As families gather around the table for Thanksgiving this week, sports fans can give thanks for one more thing – the return of high school basketball.
Right after that food settles down and leftovers are slowly starting to empty the fridge, you can get into that holiday spirit by enjoying some tournaments to satisfy that final craving before the year is up.
Several start on Monday, December 1, but the best bets is the annual Westchester Tip-Off Classic at Westchester High School.
At Westchester, you'll get the first chance to see two of the City Section's best in the Comets and defending City champion Taft, along with defending Southern Section champion Dominguez who will look far different than anyone predicted before the season.
Starting with the Toreadors, they may have lost three starters from last year but they have a core of three seniors ready to lead in UNLV-bound guard Justin Hawkins, forward Terran Carter, who recently committed to Cal State Northridge, and guard Michael Williams, who'll be the best shooter in City.
There'll be a familiar name on the roster in freshman guard Landon Drew, the younger brother of three-time All-City guard Larry Drew, now at North Carolina. Landon impressed during the summer with his poise and scoring so don't be surprised to see him earning quality minutes during the year.
Also keep an eye on 6-foot-8 junior forward DeAndre Daniels, a transfer from Renaissance Academy who will help Carter down low, and 6-foot-5 junior Bryce Jones, who led View Park to their second consecutive City Small Schools title last year.
Moving on to Westchester, ranked No. 15 in USA Today's preseason Super 25, they have a strong backcourt in senior Dominique O'Connor and junior Jordin Mayes.
O'Connor is perhaps the best all-around point guard in the City – a good mix of scoring and distributing – while Mayes' all-around game is starting to get some national attention as one of the best in the class of 2010
After a solid sophomore season, more will be expected from junior forward Dwayne Polee and he'll benefit greatly from 6-foot-9 senior center Auri Allen taking up space in the middle.
The well-traveled Allen missed all of last season and after bouncing around three high schools, he'll be ready to make an impact in his final year after the City Section granted him an additional year of eligibility.
As for Dominguez, they'll look different than the team folks saw in the summer with longtime coach Russell Otis on administrative leave and top player Jordan Hamilton denied a fifth year of eligibility.
But lest you think the Dons are in trouble, think again. Interim head coach Duane Cooper, a former standout at Lakewood and USC, still has a roster of talented players including Thurman Woods, Myron Green and Robert Mandingo.
It may be rough in the early going but I'm taking the Dons as a sleeper team because even without Hamilton, they'll still contend for Southern Section title and look to prove teams wrong.
Also in the tournament, Los Angeles Windward opens against Morningside Dec. 2. I wonder if Michigan-bound guard Darius Morris talked some trash to his UCLA-bound teammate Anthony Stover regarding the Wolverines' upset win last week.
Keep an eye on: Justin Cobbs (Bishop Montgomery), D'Sean Anderson (Inglewood) and Brandon Walton (King Drew).
Two other tournaments to watch for are the Pacific Shores Tourney at Redondo Union High School (Gardena Serra, Lakewood Mayfair and Harvard-Westlake are on the docket) and the Cerritos/Gahr Tournament (Riverside King, Long Beach Poly – in addition to the hosts).
I'll have the All-Sentinel preseason team and some more detailed analysis on the City and Southern Section next week so stay tuned.