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SoCalHoops High School News

High School Team Preview:
Bakersfield HS--(Nov. 3, 1999)

"I've been at this a long time. I've seen a lot of teams and we should be pretty good this year. It will probably come down to us and Clovis West again, but there could be a couple of other really good teams from the area."   Mark Hutson, Bakersfield High Head Coach.

Bakersfield is a great area, especially if you like extreme heat in the summer, fog in the spring and fall, cotton farming, oil rigs, and lots of trucks. It's a town where people don't have time to mince words, and most are brutally honest about things they like and things they don't like. The schools have pretty elemental names:  East, South, North, and of course, "Bakersfield."   Even the nickname of the Bakersfield HS athletic teams tells you a lot about the area:  They're not called the "Drillers" for nothing. 

Bakersfield High plays in the in the Southeast Yosemite League of the Central Section of CIF,  against teams including Highland, Foothill, East, and South Bakersfield. As far as the California Interscholastic Federation is concerned, the Central Section really isn't "Central" but is instead a part of the SoCal region.  Which basically means that the teams from the Central Section participate in their own Section tournament in February and early March, and the winners of each of the five Divisions (I, II, III, IV and V) participate in the Southern Regionals of the California State Championship Tournament; the winner of the Southern Regionals earns the right to represent SoCal in the State CIF finals.

We spoke with Coach Hutson tonight by phone and when we told him we wanted to do a preview of the team, he said, "You should know we have our own website."  Great, we thought, this will save us a bunch of time, and in fact it did, since there was a lot of information we could avoid having to enter, but more importantly, it also saved Coach Hutson plenty of time in getting us the information.  So we got to focus more during our conversation on individual players, tournaments,  and his view of the upcoming season, rather than just spending a lot of time getting simple roster information.    Hutson is direct, plain spoken, and true to his Bakersfield heritage, he doesn't mince words.  He's beginning his 22nd year as the Driller varsity coach. He came to Bakersfield High after serving as an assistant at Bakersfield Jr. College. While there under Coach Ralph Krafve, Mark learned how to stress team play and hard work. During his five years as a BC assistant, the Renegades won three Metropolitan Conference titles and in 1978 won the California State Jr. College Championship. A Bakersfield local, Mark graduated from East Bakersfield High, Bakersfield College, and Cal State University Bakersfield. He earned his Masters degree from the University of La Verne.

During Hutson's 22 years, the Drillers have pretty consistently been among the top teams in the Central Section, with an overall record of 406-153. Hutson is currently the Central CIF Section's winningest coach, and the Drillers have won ten leagues titles in the past 21 years, have been to the Section finals eight times, and won three CIF Central Section titles   Not bad.

Coach Hutson is married (his wife Teresa is a teacher at a rival school but Mark says she's "the Drillers best fan, team mom, and my best supporter.")  Hutson's son is also a basketball coach, and he's currently in his second year as an assistant at Cal State University Bakersfield. Justin played for the Drillers in '87, '88, and '89, and after graduating from CSUB, he coached with his dad at Bakersfield HS for four years before accepting the CSUB position. Justin played on CSUB's two NCAA Division II National Championship teams in 1993 and 1994. Coach Mark Hutson also has a younger daughter (Lindsey) who is still in school.

Last year the team finished 25-4, and 8-0 in Southeast Yosemite League play. They finished first in league and 2nd overall in the Valley to Clovis West.  The final game was a bit remarkable:  In the previous game, Alfred Williams, Bakersfield's then-junior star point guard picked up two technical fouls, was ejected, and as a result wasn't permitted to play in the D-I finals, and not surprisingly, Bakersfield lost and Clovis West won.

This year, Hutson thinks Bakersfield is just as likely to see Clovis West again in the D-I final, but this time, some of the pressure will be taken off of Williams so that he'll be allowed to score more and not be the primary focus of other teams' defenses.  "Last year, Al was our primary point guard, and it put a lot of pressure on him to bring the ball up every time, which I think affected his scoring,"  Hutson told us.  "This season we've got a few more options, so we'll be able to get Al running up the sidelines on the break and hopefully get him to the basket more often, which should turn him into a much higher scorer."

