SoCalHoops High School News
High School Team Preview: Santa
Catholic HS--(Nov. 23, 2000)
|Santa Margarita Catholic Eagles
City: Rancho Santa Margarita
Head Coach: Jerry DeBusk
Assistant Coaches: Pete Toomey, Jim Reames,
Craig DeBusk, Rusty Van Cleave
Principal: Dr. Merritt Hemenway
State Championship 1998
CIF SS Champions 94, 96, 98
Sea View League Champions 93, 94, 95, 96, 98, 99
1999-2000- Serra League (2nd Place)
We haven't featured a pre-season preview of Santa Margarita since the 1998-99 season, so we figure they're overdue for one this season. And Assistant Coach Pete Toomey has given us a hand with some of the information we didn't already know, filling in some of the gaps, and we want to thank him for that.
Santa Margarita Catholic High School is located in the hills to the east and above the Irvine and Southern Orange County area. The school is fairly new, with a really beautiful camps surrounded by upscale housing and well-planned shopping complexes (pretty much like a lot of southern Orange County).
Jerry De Busk is the head coach. The team plays in the Serra League, a four-team, all-Catholic school league which may be one of the toughest in SoCal, and it features Mater Dei, Servite and St. John Bosco as competition for Santa Margarita. And with each team playing just two games against opponents, even one loss can seal a team's fate and take them out of contention for a league title. The Serra League was created in part because of criticism heaped upon private schools like SMCHS and Mater Dei by the public school opponents, who contended that it was unfair for them to compete against them and that the private schools had an unfair advantage because they had no attendance boundaries like public schools and thus were able to draw student-athletes from all over Southern California. In our view though, the argument from the public schools was really about 5 years too late, largely outweighed by the California's "open-enrollment" law which permits incoming students to attend any public school so long as there is room. . . but we'll leave that debate for another time. Santa Margarita has cited other unfair burdens placed upon it by not being able to compete against other local schools, including increased travel costs and inconvenience to fans and students, but the CIF Southern Section has thus far been unwilling to change the current league configuration, and it looks like SMCHS will be in the Serra League, or something very much like it for the foreseeable future.
Prior to moving to the league last season, SMCHS competed in the Sea View League, and one look at their record explains why the public schools were eager to see them go: In their stay in the Sea View League, Santa Margarita was the California State Division II Champion in 1998, won three CIF Southern Section titles in 94, 96 and 98, as well as the California State Southern Regional Tournament Championship in 1998 by beating a Compton team with several D-I guys, including David Hamilton (Auburn), Tito Maddox (Fresno State), DeAundre Moore (Vanderbilt), and Milton Riley (Washington State), and they won 6 Sea View League titles in the 1990's: In 93, 94, 95, 96, 98, 99.
While we don't want to focus too much on coaches in our previews this season (if you want to know about DeBusk in greater depth, take a look at our prior previews). But one thing is worth noting: This school, like its rival Mater Dei, is pretty much insanely competitive when it comes to athletics. The school features one of the best football websites we've ever seen, with VR photos of the team, players, alumni, the football complex, etc, and it's definitely worth a look. Really. They've got locker room and weight room facilities that you just won't believe, and they would rival many small college facilities. And it's that kind of enthusiasm (some would say fanaticism, but they're just jealous) which carries over onto the basketball court as well, and Coach De Busk told us two years ago that he believes SMCHS is the best place he's ever coached. And while like his Mater Dei counterpart Gary McKnight, he's also got his detractors, we haven't heard anything which would make us believe that DeBusk has changed his mind about SMCHS. "It's been a great ride. We've won three CIF Southern Section titles, and a State Championship," DeBusk told us in 1998. "Really, the administration is very supportive, and it's great to see all of the faculty members get really fired up and enthused at the games." And he's also seen the other side of that picture, for example when he spent 12 years coaching at Newport Harbor High. "We definitely had our share of apathy there. You could walk across the campus on a game day, and not even know there's a basketball game going on. It's just the opposite here. Everyone gets into the spirit of the season."
