Orange Empire Conference Preview

The Orange Empire Conference is one of the most competitive conferences throughout the state. In the 2019-2020 season six teams from the conference made the post season. Santiago Canyon, Fullerton, Saddleback, Irvine Valley, Riverside, and Cypress made post season appearances. Santiago Canyon and Riverside made a trip to the Elite Eight as the conference represented two of the four Southern California teams in Lemoore. This upcoming season, it will not be any different as the conference will have quality teams for the upcoming 2021-2022 season.

2021-2022 Signal The Light Basketball Orange Empire Conference Preview

Fullerton (22-6, 11-5): The Hornets will look to make a deep post season run after finishing tied for 3rd place in Orange Empire Conference action. Fullerton won 22 games picked up the 6th seed in the playoffs but suffered a 2nd round loss against San Diego to end their 2019-2020 season.

The Hornets will return two players off their 22 win season from the 2019-2020 season. “6-0” Daniel O’Neil and “6-7” sharpshooting Ronnie Stapp return to the Hornets for their sophomore seasons. Stapp will be a player that will stretch the floor for the Hornets. The big time shooter will be a player that stands out for Fullerton College this season. Fullerton will welcome in some transfers that will provide immediate impact for the upcoming season. “6-6” Gavin Ramirez a transfer from Carrol College will be a player to watch this season. “6-8” Tristan Williams (Saddleback Transfer), “6-9” Chaz Hutchison (Irvine Valley transfer), “5-11” Ryan Blackmon (Sacramento State transfer) and “6-3” left handed Collin Reed (Transfer Mt. SAC) will all be players that will provide depth and look to contribute this upcoming season. “6-0” Sean Newman (Culver City HS) will be a player to watch this upcoming season as the freshman point guard will be an elite guard in the state. “6-4” Javon Jones (Pasadena HS), “6-9” David Odinigwe (Riverside Prep), “6-2” Kobe Newton (Westview HS), and “6-2” RJ Banks (Bakersfield HS) will be four other freshmen that could provide depth for the Hornets. Fullerton comes into the new season as one of the elite teams in the state. We expect the Hornets to be in the mix for a conference championship in the Orange Empire Conference and have a chance to make a run at the state championship in the upcoming 2021-2022 season.

Santiago Canyon (28-2, 14-2): The Hawks will look to have another standout season after posting 28 wins. Santiago Canyon finished tied for the Orange Empire Conference championship after posting a 14-2 record. The Hawks picked up the top seed in the Southern California playoffs. Santiago Canyon posted wins against West Los Angeles, and Cerritos and were scheduled to face College of the Sequoias at the Elite Eight before the season abruptly ended due to Covid 19.

Santiago Canyon has been one of the elite programs in the state since arriving on the scene and after finishing atop the Orange Empire Conference in 2019-2020 the Hawks will look to have another stellar season. Santiago Canyon returns one player off their Elite Eight roster as “6-5” all conference selection David Agba is back for his sophomore season. Agba averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in his freshman season and will look to have another standout season. Two sophomore transfers will add experience to the team as “6-2” John Griffin (Rochester Institute of Technology) and “6-5” Preston Sims will be key contributors for the Hawks. “6-3” Aaroun Wadman (Centennial HS), “6-7” Harrison Wiese (Dana Hills HS), “5-11” Drew Yezbak (rean Lutheran HS), “6-4” Jaxon Williams (IMG Academy), “6-2” Erik Howlin (La Habra HS) and “6-7” Luke Guzman (Roosevelt HS) are all freshman that are expected to contribute and have a chance to make an impact for the Hawks. Santiago Canyon will be in the mix of things this upcoming season in the Orange Empire Conference. The Hawks can shoot the three ball and teams better be ready to guard it as well as Santiago Canyon will be a team that will be in the post season. We expect the Hawks to compete for another conference championship and have a deep post season run for the 2021-2022 season.

Saddleback (19-11, 11-5): Saddleback will look to have another competitive season in the top part of the Orange Empire Conference after winning 19 games. Saddleback posted 11 wins in conference and finished tied for 3rd place earning a post season bid. Saddleback picked up a first round win against Antelope Valley but lost in the 2nd round against East Los Angeles to end their 2019-2020 season.

