2003-04 Far East Class A boys basketball preview
December 4, 2003
When two basketball players play together for four years, they seem to read each other’s eyes and predict each other’s moves.
That’s how it is for Osan American’s dynamic duo of A.J. Scott and Steve Davis. The seniors are two-time All-Far East selections in the Class A (small schools) Tournament, with Scott earning MVP in leading the Cougars to their first Far East title in February.
Davis and Scott will be the key for Osan again as it shoots for the first Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference title and another Class A crown.
“Nobody in this league can stop Steve,” Scott said days before the Cougars’ KAIAC opener at Seoul Foreign. “That’s how much confidence I have in him. And he has the same for me.”
David Leighninger, the team’s new coach, has plenty of returnees and a handful of new players. Stepping in at point guard is Van Hauter, a returning junior. And senior Eric Johnson, juniors Terry Stephens, Ellis Colton and Seth Wierenga and sophomores Kevin Finch and Brandon Holling also are more than capable, Leighninger said.
The return of assistant Dietrick Glover for his third season provides some needed continuity. “He does most of the talking and we’re so used to him,” Scott said. “There won’t be that many changes.”
Change is the operative word among the Cougars’ other challengers, especially for coaches:
¶ Taegu American welcomes Keith Ross, varsity coach at Nile C. Kinnick in Japan for two seasons, to the helm of a program he says is rebuilding. “It is tough coming into a new program and trying to get the players to buy into your system,” Ross said.
¶ Change remains a constant at E.J. King in Japan; the Cobras have their fourth head coach in four years, with Mark Rozic inheriting a team fueled by senior triad Andrew Stephens, Draonne Johnson and Mark Bote.
¶ Herb Kendall takes the head post at Matthew C. Perry in Japan, assisted by former All-Marine coach Eugene Clark.
¶ The lone returning Class A head coach is Pusan American’s Phillip Loyd. His Panthers field a core of four returning starters, all underclassmen, who might be primed for a title run.
Scott believes Osan will shift its focus slightly this season and put more emphasis on keeping opponents in check.
“Our style of play will be different. Our defense this year is going to be that key that keeps us on top,” he said.
Melding the core of returnees with the new additions will “take some time, to actually gel together as a team,” Scott said, “but I’m pretty sure that we’ll be that team on top.”
Osan American Cougars
Osan Air Base, South Korea
Coaches: David Leighninger, first season; assistant, Dietrick Glover, third season.
2002-03 season record: Overall, 26-14; Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference, 11-4, second place; defending Far East Class A (small schools) tournament champion.
Key returners: A.J. Scott, senior, guard-forward (All-Far East last two seasons); Steve Davis, senior, forward (All-Far East last two seasons); Van Hauter, junior, point guard; Eric Johnson, senior, guard-forward; Ellis Colton, junior, guard-forward; Seth Wierenga, junior, guard-forward; Kevin Finch, sophomore, guard-forward; Brandon Holling, sophomore, guard-forward.
Key newcomers: Josh Cho, senior; Terry Stephens, junior (transfer from Stratford Academy, Macon, Ga.); Darnell Durham, junior (transfer from Yokota, Japan); Carlos Albaladejo, freshman.
Outlook: With Scott and Davis in the lineup for a fourth straight season, the team shouldn’t lose a step despite the coaching change. Odds-on favorite for a repeat run.
Taegu American Warriors
Camp George, South Korea
Coach: Keith Ross, first season (transfer from Nile C. Kinnick, Japan).
2002-03 season record: Overall, 12-18; Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference, 5-10, tied for sixth place; fourth at Far East Class A tournament.
Key returners: Kenny Randle, sophomore, guard (All-Far East last season; transfers in December); Duri Balat, sophomore, guard; Donnie Jackson, senior, center; Rick Oberle, junior, forward.
Key newcomers: John Chung, senior; Kenny Harrison, freshman; Wendell Espy, sophomore.
Outlook: Ross becomes the Warriors’ third head coach in three seasons. He considers this a rebuilding time and hopes his team can play at least .500 ball during the season, then take at least third at Class A.
Pusan American Panthers
Camp Hialeah, South Korea
Coach: Phillip Loyd, second season.
2002-03 season record: Overall, 8-18; Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference, 4-8, tied for sixth place.
Key returners: Moses Joh, sophomore, point guard; James Edwards, sophomore, small forward; Robert Smith, junior, shooting guard; David Ludwig, junior, small forward.
Outlook: Despite small numbers at Pusan American, the Panthers claim their most experienced team in years. Depth may be an issue, but Loyd feels his team can be a force at the small-school level, perhaps even a threat to win its first Class A title since 1983.
E.J. King Cobras
Sasebo Naval Base, Japan
Coach: Mark Rozic, first season.
2002-03 season record: Overall, 29-15; Japan Basketball League, 4-8, fourth place; third at Far East Class A tournament.
Key returners: Draonne Johnson, senior, shooting guard; Mark Bote, senior, point guard; Andrew Stevens, senior, small forward.
Key newcomers: Chris Years, senior; Marcus Johnson, sophomore; Cliff Marshall, sophomore; Jasper Diaz, sophomore; Carlos Solorzano, senior.
Outlook: Short on size but long on speed, quickness and outside shooting. Rozic is the fourth coach in four seasons. Bote is solid at point and on defense; Stevens and Draonne Johnson can light it up from outside. A contender.
Matthew C. Perry Samurai
Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan
Coaches: Head, Herb Kendall, first season; assistant, Eugene Clark, fourth season.
2002-03 season record: Overall, 19-14; Japan Basketball League, 4-9, fifth place; defending Far East Class A tournament runner-up.
Key returners: Govin Ifurung, junior, guard; Nathaniel Albia, junior, forward.
Key newcomer: Ephrem Hardin, junior, center.
Outlook: Rebuilding time. Young, inexperienced lot faces a long climb to contender status but Ifurung and Albia will lead. They’ll learn quickly under Clark, a former All-Marine coach.