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High School Team Preview:
Oxnard Santa Clara High School--(Oct. 28, 1998)

"I'm going to keep coaching until I can't coach any longer. I've got a new knee, two new eyes after cataract surgery, gallbladder surgery, a prostate operation; I've been through the wars. Right now I feel great, and I'm going to keep going because I love what I do." --Lou Cvijanovich, varsity coach, Santa Clara High School

Lou Cvijanovich (pronounce "See-anovich") has been coaching at Santa Clara High School in Oxnard for the last 40 years, and this will be his 41st season as the basketball coach. When asked why he got into coaching, he says simply "Because I couldn't play any longer. I did a bit of refereeing, and then the coaching position opened up at Santa Clara, and I've been here ever since."   But he hasn't only coached basketball: "Back in the days when I started, you had to do everything, there was no specialization at a small school, and I coached football for 17 years, and baseball for 12," Lou told us. "I really love it here at Santa Clara, and this school means a lot to me. I've put 8 of my own children through this school, 6 boys and 2 girls, so it's a pretty special place to me."

For a small school, with only 270 students, Santa Clara is a pretty high-profile program.  This year they have two players who have verballed to Division I college programs: Nick Jones and B.J. Ward will both attend UCSB and will try to re-energize the Gaucho program next year.  When we asked Lou for a brief history of Santa Clara and how many times they've won sectional, regional or state titles, he said, "Oh, I don't want to even talk about that. Some people would say that I just bragging, and besides, I really don't remember."  Well, to refresh his recollection, the school has won a total of 14 CIF Southern Section championships, 3 Southern Regional Championships in the State Tournament ('89-'90-'91), and has two Division IV CIF State Championships. And that's just in what is considered the "modern" CIF era, when they started keeping official records again in 1981 in Division I (records in Division IV were started again in 1988. Prior to that only Sectional records were kept and there was no State Title in the Division.)  In the last eight years or so, Santa Clara's enrollment has steadily declined, from a high of about 870 in the late 80's to the current enrollment of around 270.  They've gone from Division IV to Division V-A, the smallest division in the current CIF configuration. But Lou has seen it all when it comes to CIF. "When I started, Division I was the smallest, and now it's the largest, so with all the re-legating and reconfiguring, it really doesn't make any sense to talk about how many titles we've won. We just go out and play to win."  Lou has seen quite a few changes in the game. "The shot clock really had no impact on us at all last year. I think it's great. We're going to shoot the ball anyway, and I don't think we had even one violation last year." 

"But there is one change I wish would have come sooner:   I just wish that back in the 'good old days' they had the three-point rule in effect, because back then, I had some great shooters who could really hit the set shot; now it's a struggle to find great three point shooters. It's one of the great ironies in my coaching life."

As we said, Lou isn't big on remember or touting his career statistics, but there is one statistic that Lou remembers, and he told us about it. "Here's something you can say:  This year, going into the 1998-1999 season, I've got 799 wins in 40 years of coaching basketball.  Sometime during my 41st year, I hope to get No. 800.  If I don't, then I'd say it's not a very good year."   799 wins -- we would expect that the 800th will come sometime during the Simi tournament, and if it does we sure hope that someone will feel compelled to hold even a modest awards ceremony to mark the occasion. And Lou is actually expecting a pretty good year. Just how good, he won't speculate, but for a school as small as Santa Clara, they've got a quick team that can score and get the job done.  "We really only lost one impact player from last season, our scorer Scott Sorich.  Other than him, basically all of the starters and impact players are back."  When talking about the consistency of the team and how they're likely to do, Lou really wouldn't speculate. "We have a lot of great guards, and we really run a five-man passing, motion offense, so the positions are pretty interchangeable.  The only thing we are really missing is a real big man in the middle, so we'll hope to challenge other teams with our speed and quickness, " Lou told us. "We did very well in summer league against teams like Moorpark, Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard,  and others. And I think we'll be ready for the season."

Here's a look at the roster:

BJ Ward (6'-1" Sr. PG)
Nick Jones (6'-5" Sr. SG/SF)
Anthony Camper (5'-11" Jr. SG)
Mel Angell (6'-0" Sr. SG)
Earl Hall (6'-4" Jr. SF)
Mike Madrigal (6'-2" Sr. SG/SF)
Terrence Dotsy (6'-5" Sr. F/C)
Jason Angell (5'-10" Jr. SG)
Tim Scott (5'-7" Sr. PG/SG)

This is probably not a complete roster. "I've got a bunch of other kids who are trying out, including one who is my grandson. I don't want to mention them yet until I'm certain that they'll make it on the team this year. Some of them haven't yet worked hard enough to warrant mention of their names," Lou told us. "And of course, until football ends, I really won't know all of the players who will turn out. We don't have a special P.E. class just for basketball players in the fall, so I really can't be sure."

