Culver City Observer -

Culver Basketball Girls Face Rebuilding Year


January 7, 2016

Fred Altieri

Head Coach Julian Anderson demonstrates technique during practice

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

No one said it was going to be easy. The Culver City High girls basketball program has enjoyed unprecedented success, league titles and a CIF Division II Championship during the past four seasons.

However, this year's 2015-16 team has entered a different kind of world: the one called "rebuilding." Head coach Julian Anderson, blessed with a steady influx of talent, has fostered and elevated the program's winning ways since 2009-10.

Seven years later the team is back to square one, a very young squad with only two experienced starters, four girls who saw limited action last season and the remaining members with no previous varsity experience.

"The word "rebuilding" is a bittersweet word. We've taken so much time to build our program up to a certain level and then here we are starting from zero again. It's awkward because we only have two players returning that have real experience: Kailey Tooke and Kate Suyetsugu," began Anderson.

"We have two players back that have limited experience, Jazzmine Lacy and Alexis Arancibia. We have Huma Manjra and Hayley Yamamoto who are returning but only have half-season experience as ninth graders from last year."

The Centaurs began this season by sweeping five games in their opening season tournament co-hosted with St. Mary's Academy. Then things got tough. They lost two games in the St. Monica High tournament. And last week they lost three games in four days.

But Anderson along with assistant coach Mark Kitabayashi and scouting coach Tom Nakamura have seen improvement in the squad since the summer. They also realize it's going to take time and patience before the team realizes its potential.

Anderson: "There's been a huge improvement since the beginning of the school year. As a coach I have expectations. I can always see more. What I would like to see more than anything else from us is mental toughness.

"I would like to see things that are not in the stat book: mental toughness, physical toughness, learning, experiencing and becoming a part of the process."

Continuity is something Anderson does not take for granted. "For each of the last four years I've lost at least four to five seniors that already went through the process. They were good and they were ready.

"There were so many of them that the girls coming in were able to follow suit and have leaders and have something to hang on to. I had a group of six or seven seniors from last year graduate. Now I only have two girls left from our championship team.

"At the end of the day you have a bunch of young kids. Some are trying to establish their alpha side. They want to become the "king of the hill" but they don't know how. Unfortunately they don't have a mentor or leader to look up to and tell them: "This is the way we do it."

The Centaurs are also fighting an uphill battle due to their recent success in the CIF Playoffs. Like many high school playoff formats the CIF basketball tournament bracket is a logistical challenge. Culver's girls are currently designated as a Division I team even though they have historically played Division II and IIA schedules.

"We won CIF, we went to the championship game the year before that and we've been undefeated in the Ocean League for the past four years. We're given a certain amount of points for winning league," said Anderson

"If we do well in our section we get more points and if we do well into the playoffs we get extra points. So all these points accumulate over time. If you get so many you can get bumped up a division and even skip one. And that happened to us.

"You can't please everyone in the playoffs and the algorithms don't add up for all the schools that participate in CIF. But when you get a team like Culver who's won one championship in 35 years I don't know if it's the right thing to do by bumping us up so fast.

"I don't like it. We are a good, legit Division II team. Even this year I don't think we'd win Division II but would do fairly well. But to be in Division I..."

Yet, there are a number of upsides to this year's team: size, talent, and attitude. "We have a taller team than what we've had in the past. We could still use a 6'2", 6'3" girl in the middle but our average height is pretty good.

"What I like about my young team is that they're feisty. They're not easily persuaded. We can get to them but it's not easy. But you have to like that because they have some fight in them. We just want to be able to pull it in.

Fred Altieri

Team practice drills

"We have one particular lineup that is big and extremely athletic. We also have a solid point guard who will start playing with us in January. She's a junior and will help out with her experience.

"The problem again is the skill set is not even. But the potential is through the roof. It's a team of our dreams if they were all coming in with the same experience. Unfortunately the skill set is not there yet."

Anderson ended on a philosophical note: "It's like a light bulb that flickers. It flickers because it wants to come on but at the same time it just can't stay consistently on. Then one day it finds the power to stay on. When that light bulb stays on... that's when you're ready.

"That's where we are. We're a flickering light bulb right now."


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