Mira Mesa - The third weekend of September has for the past few years has been reserved for the San Diego High School Showcase, a two-day event hosted by Gamepoint and Top Gun AAU programs that gives us a nice preview of some of the region’s top teams.
We learned a lot this weekend, and we’re going to try to boil it down in several bullets.
1. La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines will be OK- One of the biggest questions facing two of the region’s top teams was how they would deal with the transfer of key players. La Costa Canyon lost starting guard Patrick Fisher to transfer to Vermont Academy, while the Falcons lost Brandon Cyrus to La Lumiere Prep in Indiana. All eyes were on both teams this weekend, and both answered those questions capably.
The Mavs rolled to a 4-0 record in the showcase, and this was without 2015 standouts Travis Fuller and Brady Twombly. Not only did they win their games, they weren’t challenged. Senior guards Matt Hartmann and Tony Gallo are not the prospects that Fisher was, but they play hard on both ends. Sophomore Drew Mead is a sharp shooter in waiting, and Jack McNulty appears to be destined to fill the role of the Mavericks all-important “glue” guys like Fritz Eibel, Zach Beery and current senior Evan Kaplan. And, of course, there was McCarthy, who has made another significant leap in his development over the summer and returns as an unstoppable weapon for Coach Dave Cassaw.
The Falcons went 3-1 over the weekend, losing a close game to Temecula Valley, but the performance overall was very promising. First, Dominic Hovasse seems to be more than prepared for his leading role, averaging 20 ppg over the weekend. Jack Beach also appeared comfortable and capable in his role as de facto point guard. But the real revelation was the emergence of Marek Sullivan as a breakout star in San Diego. Sullivan, who was on the varsity team last year, appears much more comfortable and confident this season, and his smooth game and high-level basketball instincts and vision are a perfect pairing with John Olive’s offense.
2. Foothills is going to be hard to beat in SD - if Leaf is healthy.
Foothills Christian made a clear statement in its first 3 games that it is more than capable of living up to its preseason No. 1 ranking. They Knights are insanely deep (their defacto 10th man is very good 2018 F TJ Lowery) and they have as much talent on offense as any team in recent memory. Nikko Paranada, Javier Guerrero and Luis Salgado are all knockdown shooters and solid playmakers. Omajae Smith cleans up misses and scores via the offensive glass as good as any player in San Diego. Guys like Kale Baldado, Jordan Van Ommering, Jordan Starr, JR Rivera and Lowery could start for almost any team in the county. But make no mistake: Leaf is the catalyst. He was virtually unguardable when he was engaged or felt his team was legitmately challenged, as was the case against Orange Glen, when a Leaf onslaught turned a 30-21 halftime game into a 30-point victory.
But nowhere was Leaf’s value more apparent than when he bowed out early in the first half of the team’s final game against Mission Hills. Without the spector of the 6-10 surefire McDonald’s All American, the potent Knight offense sputtered, as the Grizzlies imposed their physical, grind-it-out style and squeaked out a 34-33 victory. The takeaway: If Leaf remains healthy, Foothills will be tough to stop, but without him, the Knights - at least currently - are beatable.
3. Programs on the rise have some work to do - Mt Carmel, Mission Hills San Ysidro and Orange Glen all entered this weekend as teams on the cusp of the Top 10 and a ton of reason to be excited about them. Each team leaves the tournament with questions and concerns that will need to be addressed moving forward.
For Orange Glen, the big issue is depth. The Patriots’ starting five proved to be as good as advertised, and in all likelihood, they enter the season the unquestioned favorite in Division 3. But what if one of those key players - the Diaz brothers, Joey Lagrua, Trevor Owens or Gabe Macias - suffers an injury? The Patriots role players have to step their games up to a higher level come regular season. Keep your eyes on freshman PG Damien Miller, who could play a key role as backup PG at some point during the season.
San Ysidro went 1-3, beaten badly in its first three games against LCC, Torrey Pines and Foothills Christian, but bounced back with a nice OT victory over the aforementioned Patriots. The biggest issue, surprisingly with the amount of size on the team, was rebounding. Freshman Jesus Garcia and sophomore David Meza are still developing as interior presences and sophomore Brandon Edwards is playing football. Meza and Garcia’s development is paramount for this team to compete at the level of expectations. A positive development, though, is the surprising play of F Karlton Perry from mid range and on the wing, where he looked markedly more comfortable than last year.
The Grizzlies’ big issue this year appears to be twofold. First, it’s scoring. The Grizzlies are a cast of blue-collar workhorses who will beat you up on defense, but struggle due to a lack of a true go-to scorer. Connor Kennedy looks like he is poised for a big senior season, and will likely grow into that role of closer and scorer in key moments. The second issues is a lack of a true point guard. Throughout the weekend, the Grizzlies used a point-guard-by-committee approach, with Kennedy, Vaso Rakovic, senior Quinn Burton and sophomore Cameron Wager all taking the reins at times. Junior Chandler Beus is considered the future PG, but he will have to fight for reps under the current system.
As for Mt. Carmel, the Sundevils really underperformed this weekend given how much talent they have at their disposal. Michael Keegan has the potential to be a problem at the point given his sheer size and strength, but was inconsistent. 6-9 senior PF Matt Younggren has improved, but still tends to float on the perimeter, but did a good job drawing fouls and finishing plays at the basket when he took the opportunity to do so. 6-6 SF Johnny Mallak is as explosive as they come, but did not take advantage of the explosiveness, settling for too many outside shots. I like senior Noel Matusalem, but he tends to overdribble in the Sundevils dribble-drive set. With that said, HC Chris Vitious was not in attendance, nor was stud junior W Lucas Johnson, who is killing on the gridiron. I still expect the Sundevils to be near the top of the Palomar League standings, but they have some work to do.
4. San Marcos is deep … really deep - No Johnny McWilliams (for a day at least)? No Joah Robinett? No Mikey Howell (rest)? No problem. The Knights unveiled a team that has a number of interchangeable pieces, but none less effective than the others. Stefan and Nik Zivkovic are big-bodied guards who can score, rebound and play hard on defense. Junior Matt Jackson is cut from that mold. Junior Erick Goethals is a crafty utility guard wtih good size and plays hard on bothe ends. Josh Ramirez is a great shooter. Taka Hall, a transfer from Mission Hiills, is an athletic defensive presence. Throw in a much-improved and confident Jason Simmrin, and the Knights had it rolling this weekend.
