Boys Basketball Top Ten Preview: Top three all from La Verne, but Lutheran leads the pack? Could Trojans become best team in area history?

By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
La Verne Lutheran made history last season, and there’s good reason to believe the Trojans might make a little more this season. Lutheran, which won the CIF State Division 5 title last season, could be even better in 2010-11.
The Trojans will have to be. “After what they accomplished last year, we expect to be better,” said Lutheran coach Eric Cooper, whose Trojans begin the season ranked No. 1 in the area. “But we’re in a tougher division, so the challenge will be tougher.” (To continue, click thread).

SGVN Pre-season Top Ten
1. La Verne Luthgeran (28-8)
2. Damien (22-9)
3. Bonita (24-5)
4. Bishop Amat (21-9)
5. Glendora (16-9)
6. Chino Hills (23-6)
7. San Dimas (19-6)
8. Walnut (14-14)
9. Northview (16-14)
10. Rowland (12-16)

The Trojans move from Division 5AA, which it won last season, to 3AA, but they also have the talent to match the move and should again contend for a divisional title and more state glory.

Lutheran features one of the better lineups in the section, returning all five starters that went 28-8, won the CIF-SS 5AA and state Division 5 championships.

It starts with junior forward Grant Jerrett, who has committed to Arizona. He averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds and earned All-State Division 5 honors by Cal-Hi Sports last season. He was also All-CIF-SS and the Arrowhead League Offensive Player of the Year.

But the Trojans’ talent does not end with Jerrett, who has been tabbed by ESPN as one of the top college prospects for the 2012 class.

Lutheran also looks to senior guards CJ Cooper and Bruce English, senior forward Xavier Jones and sophomore guard Eric Cooper Jr.

CJ Cooper, who has signed with Texas El Paso, averaged 16
points and six assists and was the CIF-SS Division 5 Player of the Year. English, who has signed with Loyola Marymount, averaged 13 points a game, while Jones and Eric Cooper scored at 5- and 8-point clips, respectively. Eric Cooper has committed to Arizona.

Lutheran, which is the heavy favorite in the Arrowhead League, will also face one of the tougher schedules in the Southland. It includes out-of-town trips to the Beach Ball Classic (Dec. 27-31) in Myrtle Beach S.C.; Bass Pro Tournament of Champions (Jan. 13-15) in Springfield, Mo.; and the Pangos Dream Classic in Las Vegas. The Trojans also will be in the California Elite Showcase in La Verne.

Here’s a look at the rest of the top 10:

2. Damien (22-9)

The Spartans have been one of the most-consistent programs in the area the past few seasons, winning at least 20 games a season since 2007 and advancing to the CIF-Southern Section semifinals each of the past two years.

It’s expected to be no different this season for Damien, which begins the season as the favorite in a realigned Sierra League.

The Spartans return one of the top players in the area in Chris Reyes, along with JP Chakbazof at wing and Clayton White at point guard.

“We’ve really had four good years and this might be the best team since I’ve been here,” Damien coach Matt Dunn said. “We have more depth than I ever had, so I think we can be even better offensively than last year.

“We lose (All-CIF-SS guard) Chris Adams and a couple of other guys (to graduation), but the guys are really excited to have their opportunity.”

Damien’s strength will be inside with Reyes. He was All-CIF-SS as a sophomore, and is arguably the top center in the area, averaging 16.2 points and 9.1 rebounds last season. Chakbazof put up 6.1 points per contest, and White is expected to fill the point spot nicely.

Damien is expected to be the favorite in the Sierra League, but will get challenges from two-time defending champion Chino Hills, traditional-power Ayala and newcomers Charter Oak, South Hills and Claremont.

3. Bonita (24-5)

The Bearcats have won a league title twice in the past three seasons, and will have a solid chance to make it three in four seasons as they move into the new Hacienda League.

Bonita will be led by All-CIF-SS player James Northrup, who averaged 15.1 points. The Bearcats also look to Jordan Butler, who averaged nearly 7 points per game.

“Expectations are always high,” Bonita coach Greg Eckler said. “We try to just go one game at a time, but the goal is always to get (20 victories). But the bar is high.”

4. Bishop Amat (21-9)

The Lancers were the most-improved team last season, advancing to the division semifinals.

Bishop Amat’s hopes of a similar run lie with the return of senior Daniel Rodriguez, who averaged 14.1 points.

The Lancers also return guards Tyler Hill, who averaged 8.3 points, and Jeff Davis, who averaged nearly two assists.

Bishop Amat’s roster is also boasted by junior forward Nate Burchardt, junior guard Taylor Olvera and sophomore center Joseph Cook.

“We made it to the semifinals, but this year we have to create our own identity,” Bishop Amat coach Brandon Ertle said. “We know what we have with Daniel. He’s a special player. We will see how Tyler adapts with an increased role.

“We will see how we will be after the first two or three weeks. It’s going to take time. Nothing is secure, but we just have to continue to prepare and work hard.”

5. Glendora (16-9)

The Tartans lose their best player in shooter Calvin Smith, but Glendora should be stronger inside with the return of Michael Doering and Dillon Downard.

The two averaged 7.9 and 6.2 points, respectively. Glendora is also expected to be solid defensively.

The Tartans move from the competitive Sierra League to the more challenging Baseline, which features power Etiwanda.

