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High School Preview: Channel League-
Santa Barbara High School--(December 1, 1997)

Santa Barbara High School plays in the Southern Section's Channel League which stretches from all over Ventura County to southern Santa Barbara County, and features competition from teams such as Buena, Dos Pueblos, Hueneme, Oxnard, Rio Mesa, and Ventura. The Varsity Head Coach is Jeff Lavender, and he is ably assisted by Mike Spears and Scott Garson (a former All-League Mission player from Harvard-Westlake, who is now a senior at UCSB). Coach Lavender believes that the 1998 Dons team are a very athletic and quick team, but also a very young one, with no proven varsity scorers, and only two players returning from last year. But Lavender also likes what he sees, and what this team lacks in varsity experience, it more than makes up for in size, speed, quickness and heart. Lavender likes to run a fast-paced, up-tempo game, and he believes this year he's got the personnel to do just that.

The roster:

Daniel Worzella (5'-8" Jr. PG)
Craig Christ (6'-0" Jr. F)
Johnny Ortiz (5'-10" Jr. G)
J.R. Allen (6'-7" Sr. C)
Sean Kelley (6'-7" Sr. C)
Tony Freeman (6'-4" Jr. SG/SF)
Tyler Burke (6'-0" Jr. SG)
Ryan Nagelmann (6'-2" Sr. F)
Bryce Maloney (6'-2" Sr. F)
Ben Shelton (6'-0" Jr. SG/SF)
Brent Williams (6'-1" So. SG)
Kenny Norwood (5'-6" So. PG)
Shawn Wilt (5'-6" So. PG)

Look for this team to be solid at the point, dependable at the shooting guard spot, strong at the forward position, and very tall at the center post position, with the versatility to run either a wing type offense with three guards, or a "twin-towers" full front line with a two-guard set. Either way, this team can fast-break, play solid defense, and has the ability to develop into a fine shooting team as well.

This team returns three starters in Worzella, Christ and Ortiz. Worzella was the starting point guard last year and he did a good job as a soph, averaging 6.1 ppg and 2.7 assists, and was named to the All-tourney team for the Santa Barbara Holiday Classic Tournament, Santa Barbara's home tournament over the Christmas break. He was also named All-Channel League Honorable Mention, and led the team last year in steals with 38, assists (72) and in three point shooting percentage. He's been working hard during the summer, so look for him to increase his point and assist production this season.

Christ was one of the most consistent performers for the Dons last year, averaging 6.2 ppg and 3.6 rebounds. He is a fundamentally sound player, who can both pass with accuracy (he was 3rd in assists last season) and can shoot from both inside and out (36% from three point range and 50.5% from the field). He is also a capable rebounder, and he will have to step up in the frontcourt on his point production. We expect though that with the addition of the "twin towers" in Jr. Allen and Sean Kelley, that Christ may play more in the wing position and be more of a pure shooting guard/small forward, increasing his threat from the perimeter, and making himself even more dangerous when he does cut and penetrate to the hole.

Ortiz led the Dons last season in scoring, and will be expected to do the same again this season, although he'll have a lot of help from returning player Tony Freeman, who spent last year at Rialto Eisenhower, but who has moved back to Santa Barbara this season. Ortiz averaged 6.8 ppg, and played remarkably well in the playoffs last year, hitting a 3 pointer at the buzzer in one game to send it into overtime. He also can put it up from the line, and led the team last year in free throw percentage (71.7%), and also shot 33.3% from three point range, and 43% from two point range. He's got a smooth shot, and has nice defensive quickness (he was second in steals to Worzella). Look for him to finish on the fast break and to be the pure shooter that SB needs to continue into the playoffs again.

At center, SB has two new players who are up from last year's jv squad, both 6'-7", each of which alone would make SB a contender, but together will cause other teams a lot of trouble: J.R. Allen, a senior and Seal Kelley, a junior. J.R. is very mobile for a big guy, and was one of the two or three fastest runners on the team in preseason conditioning. He improved his offensive game and footwork over the summer, and thus gives the Dons the ability to have a fast-breaking big man to help finish in the transition game, as well as being a leader in both offensive and defensive rebounding. J.R. has been prone to get into foul trouble, and he will need to take care not to get out of control in defensive situations. Kelley has good inside moves, and a nice soft touch around the basket, with the ability to play with his back to the hoop and drop step around an opponent for the reverse. Kelley also has a good enough move that he can step to the outside and shoot effectively from the perimeter.

Tony Freeman, a 6'-4" shooting guard/small forward, has also returned this year to SBHS after spending last season with Eisenhower in Rialto playing for coach Steve Johnson, on the team that went to the CIF Final Four last year, and the same team, which played as a unit at the Fall Slam-n-Jam and defeated defending (and potential) State Champion Dominguez. Tony is a major acquisition for SB, and this past summer he played for an AAU team called "Central Cal Sports Express", coached by George Albanez. Tony is a thin, agile and very quick player with great jumping ability, who plays excellent defense. Last season for Ike, he averaged 8.6 ppg and 6.4 boards, 3 steal and 5 assists. There's little doubt that he will start for Lavender this season, and with his defense, speed and ability to push the ball and shoot, he will become one of the major components of this team. Tyler Burke is also a "pure shooter" type who has great range and varsity experience. He can put it up from three-point range effectively, and can also penetrate, but he's really a much better outside shooter. He will need to work on his defense, but will see significant playing time, particularly if other teams try to run a zone against the Dons.

Other players up from the JV team who are expected to have an impact this year will be Ryan Nagelmann, a 6'-2" forward, Bryce Maloney, another 6'-2" forward and 6'-0" SG/SF Ben Shelton. Nagelmann has a nice inside game and is one of the physically strongest players on the team. Maloney was one of the leading scorers off the bench for the JV, and is also a pretty good rebounder. Shelton is a versatile player, with sound fundamentals, who can play at virtually any position on the floor (except center), and he will give Lavender another dimension off the bench.

A few other players will be moving up from the Sophomore team, including 6'-1" shooting guard Brent Williams, point guard Kenny Norwood and point Shawn Wilt. Williams will be expected to be the first off the bench at the two spot, and he started at that position during most of the summer in league play, where he improved his defense; he will need to work on being a bit more aggressive at the varsity level, but considering he's got a few more years to mature, he could end up being a top prospect by the time he's a senior. Wilt and Norwood are both very promising point guards who have all the fundamental skills, but who need the experience at the varsity level, which could be a problem on this team which is really loaded at all the positions, especially the point.

Santa Barbara is playing in the Simi Tournament this week (December 1-6, 1997) and will also play December 8-13 at the Huntington Beach Tournament of Champions and December 26-30 as the host school at the Santa Barbara Holiday Classic at SBHS. We'll hopefully have some additional information on these two tournaments in the next few days.

Look for Santa Barbara to be a very strong, young and fast team in Channel League play. Whether they are good enough to challenge for the league title is really anyone's guess at this point. We think they'll do very well this year and will surprise a lot of people with their level of play.

The Swish Award

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