5. Freshmen continue to carve out bigger roles- Several 2018 players played key roles for their respective teams this weekend. Jesus Garcia started for San Ysidro, the talented Jordan Starr appears to be carving out the role of key reserve on a potent Foothills Christian team, his teammate TJ Lowery played good in spurts, Matt Stevenson shot the ball well and looked good as a big wing/ stretch four for Santa Fe Christian, Kody Clouet played some nice minutes for San Marcos at point, Isaiah Morris hit several big shots for Vista throughout the weekend, and Damien Miller looked comfortable as a pass-first and defensive minded point guard for Orange Glen.
But the biggest surprise of the weekend was the emergence of point guard Taurus Samuels for Vista. The 5-10 lead guard led the Panthers in scoring the second day of the tournament, averaging 21.5 points per game, a day after hitting the game-winning basket and free throw against a solid Santa Fe team. Samuels went on a personal 12-2 run against Santa Fe Christian to bring the Panthers to within two points against the Eagles, and then scored 22 of his team’s 37 points against Mission Vista to close out his tournament. The Panthers finished 3-1 without starters Davin Lemon-Rodriguez, Nate Johnson and Jordan Henry, and now,they appear to have a potent weapon in Samuels.
1. Foothills Christian
Last season’s record: 20-9 (Maxpreps State Ranking 166) CIF Div. III semifinalists
Key returners: F TJ Leaf (26.5 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 7.3 APG); G. Luis Salgado (11.3 PPG, 94 3PFG); G Javier Guerrero (7.2 PPG, 3.0 APG); C JR Rivera (5.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG);
Key newcomers: Serra G/F Omajae Smith (12.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG), Otay Ranch G Nikko Paranada (19.4 PPG, 3.3 APG); Jordan Starr (2018) and TJ Lowery (2018)
Key departures: F Dane Norman, G Caleb Hoffman
The skinny: The Knights are making the move from the perennial cake walk through the Sunset League to the historically rugged Coastal League, so you would think the question would be how does the team hang against top competition. Rather, the question has become, who can stop them in that league, or in San Diego? It all starts at the top with rising junior Leaf, who is considered at this stage to be a serious contender for the McDonald’s All-American Game next season. The team’s holdovers - Guerrero, Rivera and Salgado - are all solid complements, but the big change comes in the form of transfers Paranada and Smith, both All League first team guys at their previous posts. Starr and Lowery are two of the county’s top freshmen, and expect one or both to have an immediate impact.
The rub: There will be two big questions for the Knights this season. First, how quickly can Brad Leaf incorporate his new weapons into the mix? And the second question, can this team defend at a high enough level to win a CIF title? Of the team’s top seven guys, only two - Leaf and Smith - are known as capable defenders.
2. La Costa Canyon
Last season’s record: 28-6 (Maxpreps Statewide Ranking 30) CIF Open Division Champions
Key returners: F Travis Fuller (15.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG), F. Evan Kaplan (2.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG), PG Tommy McCarthy (17.0 PPG, 4.0 APG), F. Brady Twombly (17.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG)
Key newcomers: Jack McNulty (Wilsonville, OR)
Key departures: PG Patrick Fisher, Fritz Eibel
The Skinny: Prior to August, La Costa Canyon was the no-brainer lock for the No. 1 team in the region, and would have given San Diego its best chance of doing damage in the State Open Division, as it had four potential Division 1 players returning from an Open Division championship team. That abruptly changed with Fisher, arguably the best “glue guy” in San Diego, announced he would transfer to Vermont Academy. With Fisher, it’s deeper than stats: he was the team’s lockdown defender, and his selflessness allowed other guys to have big offensive years. Filling that void with the holdovers on the Mavs team will be difficult to say the least. With that said, there is too much talent remaining in the starting five for the Mavs to fall farther than this. McCarthy, Fuller and Twombly will all sign D1 letters of intent come fall, and Kaplan will fill the role vacated by Eibel, a four-year varsity player and captain. Don’t be surprised if McNulty, a 6-5 varsity starter on a very good Wilsonville team, makes immediate contributions.
The Rub: LCC is known for having one of the biggest rosters in the county, but very rarely does HC David Cassaw go deep into his bench. This lack of depth will be tested this year, and the Mavs will need either Matt Hartman or Tony Gallo, two reserve guards from last year’s team, to take a big step forward. Otherwise, the lack of depth could finally be the Mavs Achilles Heel.
3. Torrey Pines
Last season’s record: (26-6 Maxpreps Statewide Ranking 61, CIF Open Division Semifinalist)
Key returners: G Dominic Hovasse (10.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.6 APG), G Timmy Saunders (3.6 PPG, 1.3 APG), F Connor Milmoe (5.5 PPG 5.0 RPG), SG Jack Beach (7.5 PPG, 1.3 APG) SG Jackson Strong, SG Jack Heller (2.5 PPG), Marek Sullivan (1.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG)
Key newcomers: C Jake Gilliam, PG Steven Hickman
Key departures: G Brandon Cyrus, F Sam Worman, PG Zack Wagner
The Skinny: The Falcons were another team hit hard by the transfer bug, as nationally ranked 2016 guard Cyrus headed to La Lumiere Prep in Indiana. Cyrus had taken his game to a different level toward the end of last season, averaging 20 PPG in the team’s final 11 games. Combine that with the loss of the team’s anchor, Worman, to graduation, and it’s apparent this isn’t the same Falcons team as last season. The cupboard is not bare though, and all eyes will be on Hovasse, who is poised to have a breakout year and could potentially double his scoring output. Beach is a sharpshooter from deep, Milmoe is tough as granite on the interior. The two X factors on this team, however, will be Saunders and Sullivan. Saunders’ game took a huge leap over the summer with his AAU team, Gamepoint, and he looks to be a go-to scorer. Sullivan has sort of a cult following; people within the Falcons community say that he has the potential to be one of the big stories of the upcoming season.
The Rub: Besides Hovasse, the Falcons don’t have a player who can score and create for others on a proven basis. Beach, Strong and Heller are essentially spot-up shooters, and Milmoe is a defensive-minded player. Again, the onus will fall upon Saunders - and potentially Hickman - to be that other creator.
