Trinity League basketball media day was held Thursday at St. John Bosco, and the tallest player making an appearance was 6-foot-11 Sebastian Rancik of JSerra.
He's 17 and still growing. He showed up as a freshman from Slovakia standing 6-6. He's developed into one of the best players in Southern California as a senior, with coach Keith Wilkinson insisting Rancik is capable of "getting 20 points and 20 rebounds every night."
Committed to Colorado, Rancik came on strong last season after recovering from a concussion. Wilkinson wants him to dominate as an offensive and defensive rebounder.
JSerra also returns talented three-point shooter Aidan Fowler.
Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, the Monarchs' head coach since the 1982-83 season, showed up with a gray beard and let everyone know he's excited and has no intention of retiring any time soon. Mater Dei won the Division 1 title last season with a young team that's tall, talented and has lots of depth.
"I'm still having lots of fun coaching," he said.
Mater Dei will be traveling to the Bahamas and then Florida for tournament games. Brandon Benjamin, a transfer from Anaheim Canyon, will be eligible on Dec. 24. Sophomore Brannon Martinsen (6-8), junior Blake Davidson (6-9), junior Owen Verna (6-3) and senior Scotty Belnap (6-6) are the players to watch.
McKnight said the coaching talent in the Trinity League helps challenge him. "There's no soft spots," he said. "People have stepped up their game and we have to step up ours."
St. John Bosco, which came within a last-second dunk of knocking off Corona Centennial in the Southern Section Open Division championship game, has moved forward and looks ready to contend for section and state championships with the return of standouts Elzie Harrington, Kade Bonam, Brandon McCoy and Jack Turner.
Harrington said it took time to get over the Centennial loss.
"I still think of that to this day," he said.
He's using the experience as "fuel" to get another chance.
St. John Bosco and Mater Dei will be playing one league game at Crypto.com Arena as part of a one-day showcase involving Catholic schools on Jan. 6. Also, Mater Dei is hosting the Nike Extravaganza on Jan. 26.
Orange Lutheran has added former Fairfax and Mission Viejo guard Jaden Hubbard.
Servite didn't win a league game last season, but second-year coach Tony Davis believes his team is making progress and has two sophomores with promise in Joaquin Rigdon and Jake Schutt, both of whom also play volleyball.
Santa Margarita has size and talent and features 6-6 Cameron McNamee, who has a 4.6 grade-point average and is committed to Dartmouth.
"We like our group," coach Justin Bell said.
Coaches had different opinions on the new rule this season that will do away with one-and-ones at the free-throw line. Players will shoot two free throws for common fouls when in the “bonus.” Teams will reach the bonus when their opponent commits five fouls in each quarter and team fouls will reset at the end of each quarter.
St. John Bosco coach Matt Dunn said his philosophy of playing aggressive defense should help his team in the second and fourth quarters with additional fouls allowed. But will getting two free throws instead of a one-and-one opportunity prevent teams from making comebacks?
"It's going to be interesting," Orange Lutheran coach Daniel Dunbar said. "It's something we have to get used to. This year getting two free throws will calm some of the high school player's nerves."
Added Servite's Davis: "This year will be a learning situation for everyone. You're going to see coaches playing with different ideas, fouling or not fouling. I'm excited to see how if affects coaching. "
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.