressive summer of practice and the return of Michael Hernandez make the Cardinals a threat to spoil the seasons of perennial title contenders La Serna and California."

We'll be the first to admit we don't know anything about any of the other players on the team besides one, Michael Hernandez,  because the team didn't qualify for the playoffs last season and we haven't seen a roster.    About Hernandez though we've learned quite a bit because the San Gabriel Valley News' "Preps Online" section profiled him today (11/26/01).  Here's some of what the paper had to say about him:

"Michael Hernandez makes no bones about it. When he gets the feeling that he can't miss -- no matter from how far -- he wants the ball. He got it enough last basketball season to lead the area's shooters by averaging 25.3 points a game, most of them from 3-point range. As a 6-foot-1, 170-pound sophomore, Hernandez was the bright spot for Whittier High School, hitting 71 3-pointers for a team that had some talent but couldn't seem to put it all together. Whittier finished with a 7-19 record overall and a 1-9 mark in the Del Rio League.  Hernandez admits his game was limited pretty much to shooting, though he was a strong offensive rebounder with a knack for getting to the ball against bigger opponents. In the new season, which begins this week, Hernandez will have a new look under the guidance of new coach Michael Varos. He'll show a more well-rounded game that will incorporate improved passing, rebounding and aggressiveness to go with his shooting. "I expect everything from Mike this season,'' Varos said. "That means setting good picks, playing defense, making good decisions. I think he can do those things, and he can make the players around him better. What I saw early in the summer was that Mike could be a leader for us. I just needed it to be within the system. I knew it would be a challenge for him. We know he can score, but we needed more contribution from him in other areas in the game. By the end of July, he was taking a charge, diving for loose balls, really becoming an unselfish player. It was very rewarding to see that much growth in his game over the summer.''

"Hernandez acknowledges the changes in his style of play and says he's enjoying the game more. "Last year was a good year for me but this year, my goals include making the guys around me better,'' Hernandez said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to put up some 3s, but I also want to help the other guys to put up some big numbers, too.''

Update 11/27/01:  The Whittier Daily News  and their  "Prep Sports" website featured a preview of the Del Rio League today written by Roger Murray, (the original article can be found at this link).  What follows is the portion pertaining to Whittier HS: 

Roster:

Michael Hernandez 6'-1" Jr. G
Marcos Lopez 6'-2" Sr. F/C
Frank Galindo 6'-3" Sr. F/C
Danny Carlos 6'-0" Sr. G/F
Adam De La Torre 5'-8" Jr. PG
Ulises Ruiz 5'-8" So. PG
Jose Bueno 5'-8" Jr. G
Niko Riebert 6'-1" Sr. F

"Asked for a team strength early on, [coach] Varos said, 'Right now, I'm nervous about everything.' The return of Michael Hernandez, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound sharpshooter who led the area in scoring last season with a 25-point average, will make Varos' job easier. Other key lettermen include seniors Marcos Lopez (6-2, 185) and Frank Galindo (6-3, 185), who will split time at forward and center; senior Danny Carlos (6-0, 170) at guard and forward; and junior Adam De La Torre (5-8, 140) at point guard. Key newcomers include sophomore point guard Ulises Ruiz (5-8, 150), junior guard Jose Bueno (5-8, 150) and senior forward Niko Riebert (6-1, 185), an exchange student from Germany. 'I'm at a little disadvantage, in that the rest of the coaches know each other; I don't know any of them,' Varos said. 'And all of those teams have established programs at the lower levels.  We hope to play strong defense and keep mental errors to a minimum to give ourselves a chance to win every ballgame.' "

 

Whittier
Coach: Michael Varos

N 30 @ Mountain View
D 3-8 @ El Rancho
10-15 @ Western Tourn
17 @ Paramount
18 South El Monte
20 Azusa
26-29 @ Ayala Tourn
J 09 @ *La Serna
11 *California
14 @ *Santa Fe
16 *El Rancho
18 @ *Pioneer
23 *La Serna
25 @ *California
31 @ *El Rancho
F 06 *Santa Fe
08 *Pioneer

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