BHoops Preview: Pasadena ready for redemption

Above: Senior George Toyama is a four-year letterman for PHS.

When the CIF-Southern Section realigned basketball, it was doomsday for some schools.

But for Pasadena High School, it meant finding the right place to compete.

This could be another Bulldogs season of redemption.

With an athletic and fast lineup and the return of a desperately missed post presence, Pasadena once again is the Star-News’ preseason No. 1 team.

No. 1 Pasadena

The Bulldogs finished 22-6 last year and claimed their fifth consecutive Pacific League championship, but for the second year in a row they were ousted in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs, this time by Long Beach Poly.

The Bulldogs since have been moved down to Division 2A where they have a legitimate shot at winning a CIF title, not that they couldn’t compete with the likes of powerhouse Mater Dei.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t have a legitimate shot at winning the title, but we lost Steven Adams,” Pasadena coach Tim Tucker said. “Losing a 6-foot-9 guy who’s been playing the whole year and averaging 18 points a game the last five games before he was out for the season meant we had to make some changes. To have to play Long Beach Poly in the second round was a huge challenge, but I still think (Pasadena) is a quality program that can compete with anybody if we’re healthy.”

Adams, a senior, is back after undergoing 10 hours of brain surgery to remove a mass behind his right eye that put pressure on the brain and at one point forced a self-induced coma.

Pasadena will have some tough shoes to fill with the departed Joe Henson (San Jose State) and Travis Flye (McLennan Community College, in Waco, Texas).

The steady hand on the Bulldogs for a fourth season is George Toyama, a senior point guard who will be counted on to control the tempo.

Aside from Adams, the Bulldogs don’t have the inside presence it had last year, and because of that you can expect a quicker tempo.

“You can’t replace those guys,” Tucker said of Henson and Flye. “The height, for one, you can’t replace the inside and rebounding. We’re a different team that’ll have a lot more running and a lot more full-court pressure, baseline to baseline and pressuring defense.”

Seniors Tyler Barber (6-foot-5) and Chris Bridges (6-0) are getting a lot of Division I looks, but the makeup of the Bulldogs this year consists of young talent that will see valuable minutes, including 6-foot-5 freshman forward Brandon Jolley.

Pasadena hosts the prestigious Rose City Classic running through Saturday. It features some of the top teams in the state, including Corona Centennial, Etiwanda, Inglewood, Fremont and Eisenhower.

Pasadena will not participate in the MaxPreps National Tournament at Pines and instead chose to stay home for the Christmas holiday and play in the Oaks Christian Tournament. The Bulldogs also will take part in the Mission Prep National Tournament beginning Dec. 17 against Edison of Fresno.


No. 2 La Caada

The Spartans finished 20-8 overall and advanced to the second round of the CIF-SS Division 3AA playoffs.

La Caada returns All-Rio Hondo League first-teamer Jeff Grigg, Omar Rady, Mike McGleshan and Rocky Moore. Nathan Holley played significant minutes for the Spartans, too.

Matt Saber is an additional player who will make a difference as a 6-foot-4 forward. Besides Saber, the Spartans don’t have much post presence and will rely on their speedy guards to wear down defenses.

No. 3 La Salle

The Lancers will be led by 6-foot-6 forward/center Matt Nolan, who averaged 11 points and eight rebounds per game last season. Josh Anderson (6-3) and senior guard Ryan Akineayode are the other returning starters who led La Salle to a 16-13 record.

Kishon Sanders (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) will give the Lancers another strong inside presence to go along with Anderson and Nolan.

Shooting guard Ian Schuler and Michael Edwards, a 6-foot transfer from Loyola, will bolster a lineup that hopes to improve on last year’s CIF-SS Division 4A quarterfinals showing.

No. 4 Flintridge Prep

Rebels coach Garrett Ohara returns for his 11th season and brings with him a leaner and stronger post player in junior Kenyatta Smith.

The 6-foot-7, 265-pounder gives Flintridge Prep an intimidating post player who can chase down rebounds on both ends of the court.

Flintridge Prep returns four returning starters, including Prep League player of the year Edmund Chow, a senior guard who also earned all-CIF first-team honors.

No. 5 St. Francis

Ray O’Brian and Jeff Stephens begin their second season as co-head coaches.

The Golden Knights have two returning starters in Tommy Jordan, an All-Mission League second-teamer, and Dietrich Riley. Sophomore Travis Talianko (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) is looking forward to playing his first full season on varsity after a broken right hand sidelined him last year.

No. 6 Maranatha

The Minutemen return four starters in Dominic Johnson, R.J. Straker, Josh Chamberlain and Stephen Van Spronson.

Maranatha will battle CIF-SS Division 5A champion Pacific Hills for the Alpha League title.

No. 7 Alhambra

It won’t be easy, but Ed McKinney will have a tall task as he replaces Joe Petralia, who retired last season after 14 seasons and 30 years as a well-liked teacher on campus.