Last season’s record: 25-3 (Maxpreps Statewide Ranking 84) CIF Div. 3 Champions
Key returners: PG Takoda Browne (14.6 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.2 SPG), G/F Xavier Browne (6.3 PPG, 1.1 RPG), F Austin Knox (11.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG), PF Robby Robinson (9.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1 BPG), G Jeremiah Jorden (7.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG)
Key Newcomers: Horizon G/F Gianni Ortiz, Madison G Perry Davis III (14.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.3 APG)
Key departures: G Rashad Russell, C David Moa
The Skinny: The last time we saw the Komets, the team hoisted up its first CIF basketball title in modern program history, stunning previously undefeated Sweetwater in a 76-59 rout. And then, for reasons unbeknownst to the populace, Kearny’s administration did not renew head coach Carl Bronson’s contract. It is almost unheard of to fire a coach after leading them to a championship on any level; in San Diego, it is virtually without precedent. With that said, almost the entire team returns, and the Komets add two very quality pieces in Davis and Ortiz, both starters for their respective teams. Takoda Browne is the catalyst, an exposive 5-10 guard who, when under control, is as tough a cover in San Diego as you will find, but it is the growth over the summer by Robinson that will dictate how far this team will go. And from what we saw over the summer, Robinson has made a major leap.
The Rub: It all comes down to coaching. PE Teacher Foad Ahwazi takes over the helm, and he will simultaneously have a ton of pressure and no pressure at all when it comes to leading this team. He will have pressure because if Kearny fails to live up to lofty expectations, the blame will be placed squarely at his feet. At the same time, with a roster like he has, all he really has to do is not screw it up. Another underrated addition is that of Maurice Nash, who runs the Next Generation AAU program, for which several of Kearny’s stars play, to the staff.
5. San Marcos
Last season’s record: 21-9 (Maxpreps Statewide Rank 120) CIF Div. 1 Finalists
Key returners: G/F Johnny McWilliams (15.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG), PG Mikey Howell (3.0 PPG, 2.4 APG), PF Jason Simmrin (5.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG), G Nik Zivkovic (3.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG), G Stefan Zivkovic (3.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG), G Josh Ramirez (3.5 PPG), G Matt Jackson (1.4 PPG)
Key newcomers: Erick Goethals (injured last year), Dunlap HS (IL) C Joah Robinett, Mission Hills SG Taka Hall
Key departures: SG Ben Perez, PG Marc Pacia, PG Jordan Johnson, SG Trace Dimeff
The Skinny: The Knights might be one of the few teams to lose a Division 1 player and come out stronger on the other end. Perez, who is at Air Force, was a dynamic scoring guard, but the Knights return many key pieces from last season’s D-1 finalist team, starting with McWilliams, a slick scoring guard who has several Division 1 offers to his name. Juniors Howell and Simmrin come off of successful summers with their Coastal Elite AAU team and appear poised to have breakout years, especially Howell, who had a breakout season on the grassroots circuit and is now courting interest from several Division 1 programs. Robinett, who previously lived in San Marcos before spending his first two years in high school in the Midwest, is a true big with great post IQ.
The Rub: The Knights have one glaring void in the starting lineup - shooting guard but have several capable candidates. Hall is a wiry guard who played sparingly for the rival Grizzlies, the Zivkovics are big-bodied wings with solid scoring instincts, and Goethals appears to be the healthiest he has been since his middle school days. The sleeper, however, is Jackson, whose game made a significant leap over the summer, and he could become one of the breakout stories in San Diego hoops this year. One of the five must step up for San Marcos to fully realize its potential.
6. Cathedral Catholic
Last season’s record: (15-11, Maxpreps Statewide Ranking 248) CIF Div. 1 First Round
Key returners: PG Cameron Moore (13. 3 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.5 SPG), PF Reid Johnson (10.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG), G Simon Lu (3.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG), F Jacoby Richmond (2.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG), C Peter Xue (1.1 PPG, 1.1 RPG)
Key newcomers: Vista Murrieta G/F Austin Beech (13.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG 1.8 SPG), Zach Green, Dallas Cunningham
Key departures: SG Kevin McNeela, PF/C Max Gardner, G Matt Breitenbacher
The Skinny: Coach Will Cunningham did an excellent job navigating his team through what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Dons to a respectable 3rd place finish in the ever-tough Western League. Now, Cunningham has some really solid pieces in place, with the junior duo of Moore and Johnson now being bolstered by Beech, a versatile utility guard who played AAU with the aforemention players on Gamepoint. The trio is as strong as any trio in the county, and could very well lead the Dons back to the top of the Western League as they were just two seasons ago. What will dictate how far the Dons can go is the development of Chinese transplant Peter Xue, who disappointed in his varsity debut last season and had his AAU season cut short due to an injury in June. At 6-8, Xue has the budding skills to be a top prospect in the county,so it will be interesting to see if he starts to put it together with less pressure to produce.
The Rub: Which one of the Dons seniors will step up? It is on a whole an underwhelming group, but Lu, Richmond and Jonathan Harris will need to make a good-sized leap to take pressure off of Moore, Johnson and Beech. With that said, the boost might not come from that group, but from one of the sophomores Green or Cunningham, the coach’s son.
7. St. Augustine
Last season’s record: 28-4 (Maxpreps Statewide Ranking 27) CIF Open Division Finalist
Key returners: PG Eric Monroe, PF Martin Tombe, G/F Daniel Caya, SG Otto Taylor, PF Daniel Lara, PG Noah DiNapoli
Key newcomers: F Taeshon Cherry, F JT Cox
Key departures: SG Trey Kell, G Johnny Peterson, SG Dallas Haupt
The Skinny: In reality, the Saints are probably a year away from being bak to its dominant form of the previous three seasons, but there is still too much returning talent to keep them too low. Monroe, a cerebral PG who had a big year in a supporting role last season, now must take on a more prominent leadership role in his junior year. Tombe is a defensive wizard in the post who will now need to add to his offensive arsenal. Taylor is a smooth shooting guard who played key minutes as a freshman. Caya is a hard-working bruiser on the wing and Lara is a potential-rich forward. Watch out for Cherry, a skilled, versatile freshman who has big-time upside.
The Rub: When you lose a player who in all likelihood accounted for 40 percent of your offense (Kell, now at San Diego State), clearly that will be tough to replace. The key to the Saints season will be how soon their returners can transform from supporting cast to leading roles, which is easier said than done. Tombe and Monroe are the likely candidates to do this. In reality, the Saints are probably one year away from returning to the top of the standings, but the talent is still too good to drop much farther.
Last season’s record: 18-12 (Maxpreps Statewide Ranking 126) CIF Division 1 Champions
Key returners: G/F Justin Davis (13.6 PPG, 11.0 RPG) , C Brandon McCoy (12. 4 PPG, 11.4 RPG), G Aaron Dimalanta (4.2 PPG, 1.3 APG) PG Leshay Hardwick (3.2 PPG, 1.4 APG)
Key newcomers: PF Taylor Muldrow, PG Robert Young
Key departures: PG Jah’mere Mitchell, G Kenny McDonald, PG Dante Foster Jr.
