The New Southern California Basketball
SoCalHoops High School Report

High School Team Preview:
Los Alamitos High School--(Oct. 14, 1998)

"I got into coaching because it was the next best thing to playing."--Steve Brooks, head coach, Los Alamitos High

Steve Brooks graduated from high school in 1972, as an All-Southern Section, and All-State player. The highlight of his playing career was going to the CIF finals at Pauley Pavilion. "When I was playing, you got to go to the Southern Section playoffs, and the finals were the biggest deal around, because you got to play in a big-time arena.  Now kids do these kind of events all the time. There are so many more opportunites for players now. I think it's just great that these kids have so many opportunities to play and showcase their talents."

Steve attended Long Beach State, where he earned his B.S. in Math and Physical Education. He currently teaches math.  He's married with four children, and the oldest  is a freshman in college, while the youngest is only 4 years old. . He's been coaching for the last 19 years, 18 as the head coach at Los Alamitos.  Steve coaches his players during the summer,  and he believes it's important to keep the team together to develop cohesiveness. "We enter the team in events like the BCI in Arizona, the adidas Big Time Tourament in Vegas, and other events.   As I said, the kids have some great opportunites, far more than were available 25 years ago when I was playing. And I think that's just tremendous for them."   

Los Al plays in the Sunset League against traditional rivals Edison, Esperanza, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, and Marina. In the playoffs they play in  Division I-AA of Southern Section CIF.  The playoffs have been sort of a touchy subject the last couple of years, and with good reason: For the last two years, Los Alamitos has been eliminated in the first round, and last year it was to Oxnard, 54-52 on a last second shot at the buzzer.

This year, Brooks is hoping for better. And he believes he's got the horses to get it done. Recognizing that tryouts are still going on as we write this, and there very well could be additions or deletions from this roster, and in fact there likely will be new names within the next two weeks, here's who is probably going to be playing varsity this season:

Jeff Grgas (6'-8" Sr. C/F)
Ron Prettyman (6'-2" Jr. SG/SF)
Ryan Keller (5'-10" Jr. PG)
Keenen Howry (5'-10" Sr. SG)
Joel Jelinowicz (6'-3" Sr. F)
Andrew Pleick (6'-4" Sr. SG)
Ken Carter (6'-7" Jr. F)
Brian Rakusin (6'-6" So. F)
Jeff Smith (5'-11" Jr. G)
Eddie Courtemarche (6'-0" So. G)
Mike Lindemann (6'-1" Sr. SG)
Mike Sandi (6'-4" Sr. C)
Matthew Vernes (6'-2" Sr. F)

Again, this list could change some, and there might be some guys dropping down to JV and some others coming up in the next few weeks while evaluations are ongoing.  But for now, at least the top 6 or 7 guys are probably set.

In the backcourt, we'd expect to see Ryan Keller handling the point, and he's an agressive, tenacious player, with great vision, a very good handle, and has the ability to penetrate and finish. He'll be joined by Ron Prettyman at the swing position, and Ron is an excellent three-point shooter with great range, and he's a definite college prospect, and he's an excellent defender.  At the off-guard spot, we'd look for Keenen Howry and Andrew Pleick.  Pleick is the latest new D-I prospect to roll into Los Al, and he'll be taking official visits (as of this writing) at Rhode Island and Davidson. Andrew is a transfer from Sweden, who played for the Swedish National Team, and was in the All-Euro Nike Top 10.  He's an outstanding player with excellent shooting skills, and will be a big time college player too.   Keenen is one of the top defenders on the team and a great athlete. He's a major D-I football prospect, and is taking visits to Oregon, OSU, Washington, WSU, ASU and some others. He led the county last year in receptions with 80+, and this year he's more than halfway there after only 5 games.

The backup players off the bench, at least for now, in the backcourt will be Jeff Smith, Eddie, and Mike Lindemann.  Mike has good touch and a fine shot, while Jeff is just a deadly shooter at the two spot. Eddie may see some time at the one, and he's an excellent passer with good shooting ability, and can drive and penetrate.

In the frontcourt, the star of the team at center is Grgas, and he's a big-time, top college prospect, who is currently looking at about 3 or 4 D-I programs. Jeff has very good post moves, nice footwork, and is very strong around the basket with a good touch.  We'd also look for Joel Jelinowicz at the forward spot, with some backup by Brian Rakusin, Mike Sanid and Matt Vernes. Joel is the hard-working guy who goes out and does all the dirty work, setting screens, picks, diving for loose balls, and he's very effective.  Ken Carter, who will probably see some time at the four or five spot, didn't play last year, and this is his first year on varsity, but as a 6'-7" guy, he's very physical, and has lots of raw talent.  Rakusin was hurt a lot last year with an ankle injury, and how he'll do remains to be seen; he's got a very good touch inside of about 12', and is a tough rebounder with good post moves.  Sandi is very rugged and physical, and we'd expect to also see him play a little four as well.   Vernes is a very deceptive player, in the sense that for a guy who's only 6'-2" he can and does regularly score over guys who are much bigger, and he's got tremendous leaping ability and can go to the hole and finish.

This is obviously a deep and talented team with some top college prospects, as is befitting a high-profile program like Los Al. And this year, they'll be playing in some really top-flight exposure events before the beginning of the season.

The post-season will begin on December 1 as Los Alamitos travels to Glendora for the Glendora Triple Crown, a sort of "extravaganza" event, which will feature three games, Sonora v. Los Al. We're not sure about the other two, and we'll be getting details soon, but we do know that Mater Dei will also be participating.

Then on December 4, Los Al will appear at the Arrowhead Pond in an exhibition game in the John R. Wooden High School Classic Invitational.  Last year, Los Alamitos played against legendary coach Morgan Wooten's DeMatha (Keith Bogans, Joe Forte), from Hyattsville, Md., which some pundits have ranked this year as the No. 1 or No. 2 team nationally; Los Al was obviously overmatched but played them straight up, and lost by only about six points. This year, Los Alamitos will play Rancho Buena Vista, which shoud be an excellent matchup, since these are two great "team offense and defense" teams. They've got great athletes who play together throughout the year, and they feature some of the best team play we've seen this year, as opposed to the run and gun, selfish play that you sometimes see from player who participate in the camps or other big tournaments on club or traveling teams.

And since we're on the subject of the Wooden event, there will be some other great games there as well. including Compton Dominguez vs. Waltrip (Texas), and one of the great matchups of the year, Glendora vs Mater Dei.  These games will be preceded by a high school girls' game, featuring Brea Olinda, winner of the state Division II title last season, and Chino Hills Ayala's girls team, a Southern Section semifinalist in 1997-98. That game will start at 4:30 p.m.,  with the boys' games to follow.

Los Al will also be at the Edison International Prep Basketball Invitational which will be played at the Anaheim Convention Center in December 8-12, and the event will feature most of the best teams in Orange County, and the top four seeded teams will be Katella, Los Al, Capistrano Valey, and Tustin.

From December 26-31, they'll be at the Sun Devil Classic at Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, which will some of the top teams in California, and then finally during the season on January 16, 1999, Los Alamitos will play the State Division IV Champions, Verbum Dei in the 1999 adidas/Double Pump MLK, Jr., Hoops Festival at Cal State Dominguez Hills.  That game will get started at 10:00 a.m. and it's one you don't want to miss.

Great team, high profile events and big time fun. What more could you want?  Well, ok,  maybe a CIF title. They'll be working on it.

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