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Felix Adamo / The Californian

Tehachapi has left the SSL, as have star players like Cory Lange, center, and Shafter's Tyler Gonzalez, left. But Kyle Millwee, right, is back for the Generals, who are the coaches' pick to win the league.

Yes, yes, I know the season has already started. But with basketball beginning before football ends, there's just no time to get to a hoops preview before the season actually starts. So here we are, two and a half weeks in, and we're getting the preview to you as soon as possible.

I'll do this league-by-league, starting with the South Sequoia League and then moving our way into the city, much like we do with football previews. Finally, I'll unveil a list of 15 players to watch in the city this year. Will I miss something? Yes, probably. This is a much more hasty venture than the football preview, which I take six weeks to complete. But hopefully this gives you the lowdown on hoops before all of the holiday tournaments are over, anyway.

I'll start with the SSL tonight and get through the other three leagues by the end of the week. Next week we'll do the same thing with girls basketball.


1. Shafter 35 (5)

2. Taft 28 (1)

3. Bakersfield Christian 25 (1)

4. Kennedy 18

5. Chavez 16

6. Wasco 14

7. Arvin 11

(Coaches were asked between Dec. 5-11 to rank their league but were not allowed to rank their own team. Tallying was done on a 4-3-2-1 basis.)

Notes: After a year in which stars dominated the SSL — Cory Lange at Tehachapi (which moved to the SEYL), Caleb Lopez at Taft, Tyler Harris at Bakersfield Christian — this is more of a get-to-know-you year. Kennedy and Chavez are new to the league, and Taft, BCHS, Kennedy and Wasco all have first-year coaches. ... Shafter’s selection as favorite might have more to do with Jon Wiebe’s status as dean of SSL coaches than anything else, though the Generals do return talented junior guard Kyle Millwee and senior forward Cyrus Parsons from a team that finished second to Tehachapi last season. ... Taft’s new coach is an old coach, Harold Heiter, who led the Wildcats to two league championships and an appearance in a section final in the 1980s. Heiter retired from coaching but has taught at Taft ever since. He’ll miss Lopez, but Steven Gee and Edtmer Medel will keep the Wildcats competitive. ... The new coach at BCHS is Brian Dignan, who has previously been an assistant with CSUB and the Bakersfield Jam. His top player likely will be Ryan Howes, who still is recovering from a broken collarbone but should be available by league season. ... The Delano schools might be new, but they won’t be pushovers. After going 3-51 in its first three years, Kennedy is off to a 5-3 start with wins over Bakersfield Christian and Fowler. Chavez returns its top two leading scorers, Jose Rabanal and Hector Silva. ... T.J. Yasenchuk is charged with taking over at Wasco for Mark Hutson a year after the section career wins leader retired. He’ll rely on small forward Marquez Harvey and some familiar faces from the Tigers’ championship football team, Isaiah Sharp and Terrance Grinner.

Quotable: “I think we’re getting more guys to play year-round and get some summer-ball exposure. Also, playing in the (East Yosemite League), a more athletic-oriented league, that’s going to give us more experience coming to the SSL. Now we’re at our level of competition.” — Kennedy coach Joey Velasquez