Each of the four local boys’ basketball teams lost key players to graduation or had individuals transfer. However, no other squad was been more depleted than Burbank High.
The Bulldogs lost 11 seniors to graduation after last season and had just two juniors on the roster. Unfortunately, both those juniors have transferred. That leaves Burbank with no returning starters and just one player has limited varsity experience after being brought up from junior varsity last season.
To make matters worse, Jerry DeLaurie took over the Bulldogs program in late August and missed the entire summer with the team.
“I have taken over programs before, but this is the most challenging job I have had in my 17 years of coaching,” said DeLaurie, who had coaching stints with the L.A. Baptist girls' program and the Pasadena Marshall Fundamental boys' and Blair boys' and girls' programs. “We have really no varsity experience on the team. The players are new and they really don’t know what to expect on the varsity level.”
Unlike Burbank, and the other local teams — Burroughs, Providence and Burroughs — have their share of experienced returning players.
Here is a closer look at how the teams are shaping up.
The Pioneers (26-6, 8-0 in league) return the most talented and decorated player in the area last season in sophomore Marcus LoVett Jr.
LoVett was named the CIF Southern Section Division V-A Player of the Year, Liberty League Player of the Year and 2012 All-Area Boys' Basketball Player of the Year. The sharp-shooting guard was also named to the MaxPreps.com Freshman All-American Team and earned Division V All-State first-team honors by MaxPreps.com.
LoVett averaged 31.7 points a game, which was best in the nation among freshmen according to MaxPreps.com. In addition, he poured in 1,035 points — breaking the school record — and put up 35.8 points a game in the playoffs.
“Marcus has looked good in practice,” Providence Coach Ernest Baskerville said. “He played with his travel-ball team and worked out with his dad basically all summer.”
LoVett will be one of three key returners for the Pioneers. The other two are junior guard Christian Ware-Berry, who Baskerville said has improved substantially from last season, and junior guard Jonathan Ly.
“Having three returning starters, and all three of those starters being guards, helps a lot,” Baskerville said. “Having Christian, Marcus and John coming back is a big plus.”
Behind LoVett, Providence captured its first Liberty League championship in 12 years.
The Pioneers enjoyed a historic postseason run, advancing past the quarterfinals for the first time in school history. Unfortunately for Providence, its first-ever appearance in a CIF championship game ended with a 65-62 overtime loss to league foe Holy Martyrs.
Providence also advanced to state competition for the first time, losing to Mission Prep, 68-62, in the opening round of the Southern California Regionals of the CIF State Division Championships.
The Pioneers were dealt a blow recently when Melik Anderson, a 6-foot-8 sophomore who transferred after playing as a freshman last season at Alemany, was ruled ineligible by the CIF Southern Section.
Last season at Alemany, Anderson averaged 2.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and a block a game. In the 2011-12 season, Alemany (33-4) won a Mission League, a CIF Southern Section Division III-A and a Division III state championship. In the state title game, Alemany defeated Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco, 71-67.
“When you think you have a 6-8 kid who’s athletic and can shoot the ball and handle the ball, you have a freight train running through your head,” Baskerville said. “And when you find out he’s not going to play, it’s definitely disappointing.”
Newcomers who will be expected to contribute are sophomore forward D.J. Cabrera, a transfer from Eagle Rock, and junior guard Kyle Lipton, a transfer from Santa Monica.
Baskerville said some juniors from last year’s team “have decided not to play this season.”
New for the Liberty League this season is the teams will play in a league tournament, instead of competing in head-to-head games throughout the season.
The Guards (9-18, 3-5) qualified for the playoffs last season after placing fourth in the Santa Fe League.
Bell-Jeff returns some key players from last season’s team. One of the Guards’ strengths will likely be guard play, as the squad has a few athletes who can handle the ball with efficiency. Bell-Jeff also has length, as it boasts two 6-foot-5 players, one at 6-4 and one at 6-3
“We will rely a lot on our guard play,” said Bell-Jeff Coach Julian Andrade, whose squad lost to eventual state champion Village Christian, 61-38, in the first round of last year’s Division V-AA playoffs. “But we can also match up with big teams pretty well.