The Skinny: For most of the summer, the outlook for the Tigers was in flux, as speculation abounded as to whether McCoy, a potential high-major prospect, would return to school. McCoy is back, and that clears things up quite a bit for the Tigers, who, along with the return of 6-6 Muldrow from academic ineligibility - will have one of the most imposing front courts in San Diego. The heart and soul of this team, though, will be Davis, an undersized power forward a year ago who has transformed himself into a a sleeper utility wing prospect in the class of 2016.
The Rub: Who’s at point? The Tigers suffered heavy backcourt losses due to graduation (POY Mitchell, McDonald) and departures (Foster). All eyes will be on 2018 PG Young, who is a talented lead guard and, according to Morse insiders, has the potential to be one of the best players in the class on the West Coast. He’s been on the mind from an ankle injury, but having him back and healthy will play a big role in how far the Tigers can go. Davis will also have to shoulder more of the ball handling duties this year. UPDATE: Also expect heavy contributions from Hardwick, an underrated cog who HC Bobby Sumler said made a leap during summer competition.
Last season’s record: 26-6 (Maxpreps Statewide Ranking 90) CIF Div. 2 Finalist
Key returners: PG Michael Pelaiz, G, Andrew Cross, G Khaleel Jenkins, PF Tim Harrison, G/F Paulo Cruz„ G Jonathan Taylor
Key newcomers: none
Key departures: PF Evan Fitzner
The Skinny: Jim Tomey’s squad has a lot of firepower returning, including rising juniors Cross and Harrison, the latter of which is an upside-laden forward with an offer from Washington. But much more will be expected from Harrison, who had an uneven first year with the structured Lancers after transferring from the more open-style of Christian High in El Cajon. He will have to take a big leap forward to fill the shoes left by Fitzner, who is at St. Mary’s. Pelaiz is a calming influence at the point, Jenkins, whose future lies in football, is one of the top on-ball defenders in the county, and Cruz is a rapidly improving wing who will be relied on even more this season.
The Rub: Depth. Last year, Tomey only went to two players off of the bench: Harrison and Taylor. Then Taylor suffered at torn Achilles tendon, and has not yet been cleared to return to practice. When he returns, questions remain how long it will take him to return to his former explosive form. With no impact freshmen or transfers checking in, Parker’s starters will log heavy minutes, which might affect them during a stretch run in the rugged Div. 1 playoffs. Additionally, will Harrison take that next step in his development? He will need to, as last year’s Lancers struggled mightily to score when teams keyed on Fitzner.
Last season’s record: 21-9 (Maxpreps Statewide Rankings 158) CIF Div. 1 Semifinalist
Key returners: PG Khy Kabellis, G Marcus Hentley, C Keegan Cummins, G Fernando Diaz, G JD “Cheese” Fox
Key newcomers: SG Andrew Dean, G Markel Washington (JV), Warren Washington
Key departures: C Matt Duniphan, G Rejalla Desuse, G David Peppler
The Skinny: Expectations have not been this high at Escondido in recent memory, as the Cougars return five of their top seven rotation players from a team that was one poor fourth quarter away from the Div. 1 finals. Kabellis, a wiry senior guard courting D1 interest from several schools, stirs the cup. Juniors Hentley and Cummins had breakout years and both will continue to build on high expectations. Perhaps just as important are the glue guys, Fox and Diaz, whose defense and motors were invaluable to the Cougars’ seasons. Warren Washington is a 6-5 - and growing - defensive-minded forward who also could see time as a freshman.
The Rub: Can the Cougars deal with the expectations? Will Cummins hit a wall in his development, or will he punch through to realize his full potential? Can Hentley round into the Division 1 guard we think that he is? Has Kabellis hit his ceiling as a player? All of these questions will dictate how far the Cougars can go in an always-rugged Avocado East League, with San Marcos and Mission Hills both looming large.
T-10 Steele Canyon
Last Season’s Record: 17-12 (Maxpreps Statewide Ranking 281) CIF Div. 2 Semifinalist
Key Returners: PF Dylan Hamlett (7.9 RPG, .474 FG), G Aaron Pisiona (3.6 APG, 1.6 SPG), F Dominic Wood-Anderson (11.4 PPG, 9.5 RPG), G/F Tariq Tillman, G Emari Brooks
Key additions: Helix PG Marcus White (8.9 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 SPG)
Key departures: SG Zach Kissel
The Skinny: It would be hard to ignore the talent that is tucked away over in Jamul at Steele Canyon, as the Cougars boast an imposing frontcourt duo of Hamlett and Wood Anderson and solid role players, including Pisiona. But, perhaps the most unsung transfer in the summer is White, a waterbug lead guard who might be among the most underrated players in the county in his class. They will miss Kissel’s scoring, but White’s addition definitely blunts that loss to a certain degree. With all this firepower, a third consecutive league title is well within grasp.
The Rub: With Steele Canyon, questions have always abounded about whether they challenge themselves with competitive scheduling, and the team has sometimes underperformed with solid talent. If there was a year for Derek Stephens to put all the pieces together, this would be it.
On the cusp:
El Camino- Quen Meadows and Sam Bockman are a nice frontcourt, but does Tarantino have enough to challenge LCC.
Mission Bay- Justin Moore might be the best player in his league, but Bucs will need big years from holdovers Devin HIlliard and James Burdette, and growth from newcomer Armstrong Ojunkwu.
San Ysidro- Lynard Steward leads a very big returning group for the Cougars, which boast players of 6-10, 6-9, 6-5 and 6-5.
Army Navy - John Maffucci has taken the reins from departing Tarantino, and he has a roster small in numbers but potent in talent. Richard Polanco is a star in the making, Caleb Morris is a steady scoring threat and hearing they have added another big man in the frontcourt. Guard play is critical.
Mission Hills- Lost a lot to graduation, but have solid holdovers in Connor Kennedy, Michael Gale, Vaso Rakovic and Quinn Burton, plus several players from one of the county’s top JV teams.
Orange Glen - Returns four of five starters from a team that won the D-IV crown, and add small school scoring guard Joey LaGrua.
Mater Dei Catholic- The Crusaders are the team with an eye for the future, but the present will still be promising, with explosive guard Jaylen Hands, special freshman Miles Norris and a collection of talented underclassmen.
