MHS hoops have high hopes for 2007

Ryan Walczuk, last season's Frontier League co-MVP, returns for his senior season. Photos by Sam Rubinroit

The varsity team has a new coach, and looks to defend its Frontier League title. The junior varsity and freshman/sophomore squads look promising in preseason.

By Sam Rubinroit / Special to The Malibu Times

With their season openers just around the corner, the Malibu High School boys basketball teams are preparing hard under the guidance of new varsity head coach Jack Pollon and junior varsity coach Patrick Miller. The Sharks are looking to repeat and exceed last year’s glory, when under head coach Carlos Gray the team won the Frontier League championship and made it to the second round of the playoffs.

Coach Pollon is ready and eager to step up to the challenge. His last coaching job was at Taft High School, and before that as head coach at both Stoneridge Prep and Valley Torah, the latter being one of Malibu’s opponents this year. Pollon’s hiring marks Malibu’s third coach in three years, each stepping down for different reasons. Gray left his position in order to focus more on his other job as head volleyball coach. “Volleyball’s his first thing, so he’s decided not to do basketball” Pollon said.

Pollon has big shoes to fill taking over for Gray. Last year, the Sharks clinched Malibu’s first basketball league championship with a record of 6-2 in league play, and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. The Sharks defeated Big Pine in the first round by a score of 60-30 but were overtaken by Thacher School, 46-38 in the second round.

“I’m really optimistic,” Pollon said. “I think we have a great chance to go to the championship game, and the finals. We’re in a league that we can do very well in, and the playoff division where we should be.”

The varsity squad looks strong this season, led by last year’s Frontier League co-MVP Ryan Walczuk, as well as seniors Chris Peck, James Hunter, Johnny Constanza, Brian Chapman, A.J. Dorn, and Ryan Jancula. The Sharks have only two juniors in the school’s basketball program, Seth Rubinroit and Derek Helm. While Rubinroit is playing down and leading the junior varsity team, Helm is the sole junior on the varsity squad.

With so many seniors, the varsity team is fortunate to have four talented sophomores who should keep the program running successfully in the years to come. Ben Rotman and Ben Apstein both played for the junior varsity team led by coach Andy Meyer last season during their freshman year, and look forward to the opportunity to play for Pollon.

“He’s a good coach, and he has high expectations for the team,” Rotman said.

The two other Sharks sophomores are Chandler Abbott and Shya Mousavipour, who both played varsity last year under Gray.

This season, the Sharks are taking on a new approach. Pollon takes pride in that “I play an up-tempo game, pressuring and trapping all over the court. I like to see things happen, with all-out, hard play, all the time.”

The junior varsity team is coming in with high spirits as well. Coach Miller has set a goal of holding every opposing team to no more than 35 points per game, no matter what. “You can win a game scoring only one point,” he said. “One to nothing is still a win.”

The program also has a freshman/sophomore team, lead by Coach Pine. This team hopes to improve on last season, which consisted of only one win against Mary Star in overtime. This year’s team, led by sophomores James Ayala and Eli Lapidus, are eager to revenge last year’s disappointing season.

The preseason has seen the Sharks take on Buckley School in a scrimmage at Malibu. Although no scores were recorded, all three Malibu teams look promising. Malibu continues the preseason action with their first away game at Cate School on Dec. 5, where both the junior varsity and varsity will match up. The freshman/sophomore team hopes to continue on the right foot as well, taking on New Community away on Dec. 11.

Sam Rubinroit is a member of Malibu High School’s junior varsity basketball team.