SoCal Prep & High School Preview
Bell High School
Varsity-(October 31, 1997)
"We develop our players from within our own system."--Coach Randy Kim
Bell High School won the City 3A Championship last year, defeating a strong team from Franklin LA 60-57. This year's team won't be as physically talented, but it's still going to be extremely competitive in City Section 3A ball. Randy Kim is the basketball coach and this is his sixth season as a coach at Bell. He coached the JV's for three years, and this will be his third as the Varsity Head Coach. Kim played at Gardena High, and attended Cal State LA, where he majored in P.E. He says he got into coaching at the high school level after being "stuck" teaching at a junior high; when he found out about an opening for the frosh-soph coaching position, he quickly snapped it up.
Kim likes to develop players from within the JV and freshman teams. "Bell is not an open enrollment school, so we pretty much keep the same players each year until they graduate," Bell said. He compared his experience with other schools by referring to the "Eligibility Roster" form, which is really an administrative form which only coaches and administrators are privy to. The form has a lot of information on each school's "roster" players, and one of the columns indicates "school last attended". Kim remarked, "You'd be surprised at how many of the other school's students are transfers, sometimes more than half the roster; in contrast, probably 99% of our players stay at Bell their entire high school career."
This sense of continuity is what has allowed Bell to be successful year after year. Kim hopes that this year is no different, but he's also realist enough to know that his team this year is seriously vertically challenged, having graduated last year's LA City 3A Player of the year Sam Espinoza, who at 6'-6" was a dominant force both inside and outside. Bell will also be without the talents of 3 point star Javier Rodriguez, who also graduated. Nevertheless, the team does return 5 players from the championship varsity squad, and this will be the nucleus of the team.
Like most coaches at this time of the pre-season, Kim was quick to point out that the roster for the team is not set, that he's still evaluating players following tryouts, and that some of the names listed below might or might not change. So what follows is necessarily tentative, but it's a pretty good guess. The roster:
Probable Starters and Returning Varsity:
(5'-10" Sr. PG/G)
Abel Velarde (6'-3" Sr. F/C )
James Bavinck (6'-4" Jr. F)
Armand Valadez (5'-8" Jr. PG)
Ozzie Torres (5'-10" Sr. G)
(5'-10" Sr. G)
William Lopez (6'-0" Soph SG/F)
David Brainard (6'-1" Soph F)
Estevan Padilla (6'-0" Soph G/F)
Robert Robles (6'-1" Jr. F)
German Canales (5'-8" Soph G)
Ramon Ochoa (5'-10" Jr. G)
Assistant Coaches--David Shemwell, Alex Del Hiero
Kim was quick to point out that with so many smallish guards he'll be running a three guard rotation for most of the year, and he'll be trying to work off the press and transition rather than a straight half-court game. With the tallest player at 6'-4", Bell will need all the speed and smart play it can get, not to mention lots of good shooting from the perimeter. Surprisingly, he said that he anticipates that Velarde, not the biggest guy, is probably the best post player: He's got very good inside moves, good footwork, and averaged 11 ppg last season from the inside, and has steadily gotten better through the spring and summer leagues. The "general" of the team is really Mario, whom Kim described as a genuine "prospect" for college point, although this season because of the glut of guards, he'll probably see more time at the 2 spot than at the 1, with Valadez handling more of the point chores. Perez is probably a legitimate D-2 prospect at this stage, and with a little more work and some good scoring this season, might even develop the skills necessary to play at some smaller D-I schools. He's a good shooter, likes to hit it from the wing and the baseline, and makes good decisions on the court. While he may prefer to be a "pass first" type of player, he'll have to do well catching and shooting this season at the 2 spot.
Bavinck's forte is outside and wing shooting; he has a nice perimeter shot and has improved from last year. Torres has been on the varsity since the 10th grade, and last year he was a key role player; this year he'll be asked to step up and become a playmaker himself. He's pretty quick, likes to penetrate and can get to the basket, and unlike most smaller guard-types, likes to mix it up inside with the larger guys. Valadez is really a mystery to watch. He's incredibly lightweight (Kim says that he's probably only about 115 lbs.!) and so you've got to ask, what's he doing playing varsity basketball on a team coming off a City Championship. Kim was quick to answer: "He's quick, small, and a very tough kid." He makes good decisions, can play aggressive defense, and will handle most of the duties at point, so he won't really be asked to shoot a whole lot, but has shown that he can distribute the ball well.
Coach Kim thinks that the teams to watch this year in 3A Division are Fremont (which he thinks can probably take it all this year), Huntington Park, and South Gate (with 6'-4" F Ronald Johnson). Bell will compete in a number of pre-season tournaments this year, including the Eagle Rock Tournament, and the Pacific Shores Tournament. Look for Bell to do well this year; maybe not as well as last year, but certainly well-within the range of continuity that can be expected by returning five players from a championship squad.
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