Mt Carmel - Sundevils have pieces to mount a serious push for the Palomar title. Keegan, Mallak and Johnson were starters a year ago, and Mission Hills transfer Matt Younggren adds height at 6-9.
Sweetwater - Returns three starters from team that was perfect until its final two games. CJ Cadua is the most exciting player in San Diego.
Vista - Down year was due to a hoard of injuries and key academic issue. Jordan Henry one of the most underrated scorers in section, Johnson and Lemon-Rodriguez defensive stalwarts.
El Cajon Valley - Might be the best East County team not named Steele Canyon. Five key pieces return from D-IV semifinal group, and they were the only D-IV team to beat Orange Glen all year.
Poway- Dalton Soffer is the best shooter in San Diego, Matt Beeler has blossomed into a bona fide prospect, but the Titans sustained heavy losses due to graduation.
Patrick Henry- Coach Robert Fields has his deepest team since the 2012-13 team that made the D1 semifinals. Josh Peloquin is a potent scorer, Josh Burton and Jalen Simmons are a promising young frontcourt duo.
The Future Stars 2019 Top 40 game was the most entertaining game of the day, as both teams went back and forth to the end, with the margin of victory, 51-50, indicative of the game’s competitiveness.
There were a number of players who, in addition to their fine play, stood out for all the right reasons: competitive fire, team play and great attitudes. This made the game the most enjoyable to evaluate.
Jayson Taylor - 6-3 F San Diego Pirahnas - He might not be the best player now, but Taylor’s upside is insane. Already nearing 6-4 with tremendous length, Taylor could very well finish as a 6-8 stretch four. He has soft hands and touch around the rim, and could step out and hit the midrange jumper with an equal amount of touch. At 150, Taylor is rail thin and easy to move around in the block, which allowed him to get boxed out on the boards far too easily. Additionally, Taylor’s motor runs hot and cold. If he can learn to play hard all of the time, Taylor’s potential has no limits.
Derrick Carter-Hollinger - 5-10 G/F San Diego Royals - The wiry, long wing has what we call a “live body.” His athleticism, both vertical and lateral, were among the best in either 2019 game. He’s a rangy guard who handles it well enough to get by defenders with his quick first step, and he is a very acrobatic finisher around the rim and has a great motor. Defensively, he uses those same physical attributes to lock down opponents. His shot selection will need to improve in addition to further tightening of his handle, but he has a ton of upside.
Kobe Sanders - 2020 5-7 SG San Diego Select - The youngest competitor in the game, Sanders was not shy about letting the three-ball fly. He didn’t shoot a great percentage, but everything about his form and release tell you that he has the potential to be a knockdown shooter. When you look at his body type (long arms, big feet and already taller than his older brother Gage) you can envision him ultimately becoming one of the top combo guard prospects in his class - or not grow much more at all. While there is a lot of room in this prediction, I’m comfortable in believing that it will be the former.
Davion Roberts - 5-5 PG San Diego Sharks - Roberts is a long, limby point guard with electric handles and playmaking ability. He doesn’t possess elite quickness off of his first step, but it still is a potent weapon. Roberts has a ton of upside if he continues to grow, and his frame doesn’t seem mature so it could very well happen.
Best passers and handles
Israel Breland - 5-5 PG San Diego Rebels - Breland wasn’t the quickest off the dribble, nor was his handle the cleanest, but his court vision, both in halfcourt and in transition, was quite good. He had several passes off of drives - including a dump-off pass of of a Euro step - that were pretty impressive. If Breland can continue to improve as a ball handler, he has a chance to be a solid PG at the high school level.
Jordan Gaines - 5-6 PG - Gaines quietly had a solid showcase. He wasn’t the flashiest, but his combination of a nice first step and good vision allowed him to make his teammates better with the pass. Though he is undersized, he looks like he still has a lot of growing to do. We’ll be keeping tabs with great interest.
Domanic Safarta - 5-3 PG San Diego Rebels - Safarta is a gifted ball handler with a dizzying array of change of direction moves and no-look passes. In short, he’s a walking mixtape. With that comes some questions about his shot and passing selection, but as those improve, it will only make him that more potent of a player. Here is hoping that he continues to grow physically.
Jack of all trades
Kareem Ilaiain - 5-9 G Woodland Park MS/ And1 Academy - The physical lefty is very tough to stop with a head of steam to his left and scored seemingly at will on that side. His motor is also always on “go” and he gets after it on the defensive end and on the boards, where he is an excellent rebounding guard. Clearly, his glaring flaw is that he doesn’t utilize half of the court because of his shaky right hand. Growth in that area is imperative.
Grant Mahler -5-10 G/F San Diego All-Stars - Mahler is a crafty wing type who isn’t flashy, but is very effective scoring off of the straight-line drive or on the block, where he has great footwork. Defensively, he plays much taller than his listed height due to his good length and effort level. Mahler’s future lies at guard, so we’d like to see him continue to hone his skills on the perimeter.
Riley Wagstaff 5-10 G/F San Diego Sharks - Wagstaff is the definition of a jack-of-all-trades. He handles, shoots and passes the ball well, but still has room to grow in each area. What stands out about him is his motor. He dives after loose balls, rebounds everything and defends and plays hard all of the time. He’s got a frame that also suggests he will grow some more, so I like his upside.
Noah Schloss - 2020 5-11 G/F And1 Basketball Academy - Schloss (pictured to left of Ilaiain) took a bit to get going, but you can see the upside in this kid. He handles, shoots it and passes it well, and he has got some good height already for a big guard.
Christopher Glenon - 5-9 G/F Top Gun Academy - Glenon played among the trees and succeeded due to his rebounding and hustle plays. He scored around the rim off of offensive rebounds or broken plays, which is actually a very good skill to have. I like his length and his frame, but I want to see him continue to improve his ball skills, which are raw.
Brad Yasukochi - 5-9 G Faith Lutheran/ Gamepoint - There might not been a more willing an effective perimeter defender than Yasukochi, who took on the team’s best perimeter player with vigor. He’s a surprisingly long defender, whose activity on the ball frustrates opposing guards into turnovers. Offensively, he is an improving ball handler, passer and scorer but he needs to continue to work on playing under control.
Adrian Calderon - 2020 5-2 G Southbay Show - Giving up major size in almost all of his matchups, Calderon’s skill, IQ and scrappiness allowed him to not be overwhelmed in this setting. His helpside defense was among very effective.
Josiah Haas - 5-4 SG And1 Basketball Academy - Haas struggled to score off the dribble due to his lack of size and burst, but if his feet were set, there was not a better shooter in the game. He hit big shots at big moments for his team, which is a skill you can’t teach.
