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SoCalHoops High School News

High School Team Preview:
Riverside Arlington--(Nov. 1, 1999)

"I think we'll be pretty competitive. We're experienced and I don't think that there's anyone who will come in here and beat the pants off of us. We should be more than just ok this year."  John Seydel, Head Coach, Riverside Arlington

We managed to catch up with John Seydel entirely by accident.  We were going down our list of coaches to contact for our previews and somehow, we managed to get John's number mixed up with Tom Gregory's, the head coach at Ayala.  So rather than waste the opportunity for a good preview article, we spent a few moments talking with John about his players, the team's prospects, strengths and weaknesses, league and playoff outlook and a variety of other subjects.  John is a very understated, soft spoken guy, and you get the impression speaking to him that he's also understating just how good his team might be this year, but more on that later.   He's been coaching at Arlington for the past 8 years; he's in his 9th year as head coach at Arlington.  Prior to that he coached the girls at J.W. North for 2 seasons, and before that he was an assistant at Cal Baptist College.  Seydel is a teacher at Arlington in addition to his coaching duties, and teaches Special Education classes. He's had his "up" years and his "down" years in coaching, but with an overall record of 113-75, there's been more "up" than "down" and this looks like it could be one of the better "up" seasons for the Lions

Last season, Arlington didn't fare so well, failing to make the playoffs. The team plays in the Ivy League with schools like Canyon Springs, Moreno Valley, JW North, Riverside Poly, and Rubidoux, and it's a very competitive league. "Actually this season, I think it could be a four team race and we're going to be right in there," Seydel told us. "JW North didn't lose a game all year, and I've been hearing good things about Canyon Springs all summer;  Riverside Poly has a lot of very experienced players too and really anyone could take it this year."    About last year's not-so-stellar season, Seydel was candid: "We were in a rebuilding year, which is what's going to happen when you lose a player the caliber of Jimmy Miggins [who is now at LACC with head coach Mike Miller].  It was a rebuilding year, and with some of the new players we had last year, they gained some great experience, and I think that experience is going to be our best strength when it comes down to it this season."   Several of the Arlington players still remember what the winning was like.  In 1997-98, the team made it to the quarterfinals of the Southern Section D-IA playoffs, losing to Mater Dei.  They've won their share of Ivy League titles and this year could be a repeat if they get the right breaks, stay healthy,   and play together.

Seydel is looking at a pretty strong core of players, including some of the best young players in the region. Here's the tentative roster for the 1999-2000 season. (Note:  Coach Seydel gave us this roster from memory, and recognizing that the rosters are not yet set, there may be a few more additions to the bench before the season gets underway):  

Kurt Larsen 5'-10" Sr. PG
Damil Ware 6'-4" Sr. PF/SF
Logan Willman 6'-5" Jr. PF/C
Adam Aguirre 6'-2" Jr. SG/SF
Richard Glover 5'-10" Jr. SG/PG
Bakari Heru 5'-10" Jr. PG/SG
Calvin Tang 5'-6" Sr. PG
Chris Lerma 6'-0" Sr. SG/SF
Isaac Holguin 5'-7" So. PG
Chad Carter 6'-8" So. PF/C

As we said above, there will undoubtedly be other players among the final roster when it's released but these are the key players who came to mind during our brief discussion tonight with coach Seydel.  But it's a pretty impressive core group still.

The key to the team will be the health and well-being of several players including Chad Carter, the powerful post and face-up forward who started last season as a freshman.  Carter didn't play much this summer after having a great spring season playing for Bob Gottlieb's BWBA and catching a lot of attention from the college coaches.  He's really tough inside and has great footwork and control for such a young player.  Looking at him at the Pump's Spring Touranment, we were reminded of a young Carlos Boozer, but with more of an inside presence than Boozer had at the same age.  Carter recently had the cyst on his knee removed which prevented him from playing this past summer, and we were told by Seydel that he just had the surgery pretty recently.  "He's just been cleared to return last Tuesday, and he's really in need of getting in shape," said Seydel.  "Chad played last year at about 205 lbs;  right now he's about 245 lbs, and with that much inactivity, it's bound to affect your game. But we think we'll be able to get him into shape in time for the season.  We really need him to be healthy though, so we're going to take it slowly."

Carter is one of those guys who can play inside or outside, but his real talent is rebounding and he can be a monster on the boards. A very good defender, he'll be the key to this season, in large part.  In Chad's absence this past summer, Logan Willman got perhaps more playing time than he would have seen with Chad healthy, but it gave him some valuable experience.  Willman runs the floor very well, and he's an excellent defender who will be a valuable role player when Carter returns to full strength and he'll be very important during the preseason as well.  Also inside, look for Damil Ware, a forward who likes to play outside on the wing but who, at 215 lbs also has the strength and toughness to go inside.  "With his size and weight, we like to use him inside, but he's a very versatile player and can really do it all," Seydel told us.  Ware is indeed one of the better veterans on this team and he's been noted by us at SoCalHoops as one of the better players in his class, as well as by others including Recruiting USA and PacWestHoops.

