BONITA BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Bearcats Face the Great Unknown

November 30, 2011
Share this story:
Coach Greg Eckler stands in front of the new Bonita under construction.

Coach Greg Eckler stands in front of the new Bonita under construction.

For once, Bonita is picked not to win the league championship. That honor goes to Rowland High School, which is led by its outstanding guards, Derrick Mar and Joseph Dionisio.

With Bonita coach Greg Eckler returning for his 10th season and coming off a 26-4 season, it would be foolish to ever dismiss the Bearcats from title consideration.

Locals will get their first glimpse of Bonita basketball tonight when the Bearcats tip off at 7 p.m. against San Dimas under the University of La Verne tents. Nobody is more anxious to see what kind of team Bonita has than Eckler.

“I know we’re inexperienced, but I will say we have a great group of kids,” Eckler said. “They are just the nicest group of kids. They are respectful and they work hard, so I have no complaints in that area.

“We work so hard — all the weight lifting, all the conditioning, now is the time for all that effort to pay off.”

Eckler’s biggest challenge will be in replacing the 40 points that departing guards James Northup, Jordan Butler and Scott Fassas averaged collectively. For that assignment, Eckler has tapped Brandon Ko and Matt Adamo. While both were on the varsity last year, Adamo faces perhaps the biggest challenge because he missed the entire summer slate of games recovering from a knee injury.

The front court will have a football mindset. Garrett Horine, who played receiver and safety for coach Eric Podley, will now play strong forward for Eckler. He is also the team’s only returning starter. Ryan Ramirez, Podley’s tight end, will be asked to play center for Eckler. Last year, Ramirez saw significant minutes, especially late in the season for Eckler. Jeff Nelson, promoted from the JVs, will take over the other forward position.

Although Eckler teaches history, he’s thinking more about chemistry going into tonight’s cross-town tilt. While he saw his team over the summer matched up well against powerhouses like Etiwanda, Rancho Cucamonga, Valencia and Temecula Valley, he’s not sure what his team’s strengths and weaknesses are heading into the opener.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know whether I can pick a strength,” Eckler conceded. “We’ve missed so many guys either with injury or with football, I’m kind of anxious and a little nervous because I don’t know what to expect.

“It’s just a matter of, are we going to be good enough, are we going to be tough enough?”

You won’t see Eckler waving any white flag, however. He’s put together winning seasons with even more question marks than he enters this season with.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said outside Bonita’s old gym. “I always look at it, as one game at a time. I think that we should win today. It’s a lot to live up to, but I put a lot of pressure on myself. I just hate losing.

“It’s nice that people don’t see us winning it, so maybe that takes a little pressure off, but like I said I put more pressure on myself than anybody else would anyway.”

Helping take a little of that pressure off is veteran coach Bruce Becker, who last year was an assistant on the Bonita girls’ varsity squad that played in the CIF championship.

For now, Eckler and Becker (sounds like a law firm) have just one goal for their players. “We want them to go out and compete for 32 minutes,” Eckler said.

And, if they do?

“When we focus and when we’re ready,” Eckler said, his eyes narrowing just a tad, “we can play with anybody?”

Leave a Reply