Kyle Kahler - 5-7 SG And1 Basketball Academy - Kahler is more of a set shooter than a jump shooter, but he was one of the most effective marksmen for his team as he set up off of dribble penetration and knocked down open shots. Kahler also played hard on both ends, despite average lateral quickness. I want to see Kahler continue to improve his ball handling, which will open up his midrange and short-range scoring attack.
It wasn’t just the Top 20 games that were full of talent at the inaugural Future of San Diego event.
The 2018 and 2019 games were entertaining and had several players with real chances to evolve into Division 1 prospects.
Full-Time Hoops has done evaluations on all of the kids in attendance. So, without further ado:
2018 Top 40 All-Star Games
Chris Olave - 2018 5-10 G Eastlake HS/ Gamepoint - Olave is a long combo guard with solid change of speed off the dribble and good court vision and handle, and to top it off, he’s got a smooth shooting stroke. Defensively, he has the metrics to become a very good on-ball defender, but consistency of effort will be key. The athletic lead guard has a lot of upside.
Hassan Hunt - 2018 5-10 G High Tech Chula Vista/ San Diego All-Stars - Another long, wiry scoring guard product, Hunt is a lefty with a decent perimeter stroke, but his quickness off the dribble is where he showed nice burst in the halfcourt. He struggled at times to finish plays and had a couple of turnovers, but those are both fixable issues.
Nickoli Melovidov -2018 5-9 PG Mt Carmel/ Top Gun/ Rebels - Yet another guard from the same wiry mold as Hunt and Olave, Melovidov is a slick handling and passing guard whose game is flashier than the aforementioned players. He’s got a quick crossover dribble and nice court vision. However, he needs to improve on his decision making: he often overlooked the fundamental play for the flashy one, resulting in turnovers and missed shots.
David Dixon - 2018 5-9 G St. Augustine/ San Diego Sharks - Dixon is a nice scoring guard with a solid frame (broad shoulders) who used his solid first step and crossover dribble to get into the lane and score. When left open, he also knocked down shots from the perimeter. He has a tendency to pound the ball too much on offense and is a reticent passer, and at his size, he will need to correct this in order to maximize his potential.
Patrick Miana - 2018 5-9 F Sweetwater/ Gamepoint - Miana might be the most unique player in the gym. The chances of him playing college basketball are slim, unless he hits a serious growth spurt, but the burly “point center” was extremely effective scoring off the dribble, in the post, off the pass and spotting up from three with a nice lefty stroke. Defensively, he has active hands and moves suprisingly well laterally when fresh. Conditioning is a big issue moving forward for Miana, who lost effectiveness on both ends due to fatigue.
Kody Clouet -2018 5-10 SG San Marcos/ Coastal Elite - Clouet is a great spot-up shooter, but displayed some good off-the-dribble action. But it’s his shooting that stands out. His form is compact and his release his high and quick. Clouet’s length and foot size suggests that he hasn’t done growing. If he can grow, watch out for him as a sleeper in the class.
Tyler Sun - 2018 5-8 G Sage Creek/ San Diego All-Stars - Sun’s quick trigger release was on display in the Top 40 game, and even his misses looked like makes. On the defensive end, he’s a scrappy, active on-ball defender who frustrates blal handlers with his active hands and quick feet. It will be interesting how much more he grows, but even if he doesn’t he will have a quality career for Sam Eshelman and the Bobcats.
Sam Crespy - 2018 5-9 G La Costa Canyon/ San Diego All-Stars - Crespy quietly had a really good showcase, showing the ability to score at every level. What really impressed me was his shooting off of the dribble, as he used his ball fake several times to create pull-up jump shot opportunities. His shot is fluid and he plays within himself, which is something kids don’t do at these events.
Best ball handlers
Tristan Kirwan - 2018 5-7 PG Mt. Carmel/ Rebels - The diminutive Kirwan isn’t the quickest guard, but his crafty use of change of direction had some of the events best defenders on their heels.
Chris Koo - 2018 5-8 PG Torrey Pines/ Next Generation - Koo’s use of change of speed and direction was impressive throughout the proceedings. He made a couple of acrobatic finishes to boot.
Michael Phaneuf 2018 5-11 PF Scripps Ranch/ Next Generation - Of the handful of undersized forwards in the game, Phaneuf’s game probably translates best to the wing at this point. He’s a skilled player on the low post with good footwork, but its his shooting and driving abiilty from the wing that is intriguing. Additionally, he defended other team’s guards, and for the most part, held his own, despite not being as quick as some of the players he matched up against. Moving forward, unless he grows, he will need to continue to hone his guard skills.
Joe Anthony - 2018 6-1 PF Torrey Pines/ Falcons Elite - The burly forward has a big upper body, runs the floor well, and showed solid inside-out skills. His frame is somewhat unorthodox
Trevor Phillips - 2018 5-10 F Coastal Elite- Phillips was a crafty guy on the low block, as he was able to maneuver by taller defenders and finish around the rim. He’s a rugged interior defender and rebounder, who used his lower center of gravity to his advantage in matchups on the block. Like all of the guys in this category, he’ll need to continue to hone his ball handling to prepare for the inevitable shift to the perimeter in HS.
Gino Spirito - 5-8 SG Vista/ Gamepoint - Spirito continues to grow in almost every facet of his game, especially becoming a more capable scorer around the rim, which was something that was missing from his game in earlier years. He had a couple of very nice layups through contact, including one up and under layup with some nice backspin action.
Wyatt Wilson - 5-10 G San Marcos/ Coastal Elite - Wilson always seemed to be willing to defend the opposing team’s best perimeter player and he always transitioned well on defense, including a big block in the first half of the game where he tracked down a defender and timed it well. He’s not the quickest player, but he’s a solid ball handler and shooter whose competitive streak allows him to stay in plays.
Jack McCroskey- 5-6 G Santa Fe Christian/ Gamepoint - McCroskey is a pesky defender who has active hands and moves quicker laterally than you’d expect. Again, because of his lack of size, his high activity level is key to maximize every ounce of his physical potential.
Ben Daugherty (picture not available)- 5-8 G La Jolla Country Day/Next Generation - Daugherty sits down in a stance, moves his feet and competes on every defensive play, despite giving up size and quickness to his opponents. Daugherty is a solid ball handler and passer with good court vision. He, like several of the guards, must continue to improve their lateral quickness as they prepare for high school hoops.
SPRING VALLEY - The inaugural clash of the classes might not have had all of the top prospects in San Diego’s 2018, 2019 and 2020 classes, but it was close.
