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High School Team Preview:
Anaheim Canyon High--(Oct. 13, 1998)

Anaheim Canyon is coached by second year head coach Rob Alexander.  Rob is no rookie at coaching, even though he's only in his second year with Canyon: He's a guy with plenty of experience, even for a coach so young.   Prior to Canyon, he was an assistant at USC for two years under Charlie Parker and Bibby. He was also the head coach at Ontario High for two years,  in 1994 and 1995.  During Rob's second year at Ontario, the team won its first league championship in 17 years, and went all the way to the Southern Section Division I-AA quarterfinals. They ultimately lost to Glendora which was, at the time led by Cameron Murray who is now at Louisville. Dominguez went to the state final that year, losing to St. Francis Mt. View.  1995  would have been current Glendora shooting star Casey Jacobsen's freshman year, for you trivia buffs. Ah, but we digress.

Rob Alexander attended Kamiakan High in the State of Washington, and following graduation, he enrolled at the University of Idaho where he played two years as a walk-on before he realized that his talents were better utilized as a student manager and assistant to the coaching staff. There he learned the art of scouting and recruiting, back when the NCAA permitted teams to scout their opponents.  After he graduated from Idaho, Rob enrolled in a Masters program at Texas Christian University, where he served as an assistant to the basketball program while he earned his MA in Sports Psychology, getting his degree in '93.  Rob then moved to Ontario, where he got the head coaching job. 

After two years at Ontario, he was hired at USC as an assistant coach,  and his principal duty was recruiting. He enjoyed his time there, learned a lot and ment a lot of people, but the lure of being close to the game at the high school level lured him back, and in 1996, he got the job at Canyon as head varsity basketball coach, and as Athletic Director at the school. Alexander has been involved in coaching at the AAU level for a while now, and this past year he coached the Pump-N-Run I team featuring Gilbert Arenas, Aaron Abrams, Cameron Carr, Michael Dunleavy, Lance Buoncristiani, among others. Rob is married to Dianne, and they have a 5 month old son, Ryan Christopher (class of 2006, who we understand has verballed to Utah). This fall, Rob and Dianne took Ryan to all of the games at the Pump Discovery Classic so he could get a taste of the competition, and meet the coaches who will be recruiting him in 2005.

Alexander thinks he's got a pretty good team this season.  Last year's team when 19-9 and made it to the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals in Division II-AA before losing to Compton, which itself lost in the next game to eventual State Champs Santa Margarita. The team this year returns several varsity players, including a few starters.  Here's the roster:

Neil Hammad (6'-3" Sr. SG)
Roger Hogan (6'-0" Jr. PG/SG)
Ryan Romberg (6'-8" Sr. C)
Donn Yu (5'-8" Sr. PG)
Aaron Willis (6'-5" Sr. PF)
Omid Eftekhari (6'-6" Sr. PF)
Brian Solomon (6'-2" Sr. G/F)
Jamal Taylor (6'-0" Jr. G)
Tom Burke (6'-3" Jr. SF/SG)
Travis Klein (6'-0" Jr. SG)
Karl Sherman (6'-0" Sr. PF)
Jeff Minhas (6'-6" Sr. C)

This team is strong at several positions: It's shooters, Neil Hammad, Roger Hogan, Tom Burke, and Travis Klein; It's inside players Romberg, Eftekhari, Sherman and Minhas; it's defenders, Willis, Solomon and  Taylor; and it's passers and playmakers, Yu, Solomon, Taylor and Hogan.

In the backcourt, Neil Hammad is a great shooter, mostly a catch and shoot type of player, but he can also push the ball on the break and covers the wing very well in transition. He is sort of streaky shooter, but when he's hot, he can light it up all day. A good athlete overall, Neil is being recruited by CSUN, Idaho, and several Division II and III schools, including Chapman.  Backing up Neil at the two spot will be Jamal Taylor and Travis Klein for the most part. Taylor is a good athlete, with quick hands on defense and he's very committed to the defensive end of the game, and will need to work on his shot, which is actually much improved from last season.  Klein is great in the open court with the ball, can either catch and shoot or spot up on the wing, and he is a solid defender.