And there is a lot to get excited about with the 2000-2001 SMCHS Eagles. This is a tenacious, pressing, fast-breaking team, with excellent shooter, some very solid athletes, and at least a few solid D-I college prospects. The team returns 4 starters from a team which reached the CIF quarterfinals last year, losing to Inglewood. Overall, the feeling among the coaches at SMCHS this year is that if they are going to be successful this year, they will definitely need to improve their defensive intensity and effectiveness as well as their team rebounding. The Eagles feature an athletic group of players, not overly-big compared to some of the D-II and D-I teams they face throughout the season, but they have some quality leadership and most of the team played together through the entire spring, summer, and fall exposure tournaments with the CABC club teams at such events as the adidas Mats Madness Fresno Tournament in the spring, the adidas Las Vegas Big Time and the adidas Double Pump Best of Summer and the Pump Premier in the fall. As coach Toomey told us in the info he furnished for this preview, "We have an athletic group of players who are not very big but we are experienced at each position."
Whether they will be good or experienced enough to challenge for a Southern Section title or have a shot at a State championship, will depend upon a lot of things, including some not within the Eagles' control, but if enough of the other top teams in the division knock each other off first, this team could be a legitimate contender. And this is a division (at least based on last year's CBED classification) which has teams that are, in many ways deeper and tougher than even some of the divisions with larger enrollments: The Santa Margarita team is likely to again be in the same playoff bracket with teams like USA Today's No. 1 team in the country from last year, Compton Dominguez with NBA-bound Tyson Chandler. And then of course there are other super-teams like Redondo Union with UCLA-signee Dijon Thompson, Inglewood, which picked up a number of top transfers to bolster an already tough team, and even the "regular" teams like Brea Olinda, Canyon Anaheim, Westlake, Chaparral, Pasadena, are all tough. But Santa Margarita certainly ought to be considered at least among the top 5 or 6 teams in the division at least in the pre-season. And while they will have a tough time with Mater Dei in league, the Monarchs are not unbeatable. They are perhaps deeper and more experienced than this team, but the battle for the Serra League title will again come down to the games in which the two teams face each other, and neither is likely to lose to anyone else.
|2000-2001 SMCHS Captains|
|RJ Socci||Adam Tancredi|
The Eagles' team is led by returning varsity players and co-captains RJ Socci and Adam Tancredi (who transferred to SMCHS two years ago from Mater Dei). RJ is a returning starter, an all-Serra League player who is strong, quick and can stroke the ball out to three point range. We saw RJ recently (well a few months ago) at the Fullcourt Press Fall Hoops Showcase and he played tough defense, and exhibited excellent ball-handling. Tancredi is a returning part-time starter from last season, who has improved his game tremendously and gotten a lot stronger even though his big body still doesn't look like there's too much muscle definition going on. Adam is also a surprisingly good shooter and we saw him put up more than a few points at the recent EBO Fresno Fall Tournament.
Also returning is Lenny Collins, a returning full-time starter who was also All-League last season. He's an excellent three-point shooter, with a strong body, and good quickness who has also tremendously improved his game. Travis Smith will run the point for the Eagles, and he was Serra All-League first team last year. Travis is a big, strong point guard with an excellent jump shot who also happened to lead the team in rebounding last season. The other likely starter will be Brandon Rohe, who last year was a part-time starter. Brandon was invited to the adidas ABCD camp this summer and while a lot of people were scratching their head when they first saw him, saying "Who is that?" but by the time the camp was done, most knew that he was an excellent player. Brandon is a 6'-3" strong-bodied player, who defends about as well as anyone we've seen for his size (similar to Torin Beeler from Ocean View actually, and since both schools are in D-II, depending on enrollments they might wind up seeing each other in the playoffs). Brandon has excellent footwork, and he can also put up the numbers with a reliable and accurate jump shot out to about 15'-17', and can also knock down the three or drive to the basket. He's also gotten some excellent coaching this summer from Howard Avery from Oregon (who also happens to coach a lot of Portland NBA guys, and some good high school guys too, like Salim Stoudamire, Aaron Miles, Michael Lee). When he wasn't with his CABC team in the spring and summer, Brandon played this fall for the the Pump N Run team (along with some other excellent junior prospects like Nik Caner-Medley (Deering HS, ME), David Gale (Buckley), Lance Soderberg (Corona Centennial), Brad Buckman (Austin Westlake, TX), Martin Iti (Villa Park), and two top underclassmen, soph Marcus Williams (Crenshaw)--whom Rohe and the Eagles will meet at the Nike Extravaganza on January 27 at the LB Pyramid, and frosh David Padgett (Reno, NV).) But back to Santa Margarita. . . Returning to back up Travis Smith at the point will be CJ Hubbard, a quick, solid point guard who would certainly be a full-time starter just about anywhere else. Also returning from last year's varsity roster is Dan Quijano, an athletic rebounder who is one of the top hustling players on this squad who will also see his share of minutes.