In addition to the game’s MVPs, several other standouts have legitimate chances to play basketball at some level beyond HS if they continue to work hard, hone their craft and not buy into the hype.
Full-Time Hoops has your recap:
Top 20 2018 Game:
Warren Washington - 6-5 F, Escondido HS/ Coastal Elite - Washington was 5-10 as recently as 18 months ago. He’s now shot up to nearly 6-6 and has a budding offensive skillset, which he showed flashes of during the showcase. He projects to be a rangy face-up four with solid perimeter skills and the potential to be a lockdown wing defender due to his length and instincts. Don’t be surprised if by the end of HS Washington (one of the younger 2018 competitors) has shot up to 6-10. If that happens, Washington will be the only one to dictate his ceiling.
Trey Anderson - 6-2 G/F, Mater Dei Catholic/ San Diego All-Stars- Anderson hit a growth spurt over the summer, shooting up about 3 inches, and his game has taken a big leap from our last viewing in late spring. Part of it is due to the fact he has grown into his frame, whereas during his growth spurt you could tell he was fawn-like in his movements. Increased foot speed has allowed him to become a more willing attacker off the dribble from the wing, which complements his solid mid-range game. It also helps defensively, as he is more confident defending his position on the perimeter. If he can continue to add pieces to his perimeter attack, he has a chance to be a solid wing player in the 2018 class.
Jesus Garcia - 6-10, C, San Ysidro/ SDA Southbay- Far from a finished product, the young center prospect does a lot of things well right now. He runs the floor, competes on the boards, and uses his length to block and alter shot. What you also see from his is very promising ball skills on the low block, including a soft jump hook. What he lacks - vertical athleticism and strength - should come through normal development. With that said, 6-10 young centers don’t grow on trees, so if he continues to put in the work, he will have a chance.
Most college ready:
Jordan Starr- 6-5 F, Foothills Christian/ Top Gun - In a game full of high-level prospects, Starr was for many stretches the best player on the floor. He’s a versatile combo forward who took advantage of mismatches against slower-footed defenders by attacking the basket at will, scoring from midrange and from around the basket and keeping his team within striking distance. He’s got a long, willowy frame that, despite being among the older competitors, still possesses a lot of upside. If he continues to improve his lateral quickness, he could make a full transition to the wing, where he will be a highly coveted prospect.
Gage Sanders - 5-5 PG, Steele Canyon/ Gamepoint - How many times have you seen a shorter guard prospect and said, “If this kid were just five inches taller, he’d be a Division 1 player”? This describes Sanders perfectly. At his generously listed height and wispy frame, Sanders at this stage probably couldn’t stand up to the rigors of the Division 1 game if he doesn’t hit a serious growth spurt, but his playmaking ability is undeniable. But what really stands out is Sanders’ shooting. His release is quick enough that he can get his shot over taller defenders, and his ball rotation and follow through are picture perfect. He reminds me a lot of former Mission Hills standout Kibret Woldenmichael, who now is a walk-on at San Diego State University. Sanders would be wise to take a page from his playbook.
Nate Middleton - 5-8 PG, Mt. Carmel- Middleton didn’t shoot the ball many times in the showcase game, but when he did let it fly, the ball swished perfectly through the net. Middleton, an undersized point guard, is a little stronger than Sanders, cut from the mold of Sean Birk or Tommy McCarthy, with the same scat-like handle and compact jumper. He’ll need to hit a growth spurt and improve his handle against pressure defense, but he has a chance to be a solid prospect down the road.
Donald Fabela - 6-5 PF, Rancho Christian - Fabela is a smooth-shooting face-up four who does most of his damage from 15 to 18 feet away from the basket. He stepped out and shot a couple of threes in the showcase, hitting one. For Fabela, the next frontier is becoming more aggressive in the paint, especially as a rebounder.
Jalen Flanagan- 6-0 G, El Camino/ Coastal Elite- Blessed with impressive length, a rangy frame and the mentality of a lockdown defender, Flanagan is a tough customer on that end of the floor. He takes pride in his ability to guard the team’s top perimeter player and shut them down. Offensively, his game is somewhat limited to slashing to the basket, though his perimeter shooting is becoming more of a consistent weapon, but growth on the offensive end to complement his defensive prowess should be a priority. But very few prospects here have Flanagan’s upside.
Kelly Sutton- 5-10 G, Mt Carmel/ San Diego All Stars- it was my first time seeing Sutton, who was until recently tucked away in the Sundevils feeder program. He’s a grizzlied perimeter defender who gets in his man’s air space and doesn’t give him much room to operate. Much like Flanagan, however, Sutton’s offensive game is a work in progress, and his assertiveness on that end really needs an uptick. Still, he’s a very solid defender who will only get better in coming years.
Isaiah Morris -5-8 PG, Vista/ Gamepoint- Morris is an absolute bulldog on both ends of the floor. Despite his diminutive height, he doesn’t give you an inch on the defensive end, willingly bangs in the post to grab rebounds and initiate the fast break, and competes every minute he’s on the floor. On top of that, he’s very skilled. The lefty is a solid ball handler, attacks the basket and finishes through contact, and has a streaky, yet solid, stroke from three. His court vision is also quite good at this stage. I’d like to see him develop his mid-range game (pull up jumpers) a bit more to make him more of a complete scorer. If he grows a bit more, his ceiling will definitely rise.
Zach Reiter- 6-1 G/F Poway/ Gamepoint- I gave Reiter the nickname “Juggernaut” after the X-Men antagonist who can’t be stopped once he picks up a head of steam. This is Reiter’s game. Once he puts his head down on the perimeter, he gets to the rim and finishes through people. On the defensive end and boards, he’s equally as tenacious. He’s got a unique frame, and it will be interesting to see how much size he adds going forward. Additionally, he will have to improve his attacking with his left hand.
Josh Davis 6-0 G/F Morse/ San Diego All-Stars - Davis is a passionate, energetic player whose motor is always revved up to the highest level. He took on the task of guarding Alex Cho during the final stanza, and didn’t give up an inch, sometimes frustrating Cho with his length and defensive intensity. Offensively, he tries to do too much, sometimes over handling or making the flashy play as opposed to the fundamental play, but when he plays within himself, he has some solid playmaking ability. None of this surprises me, as he is the younger brother of Morse standout Justin Davis, who possesses many of those positive traits.