At the point position, look for Yu and Hogan to alternate, and Hogan will also play some shooting guard in a three guard formation on the floor.  Yu is a very quick player, with good vision, a fine passer and he's a very tenacious defender, with good lateral foot speed. Rob describes him as a very heady player, "a playmaker."  Hogan is more of a shooter than a passer, but he's a very tough, physical player too, and at least according to Rob, "he's one of the craftiest players I've seen."   He's smart, but is not above getting involved in a little banging inside or on the pick or screen if he believes it will help wear down an opponent. He can hurt a team with an excellent three point shot and has a decent pull up j from the perimeter.  "Crafty" is probably a good word; we would have used "dangerous," to his opponents, that is.

In the wing position look for a combination of Brian Solomon, a very physical defender who can actually play all five positions if needed, and Tom Burke, a great shooter who was the top player on last year's jv squad to compete for playing time. In the power forward spots, Omid is a solid post player, with a great inside game and the ability to alter or block shots.  Solomon will also see time at the forward spot where his tremendously physical defense will help.  Also look for Sherman, who is a real wide-body kid--he weighs about 220lbs and at 6'-0" that's a lot of body.  Sherman is a really tough kid, who can choke up the lanes, rebound pretty well, and who will basically excel on defense.

In the center spot, look for Romberg to start. He's a 6'-8" transfer from Esperanza, a left-handed inside tough player who runs the court surprisingly well.  And you'd never know it to look at him,  but he can dunk pretty well too. Notwithstanding that he looks like he's a bit overweight, he's actually in the top 3 in the conditioning classes, and he has amazing stamina.  Ryan is being recruited by Eastern Washington, Boise State, UC Davis and  Cal Poly Pomona at present, and he'll be an impact player at any of those programs.  Backing up Ryan will be Jeff Minhas, a transfer from Virginia, who is a solid 6'-6" 230 lbs.   He's an excellent rebounder, tough and tenacious on the inside, a great player in the paint, and according to Rob, "better than Scott Reed, our leading rebounder last year."

This is a talented, smart and tough team at every position. We look for them to go deep in the Century League in Southern Section against teams like El Modena, Foothill, Orange, Santa Ana Valley and Villa Park, and they could very well take a league championship.

Before the season gets underway, Canyon will appear in several pre-season tournaments, starting with the Anaheim Convention Center Tournament, at, you guessed it, the Anaheim Convention Center. This is a tournament, we are told, that will feature most of the top teams in Orange County (with the exception of Mater Dei, which had another game commitment), and you'll see teams like Trabuco Hills, Capistrano Valley, Katella, Tustin, Canyon, Los Alamitos, and many others.  We'll be posting the details of this one shortly. But for now, mark your calendars for December 8-12, 1998.

Following that one, Canyon will travel to the San Francisco Bay Area for the Amador Valley High Holiday Tournament, a 16 team tournament that will feature some of the best competition from around the Bay Area, from December 16-19.

Finally, Canyon will host its own 16 team Canyon Holiday Classic Tournament from December 28-31 at Canyon High in Anaheim, and while we don't know all of the teams yet (the brackets are still being set) we'd look for teams like Fontana, Loara, and possibly Venice.

Finally, after league play gets underway, Canyon will square off against Ocean View in the 9:00 a.m. game at the 1st Annual 1999 MLK, Jr. Adidas Hoops Festival on Saturday, January 16, 1999 at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Canyon and Rob Alexander are the official hosts of the MLK Adidas Hoops Festival this year.

This is a smart, tough team, and we anticipate that Canyon will make a signficant run for a league title and go deep again in Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs. How far they get is something only time will tell.

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