The rest of the guys are new to the varsity, although, as we said, they have had since the end of last season to get together and play, and that's exactly what they've done with the CABC club team, participating at virtually every tough exposure and travel tournament in Southern California, as well as regularly playing in spring and summer leagues. New players include Hayden Socci (RJ's brother), who will likely play the 2 or the 3. He's an excellent shooter, a little bigger than his brother, and is a very promising prospect as well. Jake Collins will also be a backup point guard this season hoping to get some playing time, and from what we've seen of his game, he'd likely be a starter as well at many other schools, but with a bench this deep, he'll have to contend for minutes while getting experience. Tyler Fessenden is another good shooter with a strong body as is Brady O'Connell, and both of them will provide added depth off the bench. Brady is a good rebounder, and when needed, De Busk can also call on Travis Toch, a quick footed rebounder who also can stroke the shot out to three, and also helping in the rebound and defensive efforts will be Nate Hoppes. Sean Woods, also new to the varsity, will back up at the 1 and 2 spots, and he's shown good ball-handling and excellent passing skills with an instinctual feel for the game.
|Nov. 30 - Dec. 2||San Luis Obispo Tournament|
|Dec. 12||Long Beach Wilson|
|Dec. 15||@Calvary Chapel Santa Ana|
|Dec. 20 23||Trabuco Hills Tournament|
|Dec. 26 - 30||Torrey Pines Nike Tournament|
|Jan 10||*St. John Bosco|
|Jan 12||*Mater Dei|
|Jan 27||@Nike Extravaganza|
|Jan 31||@*Mater Dei|
|Feb 2||@*St. John Bosco|
|Feb 3||@LB Poly Classic|
The preseason for SMCHS will have the Eagles at the SLO tournanent up at Arroyo Grande, in the Trabuco Hills tourney against mostly other local South Orange County teams, and then at the large Torrey Pines Nike Tournament where they'll be one of about 60+ teams all contending for four different division "Cups".
During the regular season (see schedule, right) they'll also play in the Nike Extravaganza on January 27 at the Long Beach Pyramid, where they're scheduled to match up against Willie West's Crenshaw Cougars, and then on February 3, 2001, they'll play in the Long Beach Poly Classic.
Lastly, it wouldn't be a complete picture of this year's team without mentioning one of the more interesting stories in high school basketball in a while. Like most teams, SMCHS lost the the usual number of graduating seniors but there's also one player who is otherwise eligible, but who made the decision not to play for SMCHS: Kevin Stacy (6'-3" Jr. SG/PG)---whose brother Ryan also played for SMCHS and he's now on the team at Chapman College---has opted to only play for his Rockfish club team during the off-season (is there really an "off" season?). Kevin played JV last year, but won't play on the varsity. Whether he sticks with that decision for the remainder of this season and next year is something we don't know, and we suspect neither does anyone else. Kevin is an athletic player with good hops, an excellent handle, and he's also a good shooter. . not always a 100% reliable shot (but who is?), and we've seen him knock down some incredible halfcourt buzzer-beaters for his Rockfish team on at least three different occasions. He may not be playing with the team this season, but at least he's got a sense for the dramatic on the court as well.
Aside from Kevin Stacey not playing this season, the Eagles also lost 7 other players to graduation last year (including Chris Pearce, Tom Hosfeld, Chris Trudeau, Brian Kretzmer, Pat McLean, Anthony Ansevin and Ryan Stacey), but judging from the talent returning and coming up to the 2000-2001 Eagles squad, and from what we've seen of them since the end of last season, Jerry DeBusk and his coaching staff have not a lot to worry about because it looks like they will again be one of the top teams in their division, with a legitimate shot at challenging again for a Southern Section title. Whether they can get past the top teams is an open question, but as we usually say. . . .
We'll be watching.
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