SoCal Prep & High School Preview
Ayala High School &
Coach Gregory--(November 6, 1997)
"I'm a Coach Wooden disciple--discipline, up-tempo, fundamental basketball."--Tom Gregory
Ayala High school is located in Chino Hills. The Head Varsity Coach for the last 8 years has been Tom Gregory. If you're a UCLA Basketball fan, or a University of Nebraska history buff, the name may sound familiar to you. That's because Gregory was for several years the director of the John Wooden Basketball Camps held every summer at UCLA, and he also was a 3 year starting point guard for the University of Nebraska. He's also been the director of Jerry West's basketball camps and a director of Jim Harrick's basketball camps. Prior to coming to Ayala, Gregory was the head coach at Savanna High School (CIF Orange League) in Anaheim where he was the head coach for 11 years. He's a product of SoCal, and he played his high school basketball at Troy, where he was the starting point guard.
It's easy to tell that he was a point guard. He is very direct, quick, and likes to get to the point of things with a minimum of idle chit-chat; he's results oriented, a hands-on type of coach, who understands the game not just from a coaching perspective, but from a playing perspective. His philosophy is to "take care of the ball and play a disciplined game."
This year he'll have a pretty good squad. While he believes they may initially be a bit thin at the guard depth chart (they lost four potential sophomores, all of whom had great potential, who moved during the summer to different schools), the talent they do have at Ayala makes him believe that they could go pretty deep into the playoffs, given the talent level of the returning lettermen and a few football players who will join the team in December after those playoffs end.
(6'-7" Jr. F)
Shane Unrein (6'-5" Sr. F)
Roman Dolven (6'-7" Sr. C)
A.T. Simmons (6'-1" Sr. PG)
Jay Espinoza (6'-0" Sr. SG)
Chasen Jones (5'-11" Soph PG)
Ekene Agwuene (6'-3" Soph F)
Daniel Sherman (6'-6" Jr. F)
Dave Winans (6'-2" Sr. F)
Some others may make the squad this year; tryouts aren't over yet, and it's possible some may move up from JV.
Ayala competes in the Sierra League, with Baldwin Park, Diamond Bar, Nogales, Rowland, and West Covina. Last year four of the teams in the league made it to the playoffs and went pretty deep. The team competes at the Div.1AA level, and whether they have the talent and depth to go against a team like Crenshaw (if they get that far) is something that Gregory wouldn't speculate about. He believes they'll do well in league play; beyond that he's not talking.
The team is very talented, and will be well-suited to an up-tempo style of play. Both May and Unrein are returning varsity lettermen, and both were All-League last year. May is a slashing kind of player, very physical, who likes to get inside and rebound, plays very good defense, and who also has a very good outside shot too. "He can also play some guard", says Gregory, so he will give them some versatility as well at the swing position. May has attracted some attention from smaller D-I schools like Santa Clara, and he should be a solid prospect.
Unrein hasn't gotten as much notice as May from the recruiters, and that's too bad, because he's a very good outside shooter, a tough rebounder who loves to spot up, and is an athletic player. He's still growing some, and has the potential to be a good small D-I or D-II shooting guard. Gregory is looking to both May and Unrein this year for leadership and to step up their games a notch.
Roman Dolven, at 6'-7" also gives some additional size inside. He's got great potential to develop into a top prospect; Gregory described him as having one of the best vertical leaps in the history of the school. Dolven's big problem will be staying healthy this season, and he's had a few problems with his back. He's already getting some attention from D-I schools, and he might just join Scott Long (6'-5" Sr SG/SF Chaminade Prep) at the Naval Academy.
A.T. Simmons will carry the point at the beginning of the season, and will receive some relief there after football season from Chasen Jones. Simmons is athletic, and plays great defense, but he'll have to improve his handle a bit and make better passing decisions this year. Jones is also very athletic, and could be the key down the stretch.
Espinoza will sub in at the shooting guard spot, and he also provides some outside threat and plays aggressive and tenacious defense with excellent footwork. He'll share responsibilities with Dave Winans who, at 6'-2" can also play swingman, and has excellent fundamentals.
Ekene is another football player who probably won't join the team until after the playoffs end in December, so his only real problem will be adjusting and staying injury free until then. He's another excellent defender, with sound fundamentals and a very nice j move out to about 18'.
Daniel Sherman might be the mystery player on this team. He didn't play last year, but at 6'-6", he'll provide some added depth inside regardless of his lack of experience. He's probably the most athletically pure player on the team, and at 16 years old, is now wearing a size 18 shoe. Gregory thinks he's not done growing, and hopefully he'll be able to get some needed minutes to develop his game.
Ayala's going to be playing in a few tournaments too. On December 19, 20, 22 and 23 they will host the Ayala Dogfight Tournament (see our separate listing for that), and they also appear in the Wooden Classic college basketball doubleheader, which this year will also feature a "Wooden Classic High School Invitational." Small wonder that Ayala got invited, but given the talent on this team, it's not just who you know, but how well you play and how well you're coached. In the case of Ayala, they'll have it all covered. Ayala will matchup against Glendora High (Casey Jacobsen, Chris Clark, Chad Clark, Dominic Degrassi, Earl Sanchez and Michael Ahmad) in the first game set for 5:30 at the Arrowhead Pond on Thursday night, December 4.
Despite what Gregory thinks about being thin at the guard spot, the team looks like it's got an excellent nucleus, and we look for them to give perennial challengers Nogales a tough time, and to be solid contenders for the league title, and a playoff berth. Gregory's got the talent, can clearly teach the fundamentals, and we think his guys will take care of the ball and do the rest. That's what a Wooden disciple's supposed to do.
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