Hutson told us that his roster for this season isn't complete yet, and there may be a few more players added, "But right now I'm pretty certain who the starters will be and they're going to come from the returning varsity players and a couple of guys moving up from JV," said Hutson.  Here's the roster:

Anthony Guerrero 5'9" Jr. G
Marcus Jennings 6'-5" Sr. SG/SF
Alfred Williams 6'-3" Sr. PG/SG
Charles Black 6'-1" Sr. SG
Mark Bruley 6'-2" Sr. SG
Jason Jackson 6'-5" Sr. C
Johnny Wiley 6'-5" Sr. F
Brandon Huggins 6'-0" Jr. G

Anthony Guerrero  a guard is probably going to play the two a lot. He's a football player, who will also handle the point some, but his primary skill is as a shooter.  "He's not really fancy with the ball, but just a good, solid player.  And he's got a great shot,"  Hutson told us.

Marcus Jennings has grown a couple of inches in the last year, and he's more of a swing player than a true guard, and at 6'-5" he can play either inside or outside.  He's a decent defender, but his real strength is his versatility and skill which allows him to play anywhere from the two to the five. "He's got a good enough shot to play outside, and is big enough and strong enough to also take some smaller players inside to take advantage of mismatches," Hutson said.

Alfred Williams is probably the best known of the players on this team, and in the last year, at least since the adidas Fresno Hoop Summit where he made his travel team "debut" of sorts for George Albanez' 805 Basketball squad, Alfred has been attracting quite a bit of attention. In a memorable semifinal game, 805 took host EBO and Deshawn Stevenson to the wire, and Alfred's defense and scoring against Stevenson in that semifinal game turned a lot of people on to Williams, even if 805 ultimately didn't win.  His reputation was becoming established, and he helped himself in other events during the summer, including the adidas Las Vegas Big Time, where 805 again fared well in one of the 32 team brackets;  Alfred also played for Miles Gonzales' Sports Express team (which was co-coached by Albanez) at the Nike Summer National Championships.  While the team didn't fare too well, Alfred again played a steady, solid game.

Asked about Alfred's recruiting, Hutson said, "Al will be a Prop. 48.  I don't think there's much doubt about that.  He is missing several necessary credits in math, and there isn't sufficient time to make up the classes this year.  He's been getting some attention from national programs, but I'm pretty certain from talking with him and assessing his recruiting that he'll probably wind up staying home in the Central Valley next year while he gets himself eligible. CSUSB is very interested, and Al seems interested as well, at least for one year,"  Hutson told us.  "You know, he can attend a D-II school like Cal State Bakersfield as a Prop. 48, pay his own way, spend a year there and get eligible, and still have four full years of eligibility to play. If he was a Prop. 48 at a D-I, he'd only have another three to play."  Hutson reasoned.  " The year will do him good, and may even improve his recruiting.  And besides, for Al, staying home won't be such a bad thing," Hutson said. "He's kind of a homebody anyway.  Al's 18 years old, and he's got a 2 year old daughter, and his girlfriend is attending school here and working, so being able to stay here with his family will be a good thing for him, at least that's what I think," Hutson said.

Charles Black is another of the returning varsity players, and Hutson's view, at least during the preseason, is to use Black as a situational defensive stopper. "He'll probably come in off the bench. He's real strength is his defense, and that's where he'll make his contribution." Mark Bruley, another guard, is also a returning varsity player, and he's probably the team's best defender. Bruley is an excellent jumper, very quick and with his thin, wiry build, he can get up and down the court quickly.  According to Hutson, he'll probably get recruited for football, and he's a wide receiver and defensive back as well for the Driller's gridiron team.

Up front, Jason Jackson, who's put on some weight and at 215 lbs (up from 205 lbs last year), he's the most solid big man on the team. He's a good inside scorer, a three-year varsity player who has spent the summer improving and working on his inside game. He's also the "floor general on the back line," according to Hutson. "He's one of the smartest players on the floor, and he'll be the guy who leads our defense down low. He's very strong, and we're going to look for him to be really productive around the basket," Hutson said.   Also up front is Johnny Wiley, another senior forward type who Hutson sees as a definite D-III or D-II prospect. "He's a kind of 'tweener', a mid-size guy who is probably not really big enough or skilled enough for D-I, but who is definitely capable of playing at the college level somewhere,"  Hutson said.  "Wiley is probably our best jumper, and he's an excellent shotblocker. He's also worked incredibly hard in the weight room and he could be the strongest player on the team.  We're going to count on him to score around the basket and to balance out his rebounding," Hutson said.  "Last year, Wiley would go out and get 14 rebounds, but 13 of them would be offensive boards.   We'd like to see him get as many on the other end too.  But he's a great scorer around the basket, so it's hard to complain," Hutson told us.

