Delange and Kakonde were expected to be key members of Valencia’s team last year, too, but the problem was neither could put the ball in the basket, as they averaged a combined 5.4 points and 7 rebounds while splitting time. This year, they will share the court at the same time. Co-head coach Greg Hayes is confident his twin towers have improved. “You’ve got to remember that Donjay just turned 16, so he’s a very young senior, and I think Kevin has made a lot of strides to close the gap this season,” Hayes said. Goetz, a returning first-team all-league selection who has committed to a UCLA volleyball scholarship, should be Valencia’s top player. He averaged 12.6 points (51 pct.) – with a best of 25 points vs. Canyon – and 6.9 rebounds, and shot 75 percent from the line. “Teddy just does so many things well,” Hayes said. Valencia also has one of the league’s most experienced point guards in three-year veteran Erick Sevilla, so the Vikings, who open against Newbury Park on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Camarillo High, figure to be among the league favorites. Like Delange and Kakonde, Sevilla is expected to be more productive after averaging just 2.6 points on 33.8 percent shooting, while shooting just 58 percent from the line. He also averaged 3.0 assists. Returning guard Chet Wyche, who played well in the scrimmage, is another to watch. Shane Vereen, a junior who is among California’s top football players, has joined the team but won’t be available until after the football playoffs. Valencia looked sharp during an opening scrimmage last week against high-powered Harvard-Westlake of Studio City. The key issue eventually will be how well Valencia performs during the final stretch because the Vikings usually finish among the league’s top two but have never advanced past the section quarterfinals – including a second-round exit last season after winning 10 of its last 11 regular-season games. Canyon (12-15), led by returning leading scorer Kris Rincon, could be the league’s most improved team. Rincon, a 6-6 fluid shooter who’s effective inside and out, averaged 14 points and 3.2 rebounds last season to earn first-team all-league honors. Luke Guidroz, one of the league’s top guards, is also back after averaging 10.1 points (13.8 over the final four games) with 35 3-pointers. Lucas Gould, who missed most of last season because of an injury, returns, along with sophomore Mark Lewis, a 5-10 guard who last season was Canyon’s first ninth-grader to make varsity since legendary Greg Minor. Canyon also has an intriguing newcomer, senior Bryan Lewis, a 6-3 slam dunker whom coach Chad Phillips has tabbed a potential all-section candidate. “Overall, it should be a good year for the Cowboys,” Phillips said. Canyon opens at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday against Crescenta Valley in the first round of the Saugus Shootout tournament. Saugus (19-7) has been solid for the past few seasons but must rebuild after graduating every player on the roster except Zach Summers, a starting quarterback for the football team who has opted not to play basketball for his senior season. “We actually looked pretty good in a scrimmage against Royal last week, but we’re young and a very different team than we’ve been the last few years in terms of size and experience,” coach Jeff Hallman said. “We have no returners. To finish .500 is a worthy goal right now. The plan is to break them down, then build them back up again.” Among Saugus’ most impressive players is sophomore Mitch Weber, a scrappy 6-1 guard. “I’m real happy with Mitch Weber. I like the way he’s played in practice,” Hallman said. “We keep track of hustle points, and he leads every practice. He plays real hard and competitive, and he has some good skills. He’s a very well-rounded player for a sophomore.” Center Matt Terwall is just 6-3, so he figures to be at a height disadvantage just about every night. Kyle Folsom, a 6-foot forward, is expected to make a major contribution. Burbank (16-12) and Burroughs of Burbank (7-17) compete in the Foothill League for the last time before joining the Pacific League beginning next fall. Burbank won just two league matchups and was 2-9 over its final 11 games last year. Robert Linda, who is the quarterback of the football team, is among Burbank’s top returning players. He averaged 8.0 points last year. Burroughs is expected to be a .500 team at best. w=18.5AT A GLANCE FOOTHILL LEAGUE BOYS’ BASKETBALL HART Coach: Tom Kelly, sixth year Last year: 19-14 Key returnees: Josh Herman, G; Jeff Settle, G; Alex Strickland, F; Marcus Moloznik, F. Travis O’Neal, C. Key newcomers: Ricky Vittallo, F. VALENCIA Co-Coaches: Rocket Collins and Greg Hayes, fifth year Last year: 21-7 Key returnees: Teddy Goetz, F; Donjay Kakonde, F; Kevin Delange, C; Erick Sevilla, G. Key newcomers: Shane Vereen, G; John Otavka, G. CANYON Coach: Chad Phillips, sixth year Last year: 12-15 Key returnees: Kris Rincon, F; Luke Guidroz, G; Lucas Gould, G; Mark Lewis, G, Chase Whitmore, G. Key newcomer: Bryan Lewis, F; Ben Longshore, F. SAUGUS Coach: Jeff Hallman, 12th year Last year: 19-7 Key returnees: None Key newcomers: Mitch Weber, G; Matt Terwall, C; Kyle Folsom, F. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! After last year’s miraculous boys’ basketball season, during which Hart High climbed from the Foothill League cellar to the Southern Section Div. I-AA final and the school’s first-ever state tournament berth, can the Indians come through with another memorable performance? The season begins Tuesday, and one thing is for sure: It won’t be easy. Ryan Wolfe, a first-team all-section guard who almost single-handedly guided Hart through the playoffs, has graduated, along with a group of fellow experienced seniors. Most of the faces on this year’s team are new, but the good news is Hart has more camaraderie and togetherness than ever before. “Our team chemistry and attitude are a lot better. We’re further ahead than we were last year at this point,” coach Tom Kelly said. “I’m very happy with our overall effort so far, and we played pretty good defense during a three-way scrimmage with Simi Valley and Pacifica (of Oxnard) last week.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Among Hart’s key returnees is guard Josh Herman, who came on strong during the end of last season and should emerge as one of the team’s best shooters. After beginning the season at the end of the bench, Herman eventually found his groove and scored 14 points or more three times during the playoffs. Backcourt mate Jeff Settle is back after earning quite a bit of playing time on last year’s four-guard team, as is Alex Strickland, who was a key reserve. Returnee Nate Bichara played well during the scrimmage. Others to watch include sophomore Marcus Moloznik and seniors Cody Johnson and Ricky Vittallo. Johnson was a reserve last year, and Vittallo is a 6-4, 250-pounder who is a starting lineman for the football team. Travis O’Neal, a 6-foot-6 postman, gives Hart a presence in the middle, but like last season, the Indians figure to rely on a transition game and crisp execution – out of necessity because most of Hart’s most competitive opponents will be bigger and taller. “We’re small compared to Canyon, Burroughs and Valencia,” Kelly said. Height isn’t a problem for Valencia (21-7), which features one of the tallest frontcourts in league history with 6-11 Kevin Delange, 6-8 Donjay Kakonde and 6-6 Teddy Goetz.