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SoCal High School & Prep Preview

High School Mini-Preview: O.C. Century League
Villa Park High--(November 27, 1997)

First a little history: Villa Park was last year's Century League Champions and featured 7'-1" Eric Chenowith, who has since left for Kansas. Last season, Chenowith was the leading rebounder in all of Orange County, and was seventh in scoring. The battle of the titans was between Chenowith and Chris Burgess of Woodbridge, who is now playing (and starting) for coach K at Duke, and who was instrumental in the Blue Demons win in the Maui Invitational over the defending national champion Arizona Wildcats. Chenowith scored 23 points and had 16 rebounds, both of which were game highs, against Chris Burgess and Woodbridge in the CIF Southern Section Division II-AA championship game, played in the McDonald's All-American Game, and was selected to play on the U.S. Junior Select team that competed in the Nike Hoop Summit game on April 19 in Florida. According to Coach Kevin Reynolds, Chenowith was the kind of player he was because of the way he approached the game. "Eric improved so much, not only month by month but week by week, because he works so hard at it," Reynolds said. Last season Villa Park was 24-6 overall, and 10-0 in Century League play during the 1996-97 season.

Now to the Present: The varsity is coached by Kevin Reynolds, who is now in his third year as head varsity coach. He's amassed a very credible 50-11 record. Some say that he was lucky to get Chenowith; others say it's the other way around. Consider this: Villa Park was 3-17 in Century League games in Eric Chenowith's freshman and sophomore years, before Reynolds coached at Villa Park. After the arrival of Coach Kevin Reynolds, combining his coaching talents and Chenowith's rapid and growing maturity during his junior and senior years, Villa Park went 19-1 in the league. So is it the coaching? Or was it simply that Chenowith would have been that good even without Reynolds? We'll probably never know, but Reynolds has developed the widespread reputation as a "big man's coach," and it's looking like it's justified, since he's still got lots of "big men" to coach this year. Even though Chenowith is now gone, he still has some terrific height to work with.

A partial roster includes:

Alan Verzani (6'-9" Sr. F)
Danny Horan (6'-9" Jr. C)
Erik Halbasch (6'-6' Sr. F)
Alex Will (6'-0" Sr. G)
Chris Hillman (6'-0" Sr. PG)

Not bad. Actually very good. Verzani should be a candiated for All-League this year, and he's working on good post moves, and has a nice touch around the basket. Expect him to be a major prospect by the end of the year. Horan will have a year to work on his footwork and to become an all leaguer himself. Halbasch can cut to the hole, rebound, and has nice range. Will can go both inside and outside, plays good defense and Hillman has the added advantage of being bigger than most of the other points in the league; he's a fine passer and can break down a defense off the dribble, and has a nice cross-over. There will be a bunch of other guys coming up from JV, and we'll be doing a more in-depth report on this team as the season progresses.

So, three really big guys in the front court, and one returning 6'-9" senior forward from a Southern Section Division II-AA finalist. A couple of good guards. Maybe Villa's got the horses to challenge for another League Title. Look for Villa to be a strong contender this year, and to overpower some of the small, less talented schools in the league.

The Swish Award

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