6. Chino Hills (23-6)

The Huskies could be Damien’s biggest challenger in the Sierra League.

Chino Hills was hit by hard by graduation, but still returns a strong nucleus of Jonathan Richman, Albert Hecox and Warren Ondatje.

Richman is expected to be the leader after averaging 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last season. Hecox scored at a 5.6 clip.

7. San Dimas (19-6)

The Saints returned to glory last season, and more of the same is expected in 2010-11.

San Dimas, which won the Valle Vista League, is the preseason favorite again this season.

The Saints feature two of the league’s better players in junior guard Chris Barbato, who averaged 17.1 points , and senior forward Kevin Kolbeck, who scored at a 7.5 clip.

8. Walnut (14-14)

The Mustangs should be much improved, with one of the better returning units in the area.

Walnut, which could challenge Bonita in the Hacienda League, will look to senior Brian Gholar, who averaged 12.3 points.

The Mustangs also look to senior inside player Aubrey Coleman, who averaged 10.3 points and 12. 1 rebounds. Zach Galman, who averaged 5.8 points and 2.7 assists, also returns.

9. Northview (16-14)

The Vikings had their reign in the Valle Vista League end after finishing behind San Dimas.

They might get some redemption this season.

Northview will feature the return of Brian Johnson, who did a little bit of everything, including averaging 18.5 points and nearly 10 rebounds.

The Vikings also return Treavon Francis, who averaged 10.3 points, and Nick Fuentes, who scored at a 5.0 clip in addition to having 2.7 assists per game.

10. Rowland (12-16)

The Raiders struggled a bit last season, but are expected to be much improved in 2010-11, with three returning starters.

Rowland’s expectations begin with senior forward Sharif Watson, who averaged 12.1 points and 8.0 rebounds. He also is expected to be much stronger from 3-point range.

The Raiders’ strength also includes returning starters Robin Yi, who averaged 7.1 points last year, and Michael Ball. Rowland coach Gordon Hamlow also likes the improved play of Isaac Thompson.

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  • valley watcher

    Why are we supposed to care about La Verne Lutheran? THEY CHEAT!!! ENOUGH SAID.

  • I was wondering how long it would take?

    For the Glendora and SGV haters to weigh in!

    TO Valley Hater: They cheat? Really? Where are the sanctions? Where are the inelible players. Don’t be mad that your team isn’t as good or that your son wasn’t mentioned in the article about the teams in the valley. Here is some tissues for your issues.

    Intersting how the top three teams on the list are about 3 miles or less apart from one another.

    I think Chino Hills will be better than advertised and have an unknown freshman that will contribute and play significant minutes. I am predicting at least Honorable Mention All League. Rebounding and shot blocking machine!

    What are the boundaries fot he list? Isn’t Montebello in the SGV? They have a 7 footer that is surprisingly good and a team of kids that scrap. I saw them give Bishop Gorman a run for their money WITH Shabazz playing as well as Roscoe and the others. Game was tied at 30 at the half with Montebello actually leading almost the entire time.

  • Aaron

    I’m wondering how we’ll do against SD this week with half the varsity team still in pads. Worth it though, bring home that title boys!

  • Amat frosh dad

    I was at the game last night waiting for my son as he is required to stay until the end of the Varsity game. I was surprised to see such a good crowd turnout. It looks as if last years semi-final run has sparked some intrest among the Amat Nation. Daniel #3 was awesome. I dont know what his stat line was but he had to have a double double. Goodluck to #3 and the rest of his teamates on the upcoming season.

  • Great Point!

    Aaron, great point about the boys that are still in pads. While there are less and less teams still in the hunt for the football title, there are still quite a few athletes out there that will contribute to their respective schools’ basketball team!

    The great thing about the football players coming to play hoops is the toughness that they bring along with, in many instances, some significant size!

    Like Hank Williams says, “Are you ready for some basketball!!!???”

  • just sayin’

    Aaron – I think San Dimas’ best player is still playing on th efootball team and probably hurts them more

  • Bonita

    Aaron – don’t worry. Yeah, they are without GP, GH, and ZB, not to mention CH, but with Northup and Butler and Eckler’s coaching, San Dimas won’t come close. Next week’s tournament might be a different story though.

  • COugh COugh

    I think you’re forgetting someone 😉

  • BBall fan

    watch out for covina! they have a young team with a lot of size and great players. I am sure they will give San Dimas and Northview a run for the VVL!

  • Gary

    The opening top three teams are all from La Verne.We’ll see how they end.

  • just sayin’

    that COugh must mean you’re allergic to that wild coach of yours

  • COugh COugh

    @just sayin’

    Honestly, you’re right. The coach is terrible. But CO has a lot of size this year with three big guys who can play and a great sophomore PG.

    Anyways, they play @ Northview on Friday so come see whats up.

  • Bonita

    Fred – did you guys take yesterday off. No basketball scores. Bonita, without 4 starters and the #6 guy destroyed San Dimas last night by 30 points!!

  • LV local

    Damien and Bonita could be a toss up for 2-3, seen both openers, Damien is tough down low on both ends, Bonita guards dominated SD although both teams have football players missing, BHS “D” tradition still there. Reyes and Northrop both all SGV showed all the tools and leadership. The LV local schools look solid.

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