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Local teams harbor hoop dreams

Flintridge Prep relishes repeat, while CV hopes to ascend to top of Pacific League

Renaissance ready for next run.

November 26, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

At this time of year, there's more questions than answers floating around the local boys' basketball scene.

Can Flintridge Prep, the most successful local program last season, duplicate its CIF championship run despite losing its biggest weapon? Is this the year Crescenta Valley, with one of its strongest teams in years, will finally topple Pacific League power Pasadena? Can Renaissance Academy make it back to a CIF title game for the first time since 2007 after mounting the most consistent deep playoff runs in the area over the last decade?

Fortunately, the wait won't be much longer to begin to see how it all falls into place, as the 2011-12 season is about to tip off.

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Flintridge Prep is coming off its finest season ever after beating Muir to win the CIF Southern Section Division V-AA title, but also comes back without the most dominant player in program lore, center Kenyatta Smith, who is now at Harvard University.

Still, a good number of the key players in last year's run are back, including three starters in guards Robert Cartwright, a sophomore, and senior Kory Hamane, as well as junior swingman Jedrick Eugenio.

"We're definitely going to miss Kenyatta because of everything he did," Prep Coach Garrett Ohara said of Smith, whose myriad senior honors included CIF Division V Player of the Year and All-Area Player of the Year. "But those three solid guards are back and stronger, bigger and with another year under their belts, so they're ready to go and we expect great leadership from them."

Replacing the other graduated starter, Jared Norsworthy, at power forward will be junior Chad Cosse and junior Kareem Ismail will assume duties in the middle.

"He's ready to step up as a junior and take an active role at the center position," Ohara said of the 6-foot-5 Ismail. "He's a little different player [than Smith]. He's got more of an outside, kind of a Euro big-man [game] where he can go inside, but can also shoot a decent outside shot."

Before the Rebels mount a defense of their CIF title, they will attempt to defend the Prep League crown, which they shared with Poly last year. The Panthers don't figure to be as formidable, however, having lost four starters, including Daniel Wohl and Hunter Merryman. Ohara predicts Chadwick to be tougher this season, as well as Rio Hondo Prep, which returns four starters.

"Anything can happen in [the Prep] League, but I think, on paper, we would still probably be the favorite," Ohara said.

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