CIF-SS Large Enrollment Division
Sierra League 2001-02--(Nov. 10, 2001)
The Sierra League is another of the leagues in the largest enrollment divisions and featuresg some of the strongest teams among the Division I schools. Last year every team except one made the playoffs, and while only Ayala made a deep run, each of these teams has the capability to producing enough talent to eventually put it all together to make a run at a section title. Maybe not this season for anyone other than Diamond Bar and Ayala perhaps, but the base for each of these squads to have an excellent season is in place. Last year, Ayala made it to the semifinals of I-AAA and they are always tough. Damien, which won the league but lost in the first round of I-A playoffs to Mira Costa (which itself lost in the second round) will be the darkhorse candidate this year, and they are literally almost starting over after graduating most of the team last June. Diamond Bar made it to the second round of I-AAA playoffs, but that was with a slightly hobbled and young Khalif Ford, and this year he's healthy, stronger and more mature and the Brahmas also have a new coach, so they could be very tough. West Covina made it to the first round as the winner of a "Wild Card" game in I-AA, but lost to University. Nogales lost to eventual Section Champion Glendora in the first round of I-AA playoffs. Rowland was the only team to not make the playoffs, but they have a new coach and several returning varsity players so they should have a better chance this year to improve.
Update: On November 21, 2001, the LA Times published their abbreviated preview of the league, covering only those teams which are in their subscription area (presumably leaving the others to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin or other papers, to cover). Anyway, here's some of what the Times Lance Pugmire wrote about the teams in the league (we've only excerpted the parts pertaining to the boys' teams, so if you want girls info, you'll have to visit the LA Times site to see it):
One person not guaranteeing a future is Ayala's boys' basketball Coach Tom Gregory, who isn't quite ready to commit to the prediction by many around the program that he'll leave the school with his senior son and starting point guard, Kyle. "I'm up in the air on it," said Gregory, who's 13 wins shy of 400 in a 22-year varsity coaching career. "I just have such a great nucleus of four sophomores and a junior, I would just hate to leave this situation, but I also haven't had a Christmas vacation since 1962." Kyle Gregory averaged 10 points and five assists last year and he'll direct a team that includes sophomore guard/forward Andrew Hatch, who Gregory projects will be the best player to ever come through Ayala. The Bulldogs are fundamentally sound again, but Gregory scheduled a killer slate of games that will test the team's mental toughness. Beyond that, starting guard Danny Stephens is out five weeks with a broken hand and center Justin Davenport still has football business. "Once we get to league, we'll have seen everything and we'll be healthy," said Gregory, seeking a sixth league crown in seven years.
Ayala's stability, however tenuous it is, flies in the face of the league's coaching overhaul. Veteran coach Bob Withers takes over at Diamond Bar. Casey Yeazel, a 29-year-old 1990 Damien graduate, takes over the Spartans. Withers was replaced by former Diamond Ranch assistant Chris Holmes at Nogales. And Gordon Hamlow is the new coach for last-place Rowland. Withers is expected to construct a juggernaut at Diamond Bar -- he's already started working toward a new $5 million gymnasium -- but these Brahmas are clearly a work in progress. The star is junior guard Khalif Ford, who will be pursued by a who's-who of college coaches within the next year. After Ford averaged 13.6 points and four assists as a shooting guard last season, Withers is moving him to point guard. "I feel he can help us score more points by getting our inexperienced players easy shots," Withers said. "Khalif is very gifted with athletic ability. He's quick and can jump well, and he's going to draw people to him and be in position to get the ball to open guys." Sharp-shooter Greg Morita and forward Brandon Papez, a varsity newcomer who averaged 18 points at the JV level, are expected to be Ford's best alternatives to himself. Yeazel, a former Damien assistant, inherits a team with no returning varsity starters from the unit that shared last year's title with Ayala and Diamond Bar. "This season is an absolute question mark, but the best thing about this group is that they want to be like last year's guys," Yeazel said. "That team wasn't the biggest or the fastest, but they worked the hardest." Senior forward/center Zack Phillips, senior John Hickey and senior Josh Truax are all 6-3 or taller and they'll anchor a team that could be boosted by sophomore guard Chase King and sophomore forward Fred Brown. "The talent is there, but the biggest thing is convincing them they can play on this level," Yeazel said.