In the backcourt, Arlington has a number of great options within this core group of players:  Kurt Larsen is the likely starter at the point. A four year varsity starter, he's got great experience and leadership potential and ability.   He's an excellent three point shooter, who is probably more of a pass-first type of point, who averaged about 4 apg last season, and 13 ppg. "When he was working the backcourt with Jimmy Miggins, Kurt didn't have to score that much, and in fact didn't get the opportunity to score a lot.  Last year we really asked him to step up the scoring, and maybe we asked for a little too much in that area.  This year, with Carter healthy and Damil Ware and some of our other shooters, there should be a little less pressure on him in that regard."  Still, Kurt is an excellent penetrator who can finish inside or pull up for the medium range j, and he'll take the open three when the team needs it.  Joining Kurt in the backcourt will be Adam Aguirre, a versatile wing player who is comfortable at either the shooting guard or small forward spot. He's one of the smarter players on the team with a great feel for the game, according to Seydel. "He'll play anywhere we ask him to, whether it's at the point, or down low. He's just got a real good feel for the game, and is probably more comfortable with the ball than without it, and he's extremely flexible."

Arlington will have several other weapons in the backcourt.   Richard Glover started some at the point and off-guard last year and he's a solid defender. He probably needs to improve his shot a bit, but he knows how to get to the basket and is really more of a slashing guard who can penetrate most defenses.   Bakari Heru is a newcomer, who will probably see some time at the point and the two as well. He's really explosive, with a quick first step and he's an excellent shot. "There were some games this summer where before you knew it, Heru would score 15 points in the first half. He's a very dangerous guy with the ball," Seydel told us.    Calvin Tang could be the most dangerous weapon though at the point, and he's very quick, and we'd expect to see him coming in off the bench a lot when the team wants to go "quick" and jump on defense.  Calvin is a 3 year varsity player, who can really harass opponents and get after the ball. "When we want to go small and quick, I'll put Calvin at the one and switch Kurt to the two, and it's really amazing to watch Calvin turn on the speed," Seydel said.  Another option at the point is Isaac Holguin, who is "the point guard of the future," according to Seydel. "He's really quick, can shoot the three really well and is an excellent passer with a great sense for the court.  We're really looking at this year though for Isaac to get stronger, because he's the next generation of point at Arlington."  Finally, Chris Lerma is another experienced wing player who makes very few mistakes, and also brings an excellent outside shot to the party. "He's the kind of guy who you can throw at a zone and if he's on, he'll rarely miss," said Seydel.

Arlington has lost a couple of players that Seydel had been looking forward to having, including Deante Hall, a 6'-3" wing player who moved to the Central Valley, and Isaiah Main, another 6'-3" wing player who moved to Oakland in the last few days.  "But we still have a great group and I'm really looking forward to this year a lot more than last," said Seydel. "I think our biggest strength is our experience; we've been through the wars, and all summer, without Carter who was injured, and with Damil Ware on his club travel team, that gave a lot of other guys the opportunity to really play a lot, and they've learned from the experience. I think we'll be ready."

We didn't get a full schedule for the team, but we do know something about what the team will be doing in the pre-season.  According to Seydel, from November 30-December 3, they'll be playing in the Beaumont Tip Off Tournament.   That will be followed by Arlington's own Holiday Tournament from December 7-11, a 12 team event which will feature teams like Cajon, Riverside Poly, Ramona, Riverside Notre Dame, Norco, Indio, Rancho, La Sierra, and a few others.  Then they'll take a short break until the 18th, when the team flies to Hawaii for the Lahaina Luna Tournament, an annual event on Maui, which features several top teams from SoCal as well as several Hawaiian teams and others from up and down the West Coast.  Seydel didn't have all the details during our impromptu interview session, but he did recall that Pacifica, Fullerton, Maryknoll from up north, and Washington Newport had committed to play.   Following their return on Christmas Eve, the team gets started again with a couple more non-league games against Ramona, Hemet and Etiwanda, and then the regular season of Ivy League competition begins.

We were about to inquire about the season schedule during our telephone conversation, but Seydel told us he had to go pick up his daughter at dance rehearsal. "I get to do the dad thing, at least for the next two weeks. But then it's down to business.  Sorry, but I've got to run now," said Seydel.  But for a guy who splits his time teaching, being a father and coaching a team, we've got a lot of respect for a guy like Seydel, and admire his optimism.  Whether that optimism will hold out for an entire season is something that only time will tell.  But we have a feeling this year we'll be seeing a lot more of Arlington when it comes time for the Southern Section playoffs. 

 The Swish Award
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