Star-News All-Area teams compiled by Miguel Melendez
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: James Chen, Temple City, Sr.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Rich Hollinger, Temple City, 17th season
G Aeric Allen (Alhambra) Sr.
F Clarke Anderson (La Canada) Sr.
F Travis Flye (Pasadena) Sr.
C Joe Henson (Pasadena) Sr.
G Matt Nolan (La Salle) Jr.
F Deaon Geary (Blair) Sr.
F Chris Smith (Monrovia) Sr.
F Chris Bullock (Monrovia) Jr.
C Kenyatta Smith (Flintridge Prep) So.
G George Toyama (Pasadena) Jr.
F Brandon Bonar (Marshall) Sr.
F Tim Esguerra (Rio Hondo Prep) Sr.
F Jeff Grigg (La Canada) Jr.
F Andy Scauzillo (Temple City) Sr.
F Katorio Walker (Blair) Sr.
C Djon Ellams (South Pasadena) Sr.
G Kelly Assinesi (La Salle) So.
G Paul King (Muir) Sr.
G Kiran Koneru (Arcadia) So.
G Malik Speed (St. Francis) Sr.
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CHEN GAVE IT HIS BEST SHOT
Rams’ senior was unselfish, a team leader
By Miguel A. Melendez
Temple City High School’s James Chen scored 29 points against Monrovia in the final game of the regular season.
The Rams routed the visiting Wildcats, 70-52, to win the Rio Hondo League title in emphatic fashion in front of a boisterous crowd at Temple City.
The final buzzer sounded, fans rushed the court and players held their index fingers in the air to signal they were No. 1 in league.
After media interviews and countless pictures, the team headed to the locker room and sat there exhausted from a roller-coaster season in which they were not expected to anything remarkable.
But they did.
“The strangest thing for me,” coach Rich Hollinger said. “You just saw them and they were so focused on winning league. That was such a huge goal, that when they did it they said, `OK, our basketball career is over.’ ”
Chen knew the mission and he was not going to let his teammates’ season end in disappointment. He was the source of the Rams’ scoring all year and hardly was stopped. Chen was the West San Gabriel Valley’s leading scorer at 22 points a game. He also averaged seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
He was unselfish. That much was evident by the support, not just from coaches and teammates but also the fans who chanted his name and held large signs at games.
During the off-season, Chen worked on his shooting touch. His hard work paid off; he scored 31 points twice this season and had four games when he scored 25 or more.
“You get a kid sometimes from summer and be a lot better,” Hollinger said. “But then can he lead? Can he sustain that and can he fit within a program?”
For his offensive prowess, leadership and great demeanor on and off the court, Chen is the Star-News 2008-09 Player of the Year.
“It’s like a Hollywood story,” said Chen after winning the league title.
“They focused on that so much and they did what they had to do and they sacrificed,” Hollinger said. “As a coach you like to have that kind of group where you’ll make a gameplan and they’ll do it to their best of ability without fighting.”
That they did and Chen led them all the way.
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It truly was a special year for Hollinger
By Miguel A. Melendez
Individually, it wasn’t the best.
Collectively, it became Rio Hondo League champions.
The Temple City High School boys basketball team won its first league title in 10 years, a feat Rams coach Rich Hollinger didn’t think would happen again.
“But it was fun to finally win it again,” he said.
The Rams arguably had the fourth-best talent in league behind Blair, Monrovia and La Ca ada, but each player on the roster not only accepted his role but understood the importance of executing, whether it was inbounding the ball to becoming the go-to shooter.
“The other thing that helped me this year is I had a lot of help from Eric Chin to coach Chow,” Hollinger said. “(Their help) let me work individually with them and we were more fine-tune.”
In his 17 seasons as coach, Hollinger has won three league titles (1996, 1999, 2009). Each team has been special, but Hollinger said this particular team achieved more.
“As a team talent it was just the most unbelievable in 17 years,” he said. “In the old days, I had some real great guys. More talented teams but by far (this was) one of the more unselfish teams. This team achieved more than their talent level than any other team I’ve had and they were the most team-oriented I’ve ever had.”
The Rams finished 17-8 overall and 8-2 in league, and despite losing in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, Temple City accomplished its main goal of recapturing the league title.
For re-energizing a community interested again in basketball and winning the league title for the first time in 10 years in dramatic style, Hollinger is the 2008-09 Star-News Coach of the Year.
Slowly but surely, the Rams found themselves back where it all started.
“We had a small team that could shoot in 1999 and after that it’s been kind of building and building,” Hollinger said. “I told everybody we were going to be pretty good this year. But I didn’t know how good.”
It helped that the Rams had James Chen, the leading scorer in the West San Gabriel Valley at 22 points per game.
But it was the role players who played an integral part, too. From Robert Chuang inbounding the ball to Andy Scauzillo’s 3-point clutch performances and Leo Chu and Zach Aquino providing a great support cast, it was a collective effort that led to a great season.
“Sometimes you have the best players but they fight amongst each other for shots and rebounds and we didn’t have any of that here,” Hollinger said.
Coming along for the ride was a strong contingent of fans who provided arguably the best high school basketball atmosphere in the West San Gabriel Valley.
“It started two years ago with James’ brother,” Hollinger said. “The kids just started coming out. We had kids who never had been to a high school sporting event and little by little they saw how it was, and some wore suits to the games.”
There also was the bond off the court.
“This group was a great group of friends,” Hollinger said. “If you found one you found them all.”
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