What follows is what we know about the teams thus far this season, which means we're looking at old rosters and trying to predict who will be returning and which younger players will be stepping up. The schedules are accurate as far as we know. We encourage coaches to send us their official rosters (via e-mail, not on the message board, please) and any other information about their teams so we can update the previews and rosters as the season progresses.
Updated 12/01/01: Not to be left out of this preview-mania, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (which share content on their "Prep Sports" websites) published a Sierra League Preview this past week, written by Staff Writer Steve Ramirez. Here's what he had to say about the league:
The Sierra League likely will be one of the most competitive leagues in the Valley this season. But the battle might be for second place. Ayala, which has been a dominant force in the league for much of the past decade, is a heavy favorite to capture the league title. The remaining five teams could finish anywhere between second to sixth. West Covina and Rowland, which finished fifth and sixth, respectively, last season, have the best chances at dethroning Ayala. West Covina is led by wings Jabir Jinna and Corey McIntosh. Rowland will look to Adam Wong, Shon Pruitt and Larry Tieu. Diamond Bar, which shared the league title with Ayala and Damien last season, was hit hard by graduation, but the Brahmas appear capable of another solid campaign with point guard Khalif Ford and new coach Bob Withers. Nogales also returns a strong nucleus and could make a run at the top spot. Damien was also hit hard by graduation and is led by new coach Casey Yeazel. The Spartans' key players will be Zack Phillips and Josh Truax.
|Sierra League Rosters||Sierra League Schedules|
|Damien --7-3, 18-10 (1st
We didn't know a whole lot about Damien when we first posted this preview, but we did know they graduated 10 seniors from last year's team and while they return some good height, the question remains how deep the team will be. The following players should return to this year's roster assuming no one transferred out:
Greg Ware 5'-9" Jr. G
Following our initial preview, the LA Times published their Sierra League preview on 11/21 as a part of an overall Inland Valley prep preview. Here's what they had on Damien:
Coach: Casey Yeazel (first year at
school; first year overall)
Updated 12/01/01: Not to be left out of this preview-mania, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (which share content on their "Prep Sports" websites) published a Sierra League Preview this past week, written by Staff Writer Steve Ramirez. Here's what he had to say about Damien:
Strengths: The Spartans will rely on the inside play of Phillips and Truax, who give them a strong combo inside.
Concerns: Inexperience. The Spartans return very few players from last season's team that shared the Sierra League title with Diamond Bar and Ayala.
Bottom line: This is one of the more youthful Damien squads in recent memory. Some 10 seniors graduated from last year's team. Add a new coach, and it could be a season-long period of growing pains for the Spartans. There is talent here, but whether Yeazel, who has replaced Larry McAllister, can mold them into a cohesive unit in time to make a run at the Sierra League crown is another story. The Spartans, who advanced to the Nogales Tournament final last season, are most likely looking at no better then a fourth-place finish in league and a possible playoff spot.
Coach: Casey Yeazel
D 4-7 @ San Dimas Tourn
Bar--7-3, 12-14 (1st tie) "Brahmas
Diamond Bar gets a new coach, and will be virtually rebuilding from scratch, having graduated 13 seniors from last year's playoff roster. Even with the loss of all those players, Diamond Bar is still considered one of the league favorites this year, and they return a very talented point guard, Khalif Ford, who is getting recruiting attention from just about everywhere. Khalif suffered a bit last season from inconsistent play due to a serious leg injury which kept him out for most of the beginning of the season, but he's been healthy and in shape since the spring, and should put up some big numbers this season for the Brahamas. We don't know a lot about the rest of the team, but these are the players who should return:
Khalif Ford 6'-1" Jr. G
Update 11/21/01 from the LA Times:
Coach: Bob Withers (first year at
school; 21st year overall)
Diamond Bar Brahmas
Strengths: Two words -- Khalif Ford. The junior point guard, the lone returning starter from the Brahmas' co-Sierra League championship team, is one of the best in the CIF-SS. Withers is also pleased with the quickness and depth of his new unit.
Concerns: This is a very youthful Diamond Bar squad, which must grow up in a hurry in the rugged Sierra League. Withers is also concerned about the inside game, particularly its ability to rebound on a consistent basis.