What this team lacks in height, it more than makes up for in quickness, speed and shooting ability from the perimeter and good penetration.  And it all starts with Nick and BJ, both of whom will sign in the early period with UCSB.   BJ is probably one of the best guards in the class and a true point, and Lou is quick to acknowledge there isn't really anything he can't do. "BJ is quick, one of the best and can do everything: dribble, shoot, penetrate, and dish the ball."   BJ has great court vision, and he'll be an immediate impact player next year along with Jones. "Nick is still nursing his broken foot," Lou said. "It's healing up fine, and we expect him to be 100% for the season, but with injuries, you never know; anything can happen."  Nick is also an overall great player with a tremendous handle, the ability to shoot off the dribble or spot up, and he moves very well with and without the ball. He's also one of the best defenders on the team and with his jumping ability is also a top rebounder and shotblocker. "Who knows how far we would have gone last season if he hadn't been hurt. But that's what happens sometimes. The injuries can just kill you."

Since Lou likes to run a five-man motion, where the parts are pretty interchangeable, and not much in the way of traditional half-court offense, most of his players are true guards, and they all defend very well man-to-man, which is the only kind of defense he likes to run. Anthony Camper, will help in this system, and he's a capable shooter with a good handle, who can create his shot, hit the j, or spot up. He's a very unselfish player, really very team oriented, and Lou tells us that he's being groomed to be the point guard for next year. For now, though, he'll fit in at the two or one spot.  Another two guard with very good passing skills and a very tough defender is Mel Angell. Lou figures that Anthony will probably be a mid to high D-I player by next season, and that Mel is best suited to play at the D-II or low D-I level.  Both are very competitive and will add depth and dimension to this squad. ]

At the forward spot, look for Earl Hall, a real banger who can defend in the paint, and rebounds well, and at center we'd expect to see Terrance Dotsy, a 250 lb. football player, with big, soft hands who can pass, shoot and hit the three-pointer pretty well.

Others on the team who will make definite contributions and who can vie for starting time will be Mike Madrigal, a decent sized shooting guard who can spot up at the wing, or slash to the basket, and Lou considers him one of the most versatile players. "He can really swing to any position on the floor, and is a very complete player."   Two other little point guard-types will see some time as well: Jason Angell, a junior and the younger brother of Mel, is a another of the quick guards with a great handle, who can drive, spot up or get the ball to the open man with great effectiveness, and he's also a tenacious defender. Tim Scott "gives everyone else time to breathe," said Lou.  "He's very athletic and quick, a tremendous defender, who does a lot of things very well."

Again, this is not the completed roster, just who Lou knows about right now, and we'd expect that by the time the Simi Valley Tip-Off Classic rolls around, on December 1-5, where Santa Clara will be making it's first appearance this season, that there will be additions to the roster. The Simi tournament early rounds will be played at both Camarillo and Simi Valley, with the final rounds played at Simi, and this year's lineup includes LA Grant (Gilbert Arenas--Arizona), Santa Clara (BJ Ward and Nick Jones--UCSB), Compton Centennial (Marqui Poole--Wash. St), Camarillo, El Camino, Granada Hills, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (Cody Pearson, Chris Williams), South Gate, Roosevelt, Vergugo Hills, San Fernando, Santa Paula, and North
Hollywood. Hopefully Lou will get No. 800 from someone at this tournament. 

Following the Simi tournament, Santa Clara will hold several practice games in December during the week of the 7th through 12th with teams like   La Canada, Agoura, and a few others. Then from December 19-23 & 26, Santa Clara will be at the Kiwanis Ventura Tournament hosted by Ventura High, and we really have no idea yet who will be at that one besides Ventura and Santa Clara, and neither did Lou when we spoke today. As soon as we get the details on that one, we'll post it up.

Lou isn't making any predictions about the Frontier League this season. " We still have Calabasas, Malibu, Nordhoff, and Santa Paula, and they are all usually pretty good. We lost Moorpark to the Marmonte League so it should be a bit more competitive this year," Lou told us. And as for the playoffs, can Santa Clara repeat again this year, getting to the finals of the Southern Section and the semifinals of State Regional Tournament (they lost to Pacific Hills in the Southern Section final   82-76, and then had a very upsetting game with Horizon in the State Regional tournament where they lost 80-47)?  Lou isn't making any predictions about that either. 

"All we can do is to play them one at a time. If we can stay healthy, we should be good."  And we'll all be looking for No. 800. . . and 801, 802, 803. . .

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