Saddleback will not return a single player from their 2019-2020 team that made the post season. Coach Jeff Oliver will step on the sidelines for the first time after being hired in June of 2020. “6-4” Atiba Taylor will be a player to watch this season for Saddlback as the Wagner University transfer will provide solid play in the back court. The left hander will be an impact player this season. “6-7” Darnell Johnson is a transfer from CS San Bernardino and the athletic forward will look to contribute this season. “6-10” Gerald Jones (Brewster Academy), “6-1” Elijah Al-Debaron (Hesperia HS), “5-10” Nick Bowden (St. Bernard HS), “6-9” Pat Roberts (Christian HS), “5-10” Jimmy Reyes (AB Miller HS), and “6-6” Lavele Johnson (Riverside Poly HS) will look to contribute this season for Saddleback. With the season looming, Saddleback is one team that will be in the mix in the upper half of the conference and compete for a post season bid. Saddleback has size and some solid guard play and we expect them to have a solid 2021-2022 season.

Riverside (21-9, 14-2): The Tigers picked up 21 wins and had a great 2019-2020 season after finishing tied at the top of the Orange Empire Conference. Riverside went 14-2, earned the 5th seed in the Southern California playoffs. The Tigers picked up victories against Citrus, and Santa Monica and earned a trip to Elite Eight. Riverside was scheduled to face City College of San Francisco in Lemoore but Covid 19 ended the season.

The Tigers come into the new year as a team that is flying under the radar but has a chance to put together a solid season with a lot of wins. Riverside has five players that return from their 21 win team that made it to the Elite Eight. “6-3” Edwyn Collins averaged 10.4 points and 4.4 rebounds returns for his sophomore campaign. “6-2” Zekiah Lovett returns for his second season after averaging 10.2 points per contest. “6-1” Melvin Walker (9.9 points), “6-4” Amir Davis (6.4 points) and “6-3” Sammy Richardson (6.3 points) all return for the Tigers. “6-8” Robert Ayala will add size to the Tigers this upcoming season. “6-2” Kathan Crawford (Independence HS), “6-3” Julian Alvarez (Ontario Christian HS), “6-4” Lynden Paul (Westlake Prep) are three other freshman that will look contribute. Riverside will come into the new season as one of the teams that should contend for the conference championship after sharing the title in 2019-2020. The Tigers were one of the last eight teams standing and we expect Riverside to have another standout season and make a post season run for the upcoming 2021-2022 season.

Irvine Valley (17-13, 6-10): The Lasers picked up 17 wins in the 2019-2020 season. Irvine Valley finished tied for 6th place in the Orange Empire Conference and picked up a spot in the post season. The Lasers were seeded 20th in the playoffs and picked up a first round win over Chaffey before losing to Santa Monica in the 2nd round of the Southern California playoffs to end their 2019-2020 season.

Irvine Valley comes into the new season with four players returning from their 17 win season in 2019-2020. “6-2” JT Robinson, “6-2” Devin Owens, and “6-4” Aaron Strings will all return for their sophomore seasons. The Lasers return their starting back court as Owens averaged 6.6 points and Strings averaged 4.7 points as freshmen. Robinson averaged in double figures as the sophomore put out 11.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in his first season. “6-7” Colby Waite will provide solid depth in the front court after averaging 5.4 points and 4.3 rebounds as a freshman. Waite will also stretch the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball for Irvine Valley. “6-4” Luc Krystkowiak is a transfer from the University of Utah that is going to be an impact player for the Lasers. Irvine Valley has brought in a solid freshmen class for the upcoming season. “6-7” Charlie Henderson (Rancho Margarita HS) has a college ready game and will be productive in the upcoming season for the Lasers. “6-9” Garrett Andre (Villa Park HS) and sharp shooting “6-6” Corey Johnson (Fairmont Prep) will be two other freshmen that could contribute this season. “6-3” Mike Mahler (Tesoro HS) and “5-10” Brian Mendoza (Hillcrest HS) will be two back court players that could see action this upcoming season. Irvine Valley has a lot of solid pieces and will be a team to watch this upcoming season. We feel the Lasers are a playoff team and a dark horse that could make a move in the upper half of the conference for the upcoming 2021-2022 season.

Cypress (16-13, 7-9): The Chargers won 16 games and finished in 5th place in the Orange Empire Conference in the 2019-2020 season. Cypress had a solid campaign as the Chargers earned a 19th seed going into the post season. Cypress suffered a 1st round loss against San Bernardino to end their 2019-2020 campaign.

