The basketball season is coming up on the Westside, and nowhere is it being welcomed more than at St. Monica.
That’s because the Mariners went 0-10 in football, so a change of seasons is being greeted with a high degree of enthusiasm.
St. Monica simply didn’t have the numbers to compete with opponents in football. It is a school with too few elite players coming from a small student body. But it’s different in basketball, where fewer talented players are required for success.
“Five or six players can be the nucleus of a winning team,” said St. Monica boys basketball coach Tony Depa. “In some cases one player.”
St. Monica has had considerable basketball success in the past. One player, guard Leon Wood, made it in the NBA and loves the game so much he has stayed in it as a referee.
Last season, which was Depa’s third as head coach, St. Monica went 11-14, finished fourth in the Camino Real League and barely missed out on the playoffs. A member of that team, John Khela, is now playing at University of Redlands.
“We had several league losses by three points or less,” said Depa. “Now we have eight juniors on the team, so we’ll be young. But I don’t regard this as a rebuilding year.”
The tallest St. Monica player is 6-foot-3, but that’s the way it is for most Camino Real League teams. The exception is La Salle of Pasadena, which has skilled players in the 6’8” range and is the runaway favorite to win the league. But Depa believes a playoff berth is within reach.
The CIF has decided that all members of a league should be in the same division. As a result, the Camino Real League is 4A.
Last season, different teams were in different divisions for the playoffs, which caused confusion.
“This is better,” said Depa, who played high school basketball in Louisiana and played at Kansas Wesleyan. “When I came out here it took me awhile to figure out how the system worked.”
LaSalle is new to the league and ranks among the favorites to win the division. But Depa thinks his team will be competitive with most other opponents.
Three players will be counted on for leadership. Guard Brice Hamaguchi is a three-year starter. Ryan Zelig plays the point and senior Brandon Miller is the center.
Depa says he talks to the players about keeping up the Mariners’ outstanding basketball history.
“I am very aware of the history here,” he said.
St. Monica will open November 29 against Whittier Christian in the Brethren Christian Tournament.