Losing eight players to graduation is a significant number for most programs and could set it back.
That’s hardly ever the case for legendary La Cañada High School coach Tom Hofman, whose program opened the season ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2A poll despite having lost eight athletes.
The longtime coach is content with his team’s placement because he has the Rio Hondo League’s most valuable player returning, along with several experienced athletes whose roles will be expanded.
“This team can be very good if they keep working hard,” Hofman said. “If they work 32 minutes a game, they will be good. They have tremendous chemistry and a lot of talent. They have a great attitude too. We definitely can compete in our division if we keep improving and find better rhythm on offense.”
The group, which consists of nine seniors, four juniors and one sophomore, has won six of their first eight contests and averaged 60 points per game so far.
“I’m really happy with the way we’re playing,” Hofman said. “We still got ways to go. I think this group has played a lot of basketball together, and they really like each other. They’ve got good leadership and seem to enjoy playing together. It’s very unselfish. They are solid players willing to sacrifice for the win. It’s been fun for us coaches so far. Practices have gone well. You get that group once in a while where it just clicks.”
Graves is the Spartans’ biggest threat on offense and has become a solid defensive player. He is co-captain of the squad along with senior point guard
Jake George. “Ryan is our best returning player and has been solid so far,” Hofman said. “He is just a good basketball player who can do everything. He’s blocking shots for us, making good decisions and very unselfish.
“Jake is our leader. He is playing very well right now and he’s off to a good start. He has improved his game defensively and is a good passer. We just need to have him score a few more points. He hasn’t taken enough shots, if you ask me. He needs to be a little more aggressive.”
The whole team will have to be more aggressive to make up for the loss of Noah Ford, who broke his wrist and will be out for eight to 12 weeks. Hofman is looking for sophomore Ryan Grande and junior Kyle Brown to step up in Ford’s absence.
“Kyle should be a great offensive player,” Hofman said. “We’re all positive on him and he’s going to have a great year. He’s as good as anybody offensively, he just needs that spark.
“Ryan has come a long way from last year and improved as a defender and shooter. We just need him to get the ball to the basket and score inside. He’s going to be an outstanding player at La Cañada.”
Hofman sees similar potential in 6-foot, 6-inch forward Zach Feehan, who is stellar under the rim.
“He’s one of the best rebounders I’ve ever coached,” Hofman said. “He is inconsistent on offense but showing signs of getting better. If we could his scoring between 12 and 20 points a game, that would make us a very solid team.”
The Spartans have picked up victories over Glendale, Agoura, Granada Hills Kennedy, Simi Valley, Renaissance Academy of Altadena and Los Angeles Hollywood.
La Cañada is currently hosting a tournament through Friday.