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SoCalHoops High School News

High School Team Preview:
Express League Heritage Christian--(Oct. 12, 1998)

We're doing a lot of previews this season, and we plan on doing a lot more.  Not just the big-time schools in Division I-AA (the biggest enrollment division), but also lots of teams in D-II, D-III, D-IV, and D-V.   Among the smallest schools are the Division V-A (single A).  These are schools with high school enrollments of as few as a couple of hundred kids. Yet they also have some of the most competitive play in SoCal, and there's more than a few Division I, II, III and NAIA players who come out of these schools each year.

The first of our Division V-A team profiles is Heritage Christian, a small private school located in Orange County.   Heritage Christian is a very small school,  with only about 110 students, but which fields competitive teams. This year they are shooting to make the Southern Section Division V-A playoffs.  The team plays in the Express League against such teams as Gateway Christian, Liberty Christian, Pioneer Baptist, Diamond Bar, and the top team in the league, Rolling Hills Prep.

Mark Berokoff is the head coach, and he's been described by many as the youngest coach of a high school team in all of Orange County.   Mark is only 24 years old, and is in his second year of coaching at Heritage.   Prior to joining Heritage, he coached the Sophomore team at Sonora High, where his brother and current Aztec Jeffrey Berokoff played last season on the varsity.    Mark was also a small college player himself, a college All-American.   He's married, and he and his wife Staci spend great amounts of time following the game, watching kids play and coaching.  Mark would ultimately like to move up to NCAA D-I coaching,  and he's laying all the groundwork to get there in the shortest time possible.  He's been affiliated with several club teams, and has coached in the Slam-N-Jam league, and more recently coached the Rockfish II's (the Orcas)  team, which won the "A" division at the adidas Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas.   He also worked the adidas ABCD camp this summer, and was introduced to many division I coaches and assistants, which in the business of coaching, can never hurt when you're looking for a college coaching position. 

But for now, Mark has committed to stay at Heritage for at least the next few seasons. The year before Mark arrived the team went 1-19.  Last year, they went 9-12, and 5-5 in league.  This year, they have everyone returning except two players who graduated, and have gotten some new players in who might be pretty exciting.  Heritage hopes to make the playoffs this year, and in Division V-A, there's no telling how far they could go if they get to the dance.

Here's the team:

Todd Warner (6'-2" Jr. SG)
Brandon Newte (5'-9" So. PG/SG)
Matt Russell (6'-2" Jr. F)
Josiah Regaldo (6'-2" Sr. SG/SF)
David Grace (6'-3" Fr. PG/SG/SF)
Freddy Granado (5'-8" Jr. SG)
Walt Williams (6'-5" Jr. C)
Lamar Batiste (5'-10" Sr. PG/SG)
Andrei Villanueva (6'-3" Jr. F)
John Marc Luz (6'-0 Sr. G/F)

This is not an overly tall team, but it will have some size, all things considered in the small school division, and they've also got some speed.  How far they'll get against teams like Rolling Hills Prep, is really anyone's guess at this point, and Mark isn't making any predicitions. "I haven't even really gotten to see some of these players yet, because we can't start practicing yet. So some of what I know about the new guys is based on the limited things I've seem them doing just playing around during the school day."

Todd Warner is the returning MVP of the team, and he hit 65 3-pointers last season, so Mark knows he can shoot.  He averaged 15 ppg, 9 rebounds per game, and was the team offensive leader, and he'll be expected to do more of the same this year. He can shoot from outside, and has a decent enough handle and foot speed that he can penetrate and push the ball.  He's not a real pull-up J shooter, more of a catch-set-and-shoot type of guy. We heard he scored 9 three's in one game last year. Todd was named 2d team all league last year.  Can he make it to the next level? Only time will tell.  Brandon Newte started as a freshman at the point last year, and he'll be starting there again this year. He averaged 8 points per game, and 4 assists per game through a 20 game season. He's a great defender and can also drive to the hole, is really quick, and starting to fill out. He was named Honorable Mention All-League last year.  The best thing about Brandon? He's only a sophomore, so he's got two more years after this year to get better.

Matt Russell  is a sort of Dennis Rodman type of player, who's offensive game really exists only within about 5 feet of the basket, but in that range he gets a lot done. He is one of the hardest working, if not the hardest working player on the team. Matt also doubles as a football player, is a muscular, tough kid, who will add another dimension to the team this year. Josiah will probably start at the two-three swing spot. He's got a good shot and can drive, and was described as a very steady player.  Josiah is best from the wing, has a good shot out to 15' and can rebound well.  He's the only returning senior and will add some mature leadership to this young team. Walt Williams will play the five, and he's got pretty decent post moves. He was hurt a lot last season with an ankle injury, but this year, he's been healthy. Walt is a good shot blocker, and shocked a few people last year at Ontario Christian with 5  blocked shots in one game. For now Mark views him as a probable/possible starter.  Another big wide-body type guy is Andrei Villanueva, who can set screens, and basically eat up space on the floor, filling lanes and stopping up the drives on opponents.  He might also see some major playing time as well.

David Grace will cover the backcourt and out to the win. He's a good three point shooter, with very long arms, who devends and drives.   He's a new player, and just how much he'll contribute this year is an open question, but from what Mark has seen, he's really going to be good.  Freddy Granado will add a dimension to the defensive game, and is really more of a situational player, who will attempt to affect the outcome of games with his good defense and quickness. Finally, there are two brand new players, who Mark has not yet seen: Lamar Batiste,   a senior who has never played before with the school.   Lamar was reportedly a club player with NJB, and is described as a super athlete, with good fundamentals who will contribute to this team.   The other new guy on the block is John Marc Luz, who is a transfer from Brazil, and who played for a club team in Sao Paolo.  He'll probably see some time at the one or two spots, but whether he can really play is basically unknown at this point in the pre-season.

How well this team will do, and whether they'll make the playoffs this year is absolutely anyone's guess at this point. The one thing we do know is that they have some fine players and good coaching. Hey, this is high school basketball at the grass-roots, and it's just as big-time as the biggest of programs.   Maybe they don't have the band, the big cheerleading squad or the same number of fans packing the biggest gyms. But one thing is the same at all these schools: The rules of the game are the same. It's still just ten guys on the floor at a time and one ball.   One team loses and the other wins. Just like at high schools all over the country.   Absolutely beautiful in its simplicity; inexplicable in its complexities.

Stay tuned. We'll have more small school profiles in the coming days and weeks.  

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