Bottom line: It's a new era at Diamond Bar, where Withers replaces long-time coach Bill Murray. The Brahmas should be an up-tempo team led by standout Ford, who is already getting looks from some of the top college programs in the country. Morita is a strong scoring threat at shooting guard where Papez and Cortez, two stars on last year's junior varsity, are strong additions. The Brahmas, who shared the Sierra League title with Damien and Ayala last season, may not win the championship this year, but a second-place finish is a strong possibility.
Coach: Bob Withers
D 03 Kennedy
18-6 (1st tie) "Bulldogs"
Ayala went through a lot of trauma (and even some litigation) last season but all of that is now behind them, and they are once again one of the favorites in the league as Tom Gregory returns to lead the Bulldogs again. Ayala made it to the quarterfinals of the I-AAA playoffs last season, and this year they hope to at least repeat that feat, and go even deeper. Here are the players who should be returning based on last season's playoff roster:
Jonathan Antolin 5'-8" Sr. G
Update from the LA Times 11/21/01:
Coach: Tom Gregory (12th year at
school; 22nd year overall)
Coach: Tom Gregory
N-28/D-1@ Clovis West Tourn
D 13 @ Silverado
26-29 Ayala Tourn
J 09 @ *Rowland
11 @ *West Covina
18 *Diamond Bar
19 @ Lynwood Shootout
21 @ MLK Classic
23 @ *Damien
30 *West Covina
F 01 @ *Nogales
06 @ *Diamond Bar
|West Covina--4-6, 12-15 (4th tie) "Bulldogs"
Returning players will be:
Jabir Jinna, 6-0" Jr. G
This will be West Covina's last year in the Sierra League; next year they enter the new Mount San Antonio league with Walnut, South Hills, Rowland, and Nogales. WC is coming into the season having been to the playoffs two years in a row, losing last year in the second round and this season they are looking to improve. According to Coach Shima, the team's strengths are: Perimeter shooting, 3-point shooting, transition offense; Concerns are: Lack of height, interior defense and rebounding Starters: Corey McIntosh will start at the lead guard spot after growing 3 inches over the past year. Corey is excellent at breaking his man down off the dribble and creating shot opportunities for his teammates. The added height will allow him to finish shots in the paint that he wasn't able to do last year. Corey finished the last half of the summer averaging 17 ppg and was named all tournament at the UCSD team camp at the end of July. Jabir Jinna will start at one wing guard slot and is a returning 2nd team All-Sierra league selection. Jabir was also the team's defensive MVP and averaged 16ppg in Sierra league play. Jinna averaged 9ppg, 4rpg, 3apg and 2spg last year. Both starting forwards are currently playing football, so the team will start off the season even smaller than anticipated depending on how far the football team advances in the playoffs. Marcial Rosales is the 4 man and averaged 8.2 rpg last year as well as being named Honorable Mention All-Sierra League. Trevor Silvera missed 16 straight games last year due to a leg injury but provides quality interior defense and rebounding when healthy. Both bigs are able to get out in transition and spot up for the "3." The last spot is up in the air right now, and will be filled by either Sam Yeung, a 2nd year player or Ondrae Garcia, also a 2nd year player. According to Coach Shima, "We will try to extend our pressure to fullcourt to allow us to get in transition and play to our strengths. Our success will depend on our ability to create turnovers and open court opportunities and rebounding. The other interesting aspect of this year is that 4 teams in the league changed coaches. Ayala and our program remain the same, while Nogales, Rowland, Diamond Bar and Damien have new leadership. Ayala and Diamond Bar will be the favorites in the league."
Updated 12/01/01: Not to be left out of this preview-mania, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (which share content on their "Prep Sports" websites) published a Sierra League Preview this past week, written by Staff Writer Steve Ramirez. Here's what he had to say about West Covina:
West Covina Bulldogs
Strengths: The Bulldogs, as usual, aren't very tall, but they make up for it with quickness and strong shooting, especially from the perimeter.
Concerns: West Covina, which will have a 6-3 center in
Silvera, is small up front and that could limit its rebounding opportunities and be a
weakness with interior
Bottom line: Although the Bulldogs lost their best player when Jino LaBomme transferred to Covina, this team could be even better than last year's squad that finished fifth in the Sierra League and advanced two rounds in the playoffs. Jinna, McIntosh and the addition of Williams -- a transfer from stalwart Dominguez, give the Bulldogs one of the strongest guard rotations in the league. Still, the Bulldogs will be hard-pressed to unseat league favorite Ayala. But a second-place finish is within reach.