Finally, among the players who Hutson is positive will be with the varsity when the season opens is Brandon Huggins, who will probably wind up vying for a starting spot at the point.  "He's a sold point guard, and our best outside threat on the team," said Hutson. "He's an excellent defender who is very strong for his size, and the best thing is he's a great team player," Hutson remarked. "Hopefully he'll get the ball up the court and find Al so we can get him a lot more shots this year than last year."

Again, Hutson acknowledged that the roster would probably be deeper than the 8 names he gave us, but he also acknowledged that it's still early. "I haven't made up my mind yet on the rest of the guys.  There's a pretty good group, and right now I'd rather not say which ones will be on varsity and which won't.   We'll just have to see," Hutson said.

Asked about the season prospects for the team, Hutson said that the best team in town, is not in the same league as Bakersfield, so he may never see them except in one non-league game set for February 1.  "South High is probably the best in town this year, next to us.  They've got three really good players in Myree Bowden, Chris Jones, a lefty, and Johnny Lee, so they'll be tough," Hutson said. "In our league the real competition is East High and Foothill, but anything can happen."  Overall in the Central Section, Hutson told us he really believes Clovis West is probably the Drillers' biggest competition. "That game last year really could easily have been ours.  If Alfred plays, that's a 10 point swing at a minimum, and we win. We've played them the last two years in a row in the Section Finals, and I don't see why it will be any different this season." 

They'll get plenty of chances to show just how good Williams, and the rest of the team really are.  The team opens with three preseason tournaments, first the "Battle of Central California" which is the tournament held December 1-4 at Clovis West and Buchannan in Fresno.  Bakersfield will take on LA Palisades in the first game, and Hutson was interested in hearing about the team, including Steve McMaryion and Venice-transfer Steve Brown. "I just hope we get past them, because if we do, we'll get to play Oakland Fremont [the State Champs in D-I] and we're really looking forward to that."

Bakersfield will then play in the "Coke Classic" a local Bakersfield tournament from December 8-11, and then it's off to Vegas for the Reebok Holiday Prep Classic from December 18-22, where they'll play a team from Hitchcock HS in Texas at Green Valley on Saturday, December 18 at 1:20 p.m.. Of course the rest of the tournament is pool play and dependent on how well the team does in their pool. 

And unlike the Southern Section, evidently a tournament only counts as one game, so the 20 game limit imposed by the State CIF is a little more flexible in the Central Section.  So from December 27-30, Bakersfield will play in their fourth tournament of the pre-season, the Artesia "Best in the West" Tournament at Cal State Long Beach.

Here's a look at the full schedule for Bakersfield High's Drillers for 1999-2000:

Date Day Opponent Time
   Tournament Battle of Central California (Fresno)  
12/1-4 Wed-Sat Palisades @ Clovis West (west gym) 5:30pm
   Tournament Coke Classic (Bakersfield)  
12/8-11 Wed-Sat TBA TBA
    Tournament Reebok Holiday Prep Classic (Las Vegas)  
12/18-22 Sat-Wed Hitchcock (Texas) @Green Valley HS 1:20pm
    Tournament Best In The West   (Long Beach)  
12/27-30 Mon-Thurs TBA TBA
1/4 Tues @ Stockdale 6:30pm
1/7 Fri @ East 7:30pm
1/11 Tues Highland 6:30pm
1/14 Fri @ Foothill 7:30pm
 Single Game Martin Luther King Festival (Fresno)  
1/15 Sat Clovis High School @ Buchanan TBA
1/21 Fri Ridgeview 7:30pm
1/22 Sat @ North 6:30pm
1/25 Tues @ West 6:30pm
1/28 Fri East 7:30pm
2/1 Tues South 6:30pm
2/4 Fri Centennial 7:30pm
2/8 Tues @ Highland 6:30pm
2/11 Fri Foothill 7:30pm
2/18 Fri @ Ridgeview 7:30pm
  Central Section Play-offs  
2/22-3/2 Wed TBA TBA

 The Swish Award
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