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High School Preview: O.C. Seaview League--
Corona Del Mar--(November 29, 1997)

Corona del Mar is picked by many of the coaches in the area to finish well down in the Seaview League; personally, we think they're going to do a whole lot better than most people think, and will be the surprise of team of the season. But most are looking at their dismal record last year: 4-22 overall, and 0-10 in Seaview League play. Didn't win a single game, dead last in the league. They had a 14 game losing streak. To say the experience for the team and for 12th year coach Paul Orris was frustrating is to dramatically understate the obvious; it was pure hell, week after week, and this was a squad that simply got lucky in those four wins. It could very easily have been 0-26. Orris had a 166-119 won loss record at the beginning of last season. . . today it's only 170-141. Orris told the LA Times recently that Corona Del Mar will spend the first half of this season "relearning how to win". They'll have to "relearn" the winning feeling, because they sure can't remember it. But as Orris told the Times, "We do have size, depth and experience." Clearly he thinks they can win. "We have the best depth I've ever had," said Coach Paul Orris. And we think they do too.

And for good reason. They are a tall team to begin with. But add a large bonus, in the form of 6'-9" Alex Jekeli, a senior center foreign exchange student from Germany, and this team moves from being an "also-ran" to a true contender.

The roster includes:

Cameron Canover (5'-11" Sr. PG)
Ben Schaffer (6'-3" Sr. F)
Ryan Franke (6'-5" Sr. F)
Tim Thurman (6'-6" Sr. C)
Ryan Cooper (5'-11" Sr. PG)
Dennis Alshuler (6'-5" Jr. F)
Alex Jekeli (6'-9" Sr. C)
Nick Gabriel (6'-0" Sr. G)
Andrew Simon (5'-10" Sr. G)
Brett Hales (5'-11" Sr. G)
Seth Richardson (6'-4" Jr. F)
Geoff Hunt (6'-2" Jr. F)
Erik Halfacre (6'-0" Sr. G)
Brian Coombe (6'-2" Sr. F)

Jekeli was profiled earlier by SoCalHoops, but as long as we're on the subject again, here's the story. Jekeli is from Starnberg, Germany (near Munich). He's been in the U.S. since the summer, and was working out with his teammates in conditioning classes early this last semester, and was reportedly very impressive according to coach Orris. Orris reportedly said of him, "He can play and he's working hard.He not only has some basketball skills, but also some athletic ability. He runs the floor, can catch the ball and do something with it, jumps well and shoots pretty well from up to 15 feet. He's a little rough around the edges with some of his post moves, but he seems to pick things up relatively quickly." He was a virtual unknown, but won't be by the time the season opens. His teammates were watching him dunk the ball one day during a practice, oohing and ahhing over his ability to elevate. Orris stated that he couldn't remember the last time that a Sea King player had dunked the ball during the entire 11 seasons he's been with the school. Jekeli's father is reportedly 6-6, and the boy has already shot past him. Jekeli told a reporter for the Daily Pilot that "basketball was a factor" in his decision to come to the United States. Only time will tell if Jekeli will match the expectations that Orris and others at CdM have for him, and whether he'll find a spot at a D-I school here in the U.S. If he can play, it's hard to imagine that there wouldn't be a spot at some D-I school somewhere for him. Jekeli wants to play this season here to impress the college coaches, and we think he will . Jekeli thinks he's got a lot of work to do to play on the same level as American players, but told the Daily Pilot that " I feel like I'm catching up (with the other CdM varsity players)." He's improving his midrange shooting touch and will be an effective shot blocker.

Orris was intereviewed just this last week by the LA Times and told the paper, "We're definitely anxious to move on and forget about last season." Orris is eager to see the impact 6'-9" senior German foreign exchange student Alex Jekeli will have in the middle of the lineup once the games begin. "He's never played varsity basketball and he's never played the
physical style he's going to see this year," Orris said of Jekeli. "He's made a lot of progress, but he's still a
question mark."

Add Jekeli to a team which was already pretty tall to begin with, considering Frank and Alshuler's are both 6'-5" and that their original center Thurman is 6'-6", the addition of Jekeli gives Orris some great options he wouldn't otherwise have, including starting a huge front line, and the versatility to go either small or large across the board.

Of the huge frontline, Orris said "It gives us some tools." Combined with some experienced backcourt standouts, led by senior point guard Cam Conover, it should make for an interesting team. "He's one of the stronger point guards we've had here, and if you have a solid point guard in high school basketball, you're going to be in every game. He has the potential to play on the college level some place, " said Orris. The 5'-11" Conover is not fully recovered from a pulled groin, but was the leading returning scorer from last year's team, averaging 6.2 ppg as a junior. Also In the backcourt, point guards Ryan Cooper, also a 5'-11" senior is back on the varsity and will lend some experience at the floor general spot, in addition to good passing and fine shooting. And there's a whole boatload of other guards to call upon for good fast-breaking up-tempo play.

Ben Shaffer, a 6'-3" senior, will be a threat from the perimeter, Orris told the Times; he also said that competition for starting spots will result in a number of different starting lineups, at least early on. Franke was the leading scorer over the summer, while Thurman the biggest of the big men at 235 lbs, has improved his offensive skills, after averaging 4.7 per game last season. Senior Ryan Cooper ran the point all summer while Conover (who seems to be injured a lot) recovered from a broken hand (hope it didn't have anything to do with the groin injury. . .just kidding), while Alshuler brings experience and athleticism. "Alshuler is fun to watch and fun to coach," Orris told the Times. Seniors Nick Gabriel, Brian Coombe, Erik Halfacre, Andrew Simon and Brett Hales, provide backcourt depth, while junior Geoff Hunt will contribute up front.

We think CDM will make a run for the league title and could give everyone far more trouble than they would otherwise anticipate from a CDM team. This could be one of Orris' finest years, and we look for CDM to go into the playoffs and be a serious contender.

The Swish Award

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