The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
It’s never easy following a legend, and first-year Compton basketball coach Tony Finley will have to do exactly that this year as he takes the reigns from Tony Thomas, who departed Compton for Rancho Dominguez Prep during the offseason.
Thomas coached at Compton for 16 years, winning the school’s first boys’ basketball CIF-SS title since 1969, and won four Moore League championships. Those league titles represent the school’s only league titles in the last three decades. Adding to the challenge for Finley: Compton does not return a single varsity player from last year.
“It’s really an all new cast, nobody, no returners from varsity,” he said. “Not one. They all graduated or transferred.”
Further adding to the challenges for Compton is the total rebuild of the school’s campus, which will yield positive results in the future, but which currently have all of the high school’s students going to school on a middle school campus. Coaches across all sports have reported difficulty attracting kids at a school without adequate sports facilities.
“It’s been a challenge, getting kids back and interested in playing sports,” said Finley. “The morale is down a little. It’s been a task getting everyone going again and getting them motivated and building a culture. It’s had its challenges but I knew that walking into it.”
The good news for Compton fans is that Finley has had success in this exact kind of situation. He took over Rancho Dominguez last year on the eve of the season starting and led them on a successful campaign, falling just short of the LA City Section Division 2 championship game. The most vital part of that success could end up being Finley’s son, Jason Finley, a 5-10 point guard who was a two-year starter at Rancho Dominguez.
Transfers Keon Jones and Jordan Banks both come from Lifeline Academy and figure to start this year, with guard Milen Edgerson capable of contributing as well.
Finley said that Compton fans will see plenty of tweaks in how his team plays this year, with a versatile roster and a coach who likes to make adjustments.
“My philosophy changes every game, I try to run something different every game depending on what we’re playing against,” said Finley. “You’ll see us in zone, you’ll see us in man. Offensively it’s the same thing, we’ll run whatever works best against our opponent.”
With the passing of the torch from Thomas to Finley, there’s no doubt that it’s a new era for Compton. Thomas was not only a successful coach in his own right, he was also the son of Compton legend Eddie Thomas, who the school named its gymnasium after. But Finley said he’ll do everything in his power to keep his team competitive.
“Last year I was able to be successful in a short period of time,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this season--we got a late start in late August and we hit the ground running. It’s going to be exciting.”