Hart’s Tre Harrill, right, goes up for a layup as teammate Erik Distad, left, plays defense during a varsity basketball practice at Hart last week. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Two mid-summer transfers may be Hart High’s key this season to replacing the output of 2016 All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year Chad Donohoe.

After winning three straight Foothill League titles, Hart High boys basketball coach Tom Kelly knows his team will have a target on its back this season. He expects Hart (1-0) to be younger and smaller than last year’s senior-heavy team. Still, he thinks the new presence of junior transfers Luca Robinson and Tre Harrill could help the Indians win the Foothill League.

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Robinson, a 6-foot-4 forward, transferred from West Ranch to Hart over the summer. Kelly realizes he suddenly has a new player who could play a crucial role for the Indians in Foothill League play.

“Luca is going to be a guy who can run up the floor, bring the other team’s big man out and he gives us a kid who can rebound,” Kelly said. “Luca gives us a bigger body, but he can play outside as well.”

This summer Harrill, a 5-10 guard, transferred to Hart from Heritage Christian School in Northridge. Kelly said Harrill will be an explosive guard for the Indians.

“When those two are on the floor they give us an added dimension,” Kelly said.

Hart varisty boys basketball coach Tom Kelly, left, talks with a player before starting a drill at practice on Tuesday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Hart varisty boys basketball coach Tom Kelly, left, talks with a player before starting a drill at practice on Tuesday Nov. 22. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Last season Hart went 22-9 overall and 10-0 in Foothill League play as it made its third straight CIF Southern Section Division 2A Quarterfinals and advanced to the semifinals.

Robinson and Harrill could help replace some of Donohoe’s output, but that will be tough.

Donohoe, a senior last season, carried the Indians during their long playoff run, averaging 18.3 points-per-game in the school’s six playoff games and 17.4 points per game over the entire season.

Last year’s team started five seniors, while this team will be slightly younger with four seniors and nine juniors on the roster. Even with the addition of the sizeable Robinson, Kelly said his team this year will rely more on its speed than last year’s team.

“We really had an eight-man rotation last year,” Kelly said. “Seniors tend to be a little more mature, a little tougher and a little smarter. We started (players who were 6-foot-8, 6-7). This year we won’t have that luxury.”

Hart will also lean on senior guard Ben Kaufman and junior guard Whitten Dominguez to lead the team and give advice to new players on the roster.

“We’re definitely different from both years, but the thing that hasn’t changed is we have great chemistry with each other,” Kaufman said. “So that helps us jell. We may not have the big guy we had last year (the graduated Cameron Fuller), but anybody can grab the rebound.”

The varsity boys basketball team at Hart scrimmages during a practice on Tuesday. Katharine Lotze/Signal
Ben Kaufman, third from left, defends a pass during a Hart varsity basketball team practice on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Dominguez said the team’s smaller lineup is much better on the fast break than last year’s lineup so Hart’s guards may often be able to slip out on fast break chances.

He added that the Indians are more interchangeable on defense.

“Last year with some of our bigs, we’d have to fight over a lot of the screens, but now we can switch,” Dominguez said. “Since we have solid post-defense, it won’t matter who we’re guarding.”

After transferring, Robinson and Harrill will both sit out until Jan. 2 because of CIF transfer rules. Both players can still practice and travel with the team though during the waiting period.

Despite their absence, Hart’s season started with a bang as the Indians blew out Rancho Dominguez of Long Beach, 75-36, on Monday night. Hart will play next at Westchester High of Los Angeles at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Over the past three seasons, Hart lost two games in Foothill League play. The team had a perfect 10-0 record last season, went 8-2 in league play in 2014-2015 and 10-0 in 2013-2014. Kelly said it will be a challenge to defend the team’s Foothill League title because he thinks the league has many good teams.

“This is a really good league for football and baseball. There’s guys in the majors, there’s guys in the NFL,” Kelly said. “This is just a good, solid league for basketball.

“We always tell our kids, ‘Don’t turn the ball over, rebound and make free throws, and you’ll give yourself a good chance to win.’”

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  • Hank Simms

    The Foothill will be a heavily contested league this year with most teams on par with talent. Looking forward to lots of great games. Tom’s assessment of his talent is prima facia evidence of why CIF banners hang in HHS gym. Go Indians!