“We really just lost one key guard from last year, Elijah Reed, and that was pretty much it. This year I think we’re going to have a lot more depth.”
Among the key returners are senior guard Will Morales, senior forward Jalen Henry and junior guard Noah De Corsi. The newcomers include junior forward Malcolm Regisford (6-5) and sophomore forward Abid Oses (6-5), who is from Panama.
“Will is going to be our best shooter,” Andrade said. “He has great range and he’s probably one of the best long-range shooters in the Valley. He has NBA three-point range.”
In the race for the Santa Cruz League title — Bell-Jeff won a crown in 2011 — Andrade said it should be a tough experience.
“St. Anthony has a new coach that came over from La Verne Lutheran, so they should be good,” he said. “Then you have St. Genevieve, so it’s going to be very tough. Either St. Anthony runs away with this or us and St. Anthony give them a surprise.”
Under former coach Jose Hernandez, the Bulldogs went 12-16 and 8-6 to tie for third in the Pacific League last season. Burbank fell in the opening round of the Division I-A playoffs to Chino Hills, 57-45.
DeLaurie said this year’s team has definitely been experiencing some growing pains.
“It’s been a transition for sure,” he said. “Their summer program was sporadic, so there was really nothing going on with his group since last year. So it’s going to take some time to put it all together. But the guys are working hard and I think they’re making progress. We are starting from scratch, so the guys have to realize that.”
Two players from last season who transferred are seniors Andrew Spight and Caine Brown. The lone player with limited experience is junior guard Richard Elmoyan.
Some of this year’s players come from a Burbank junior varsity team that went 26-3 last season.
“That JV record is nice, but I tell the guys there’s just no substitute for varsity experience,” DeLaurie said. “Winning on the varsity level is a lot more difficult.”
Along with Elmoyan, among the group of newcomers are seniors Greg Salas and Sarkis Karaian and sophomore Quentan Bright, a transfer from St. John Bosco.
“Those four guys are going to be our top guys,” DeLaurie said. “We are just going to have to play unselfish basketball and we have to play as a team. If we do, I think we could be competitive in the [Pacific League].”
It was another down year for the Indians (11-16, 4-10), as they finished the 2011-12 campaign tied for sixth in the Pacific League and failed to make the postseason for the third straight year.
The good news for Burroughs is it has a large number of returning players.
“We lost a few players from last year, but we have most of our best players back,” Indians Coach Adam Hochberg said. “But what really hurt us last season was that we had so many injuries. There were a lot of times when our top players were out. I think we played just three games with our whole team healthy last year.”
Two of the returners who Hochberg is relying on to help pace the team are senior guard/forward Lawrence White (6-3) and senior center/forward Jorge Flores Pere (6-4).
“Those two guys are going to have to be leaders for us,” the coach said. “We are going to have to rely on them to carry us this season. They are going to have to step up because we’re not a very deep team. White can play all five positions, and we need to have the ball in his hands.”
Some of the other returning players include seniors Kalen Verhoeven, Hanoak Amanios and Kyle Roberts (6-8). Hochberg said Roberts, who missed all of last season with an injury, could be the team’s X-factor.
“We are going to have to play pressure defense and we are going to have to force our share of turnovers,” Hochberg said. “If we can get those turnovers, we can be a very, very competitive team because we have the talent and the guys have the desire.”
Players who Hochberg is also expecting to contribute are seniors Austyn Dries (6-3), Yousuf Martinez, Justin Mitchell and Kalen Verhoeven.
“In league, Pasadena is going to be good and Muir was the class of the league last year,” Hochberg said. “I think some might categorize us as the most improved team in the league. If we can play to our potential, I think we can be a top-tier team in the league.”