Cypress will be a team that will look to get into the post season after winning 16 games in 2019-2020. The Orange Empire Conference is loaded again and the Chargers return one player from their 5th place team from 2019-2020. “6-4” Cade Flowers is the lone returner for the Chargers and the sophomore is expected to play a bigger role after averaging 2.6 points in limited time as a freshman. “6-2” Nijel Jones and “5-10” Tommie Flanagan will bring depth to the back court to the Chargers. “6-5” Trent Goldman (Bishop Montgomery HS), “6-4” Felix Reeves (NELA Prep), “5-11” Grant Sii (LB Poly), and “6-2” sharp shooter Paul Head (Ocean View) will all look to contribute for the Chargers in the 2021-2022 season. Cypress will be a competitive in the conference and should be in the middle of the pack for the upcoming season. We expect the Chargers to have a season in which they are competitive and have a chance to finish in the upper half of the conference.

Santa Ana (11-17, 6-10): The Dons finished tied for 6th place after posting a 6-10 record in the Orange Empire Conference. After posting 11 wins, Santa Ana missed the post season and will look to have an improved upcoming season.

The Dons will look to have an improved 2021-2022 for the upcoming season. Santa Ana will not return a single player from their 2019-2020 team. The Dons have four sophomores for the upcoming year and they are all transfers that will look to provide sophomore leadership. “5-11” Brandon Green is coming in from Santiago Canyon where the point guard averaged 3.3 points per contest in the 2019-2020 season. “6-3” Jordan Williams is coming over from Lutheran College and will give the Dons some sophomore experience as well. “6-1” Ian Hietala (San Pedro HS), “6-4” Miles Sulka (Mountaine Point, AZ), “6-1” Zeke Bennett (Midlothian) will look to contribute this season as freshmen. Santa Ana will look to be a competitive team in the 2021-2022 season but we expect the Dons to finish in the lower half of the conference for the upcoming season.

Golden West (3-25, 1-15): The Rustlers come into the new season hoping to have a better season than 2019-2020. Golden West won 3 games and finished in last place in the Orange Empire Conference and missed the post season.

Golden West will return two players off their 2019-2020 squad that won three games. Leading the way will be “6-5” Eric Watson, as the sophomore averaged 14.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in his first season for the Rustlers. Watson will be counted on the provide scoring and rebounding for the 2nd year player. “6-0” Ricky Briseno will also return for his sophomore season after averaging 10.1 points per game. “5-11” Maliq Neurell is a transfer from Mt. San Antonio that will add depth to the back court as the sophomore posted 7.5 points per contest for the Mounteis. “5-9” Kameron Small is another sophomore that will provide experience after spending a year in the Santiago Canyon program. “6-5” James Holmes (John L. Chapin HS), “6-5” Jimmy Williams (Impact Prep) are two freshman that will look to contribute. Looking into the upcoming season, it will be an uphill battle for the Rustlers as not having a lot of size and depth could lead to a tough upcoming season. We expect Golden West to finish toward the bottom of the conference in the 2021-2022 season.

Orange Coast (5-23, 2-14): The Pirates will look to have a competitive upcoming season after winning 5 games in 2019-2020 season. Orange Coast won two games in conference and missed the post season.

The Pirates will return two players off a team that finished with two wins in conference action in 2019-2020. “6-5” Aumdrel Pua returns for his sophomore season after averaging 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in his freshman season. The left hander will add versatility to the inexperienced group for the upcoming season. “5-9” Colby Reese will provide sophomore experience after seeing limited time as a freshman. “5-8” JJ Chapple and “6-4” James Cai are two other sophomores listed on the roster. “6-4” Ty Baker (Impact Academy) will add shooting to the Pirates, “6-3” Trent Williams (Aliso Niguel HS), “6-5” Jayden Johnson (San Dimas HS), “5-9” Jydon Hall (Saint Louis School), and “6-7” Thomas Hanna (Bellflower HS) will all be freshmen looking to contribute in the upcoming season. Orange Coast will lack size and athleticism for the upcoming season. The Pirates will look to stay competitive but we expect Orange Coast to finish in the bottom half of the Orange Empire Conference standings for the upcoming 2021-2022 season.