13-13 (4th tie) "Nobles"
Nogales made it to the I-AA playoffs last season as an "at-large" entry, but had the misfortune of being paired against Glendora in the first round, and as we all know, Glendora won it all last year, and Nogales was just the first of the Tartan's five victims on the way to the Section title. This year, Nogales returns a lot of players from last year's team. Here's who we expect to see:
Jeremy Mack 5'-10" Sr. G
Update 11/11/01: After posting the above partial roster, we heard from Chris Holmes, the new varsity head coach at Nogales and he had the following insights on this year's team.....of course this comes before any games have been played, so....
My name is Chris Holmes and I am the new boys head coach at Nogales H.S.. I've spent the past three years as an assistant at Diamond Ranch High School. This year could be rather exciting for our ballclub. We return two varsity starters in Aaron Boyd and Quentin Rodgers. Jeremy Mack, Steven Olivas, Jose Diaz and Gary Castillo are all varsity returners who should see serious minutes and provide us with quality play. Newcomers Jeff Koga and Alex Sanchez will step right in and make an impact with both players possibly opening the season as starters. The focus so far has been on defense and fundamentals. Diaz, Rodgers and Boyd have been with football this fall where all three have played important roles for Coach Silvett this season. Rodgers and Boyd in particular are receiving serious looks from some mid-level division 1 football programs. Our make-up this year is going to allow us to vary our system based on who we have on the floor. We hope to be able to institute a pressing/attacking style similar to that of Clovis West but a system such as Coach Walberg's is something that takes many years to institute so we'll probably simply go with what proves to be most effective for the players on the roster. This year the goal, regardless of the system, is (to steal a phrase from Coach Walberg) get the kids to "play hard, play smart and play together." The biggest focus for our team this year is to play with a championship attitude and focus. The players are coming to realize that games are won or lost in the details and the attention paid to them. I have never coached a harder working group of kids. This year's schedule is definitely a challenge but once the players mold as a unit within the system I see this group playing some very competitive ball. There shouldn't be a more athletic team in our league. It will simply be a matter of us transferring those athletic skills into sound play on the floor. I believe that with the balance that exists in the Sierra League ( Ayala should be considered the pre-season favorite with their tradition and coaching talent) we could finish anywhere from 5th or 6th to 1st or 2nd. It is all a matter of intensity, desire and teamwork. I guess that's why we play the games."
Update 12/01/01: Not to be left out of the preview-mania, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (which share content on their "Prep Sports" websites) published a Sierra League Preview this past week, written by Staff Writer Steve Ramirez. Here's what he had to say about Nogales
Strengths: Once again, the Nobles should be one of the most
athletic teams in the Sierra League. That should provide for one of the better defensive
units in the league.
Concerns: While Nogales should be very athletic, the trick for Holmes will be to harness that strength. Some early-season growing pains are expected as the Nobles become accustomed to his coaching techniques.
Bottom line: Both Rodgers and Boyd are two of the better players in the league and will make Holmes' transition much easier. This team, with the addition of Koga and Sanchez, could finish as high as second, or as low as fifth. The success or failure may not be known until early January, but a finish in the top half of the league standings is possible. Another trip to the CIF-SS divisional playoffs is also within reach.
Coach: Chris Holmes
N 26 @ Garey
|Rowland--1-9, 9-16 (6th)
Will Edwards C/F 65 Jr.
Coach: Gordon Hamlow
Top Returning Players:
Strengths of Team:
Concerns about Team:
Update 12/01/01: Not to be left out of the preview-mania, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (which share content on their "Prep Sports" websites) published a Sierra League Preview this past week, written by Staff Writer Steve Ramirez. Here's what he had to say about Rowland:
Strengths: The Raiders should be very athletic and very deep. Hamlow will take advantage of both of those attributes by implementing an aggressive pressing defense.
Concerns: Some early-season growing pains are expected as the Raiders become adjusted to Hamlow's changes, both offensively and defensively.
Bottom line: Hamlow, who had Baldwin Park turning the corner last season, inherits a talented team that could make a last-to-first run in the Sierra League, although just finishing in the top half of the league standings is more likely. The keys figure to be Pruitt, Tieu and Wong, who combined to average nearly 30 points per game last season. While challenging Ayala for the top spot may be a stretch, there's no reason this team can't qualify for the postseason.
Coach: Gordon Hamlow
N-26/D-1 @ La
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