The uphill battle is accentuated by the fact the Moors don’t have any returning starts. They do, however, have four players from last year’s team who were part of Petralia’s final Almont League championship: Tony Dang, Ahmed Ali, Steve Wei and Pei Wei Liu.

Alhambra’s tournament runs Dec. 15-19.

No. 8 Temple City

No James Chen means the Rams start the season without the San Gabriel Valley’s leading scorer. Chen, the Star-News Player of the Year, now is at UCLA. Replacing him won’t be easy, especially with only one returning starter in Leo Chu. Zach Aquino, who twice torched La Ca ada with 17 points, is a key returner who played valuable minutes last year.

No. 9 Muir

The Mustangs will have some height to work with this season, but inexperience is an issue for first-year Muir coach Gamal Smalley.

The Mustangs will rely on captains Justin Knowles and Tevin Polk, a 6-foot-3 sophomore shooting guard.

No. 10 Monrovia

The Wildcats finished 16-10 last year and were second in the Rio Hondo League behind Temple City. Sophomore Ellis McCarthy, a 6-foot-5, 245 pound tight end/defensive end on the football team, will join the team when the Wildcats’ football season is over.

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  • BBallFan’82

    Do some research Miguel. Your basketball reporting has always been pretty horrible. Aside from PHS, no other teams get any representation. For one, where the hell is Blair? They’re better than at least 4 teams on this list. Oh and what Ellis McCarthy joining the ‘Cats have to do with anything? I could see mentioning Jay Henderson or Derrin Jenkins return from football, but you choose to mention Ellis, why? Because he is awesome at football, which is the only sport you care about. Get off football’s nuts.

  • Miguel Melendez

    BBallFan’82: You were right about one thing, my basketball reporting has always been pretty.

  • bballinca

    Blair??? LOL they have had a good team since maybe the early to mid 90’s.

  • Anonymous

    NO keppel?

  • Bob Anon

    Miguel, I thought you would never make a basketball post. I was about to comment on Robledo’s basketball posts and have him ask you to do a basketball post.

    I hope LC does better this year. Blair, Monrovia, and Temple City will be difficult as always.

  • BBallFan’82

    Pretty horrendous… Don’t get me wrong though, I enjoy this blog, and the football stuff is great, but Miguel, you have to admit that you don’t do enough of other sports, even during their respective seasons.

  • Linker

    I think Keppel will work it’s way into your Rankings, they are better than your Alma Mater….

  • MOORS!!!



  • viking baller

    Blair defeated south torrance tonite.. They are defensive minded and athletic this year. coach has this team believing in one another. Yes, they lost to crenshaw on saturday but, they competed and it showed what they’ve learned from that. Blair needs to be in the talk.

  • viking fan

    Blair also beat Muir twice a couple weeks ago in a tournament. This is going to be a good year for our boys, with the new coach pushing them to play at their skill level and not be satisfied with just being ok. And where’s the post for the girls bball? our girls are looking good this year too.

  • Anonymous

    Monrovia 0-4…. not that great a choice.

    Keppel 5-0 and wins the Burbank tourney. Should be in this list.

    Renaissance barely loses to Keppel and Canyon. Playing D2 and D3 teams. Strength of schedule should come into play here as well.

  • Hoop Junkie

    This is definitely a poor excuse for a Top 10 list Melendez.. Maranatha’s #6 ? Muir ? Monrovia ? How is Renaissance Academy not here ??? What about Keppel ??? While Maranatha plays in Pasadena Poly’s Tourn. & no other noteworthy competition, Keppel wins Burbank’s. And Muir, who just lost to Canyon Country BY 40 this week, beat Monrovia by dang near 50.. Meanwhile, Renaissance has beat Notre Dame, Agoura, Crespi, Palos Verdes & lost a close game to Keppel. In fact they play in the Semi-finals of the Beverly Hills Tourn. tomorrow night. Come on M get it together.

  • Anonymous
  • rock

    SGV HS Basketball is heading towards the same level of mediocrity as SGV HS Football. It’s doubtful any of these top-tanked teams will make it beyond the second round of the CIF play-offs. None will be in contention for a CIF title. Sadly, sports in the SGV have a long way to go before they can compete with LA city teams, the OC, IE and the SFV. Not sure what’s the problem, but kids from Pasadena are and have been playing ball everywhere. Alemany went to the Southern section football finals with Pasadena kids. Pasadena basketball talent is all over SoCal (except in Pasadena). As usual, the SGV is weak in hoops!

  • rock

    SGV HS Basketball is heading towards the same level of mediocrity as SGV HS Football. It’s doubtful any of these top-tanked teams will make it beyond the second round of the CIF play-offs. None will be in contention for a CIF title. Sadly, sports in the SGV have a long way to go before they can compete with LA city teams, the OC, IE and the SFV. Not sure what’s the problem, but kids from Pasadena are and have been playing ball everywhere. Alemany went to the Southern section football finals with Pasadena kids. Pasadena basketball talent is all over SoCal (except in Pasadena). As usual, the SGV is weak in hoops!

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