TJ Lowery - 6-4 G/F Foothills Christian/ Top Gun - This was one of the first full viewings I’ve had of Lowery since his days with the SPARC program, and he has blossomed into a very tall and versatile wing prospect. His slashing is a potent offensive weapon, as his long strides allow him to cover more ground in a hurry. Defensively, too, he has the traits of a lockdown defender. He has to improve his perimeter shooting, but if that becomes more consistent, he’s got a nice ceiling. I am interested to see how much more he will grow physically, given he was among the older kids in attendance, but his father is at least 6-7, so it bodes well.
Jordan Montgomery - 2019 5-9 PG, Hard2Guard - Montgomery was the youngest participant in the 2019 game, but certainly had his moments. His court vision and passing in halfcourt off the dribble and the transition setting is elite for a prospect his age, and his penetration ability is quite good. While he has made strides as a jump shooter, consistency is the key moving forward. If he can continue to improve that, he will be one of the most coveted point guards on the West Coast in his class.
Chris Modica - 5-9 PG Serra/ Next Generation - Modica is a thick lead guard who reminds me a lot of Khalid El-Amin of UConn fame. He’s a slick ball handler and passer, and can score off of the penetration to boot. He’s got to work on his decision making handling pressure defense as well as his motor, as he tended to float during games when he didn’t have the ball in his hands.
Akil Parrish - 5-10 SG Morse/ Hustle Hard - Parrish really intrigues me as a prospect because his frame screams upside. While wiry, he has broad shoulders and long arms and big hands and feet. His ball skills also show promise. Right now, he’s got work to do dealing with the pressure at the elite level. Once he gets more reps against top competition, and gets physically stronger, we will see more of that upside start to become realized.
Top 20 2019 Game:
Obinna Anyanwu - 2020 6-2 PF, San Diego Select - Anyanwu is a physical, athletic forward with budding perimeter skills to boot, including a solid perimeter shooting touch and nice passing off of dribble penetration. If he doesn’t grow, his work ethic and the strides he has made on the perimeter will translate well to the wing, where he would be physically imposing.
Chibuzo Agbo- 2020 6-2 PF, San Diego Select - Anyanwu’s bookend on the powerful Select team, he is a force to be reckoned with on the low block on both ends. Agbo doesn’t really have the perimeter skills of Anyanwu, so it will be interesting to see if he can develop those to complement his inside presence.
Solomon Davis- 2019 6-4 F, Triple Threat (Tem)- Davis has all the markings of a high-level stretch four. He has advanced face-up skills, solid ball handling, and is a capable shooter with range out to the college three. In addition, he has solid skills on the low block, showcasing a nice spin move in the post and a jump hook over his left shoulder. Davis will need to get stronger and more physical on the block on the defensive end, where he struggled to compete on the boards.
Rejean “Boogie” Ellis - 5-8 PG San Diego All-Stars - Ellis’ approach to the point guard position is a lot like Allen Iverson. He uses his explosive first step and slick handles to break down his defender and score with his dominant right hand. What he showed during this setting was a more selective attacking approach than we had seen in previous viewings. As he becomes a more willing passer, it will make his offensive onslaught even more potent.
Ryan Langborg - 6-0 G/F GP Wildcats - Langborg, a big-bodied wing type who uses his strength to power his way to the basket, finishing through contact. Complementing his slashing, Langborg possesses a solid stroke from mid-range and three. He’s a bit thick in the lower body and appears physically mature, so it will be interesting how his body develops over the next few years. If he can lean out, he will be one of the San Diego’s top combo guards.
Thomas Notarainni - 2020 5-11 G/F San Diego Select - Notarainni is a hard-charging wing who bruises his opponents on the way to the rack. He’s got a strong, prototypical wing build, and his ball skills are solid. His perimeter shooting will need to make steady improvement as he develops.
Hudson Soffer- 5-10 G/F GP Wildcats - Soffer is a stocky wing-type that makes solid decisions with the pass and can score at the rim in transition. His lack of vertical athleticism reveals itself in the halfcourt as he struggles to finish over bigger defenders. He also needs to continue to become a more consistent threat from the perimeter.
Makiah Morris - 5-6 PG Valley MS/ Gamepoint - The wiry point guard doesn’t look the part of a tough guy, but he is a scrappy sort who gets after it on the defensive end. It was apparent that Morris is more of a gamer than a showcase player, but he showed flashes of discipline and changes of pace with the ball. Still, he has to learn how to make quicker decisions with the ball as well as improve his poise while being pressured on offense.
Best point guard
Alex Wade- 2020 5-0 PG San Diego Select - Wade’s feel for the game, handle and court vision are far ahead of his age. His head is always up, and he always sees the next play, approaching basketball much like a chess master approaches a chess board. He’s particularly fearless as he attacks the bigger defenders and attempts to finish over them with runners and floaters in the lane. The biggest drawback for Wade, of course, is his size. He was the smallest competitor on hand. Here is hoping he gets a spurt, but even so, he is fun to watch at this level.
Graham Cook - 5-11 PG GP Wildcats - Cook has a solid frame for a lead guard, a smooth handle and solid vision. His defense and rebounding are also good for a guard, which allows him to initiate the break. We’d like to see him become more assertive attacking off the dribble, and take advantage of those physical gifts.
Dominick Harris - 5-7 PG ELA Elite Scholars - Harris is a wiry jitterbug point guard who has nice quickness off the dribble and is a willing passer with solid court vision, especially in the half court. He uses his drive to set up kick-out opportunities for his team’s shooters. A willing defender, Harris sometimes has a tendency to gamble on that end, so a more disciplined approach should be something he should work on.
Jordan Hilstock- 5-10 G Roosevelt MS/ Gamepoint - Hilstock has all the traits you look for in a lockdown defender. Solid length, quick feet, excellent anticipation and a competitive fire on the end. Hilstock has the type of frame that oozes with potential. Offensively, he gets lost when the ball is not in his hands, and his handle is still raw. Improvement in those areas should be a priority, but as one of the younger 2019s on hand, you know the upside is through the roof.
Christian Rose - 6-3 PF - San Diego Sharks/ Rebels - Speaking of upside, Rose, a willowy forward, has a ton of it. He does a great job using his length to alter shots and his timing on blocking shots is also impressive. Clearly, Rose will need to become stronger to tangle inside, but he also shows a solid mid-range shooting that suggests - if his foot speed increases - he could at some point transition to the wing.
Dorian Blue - 5-10 SG Hustle Hard/ San Diego Cougars - When Blue’s feet are set, there is no one more deadly in the gym. His release is quick and feathery, and his shots rarely draw iron. His length and his frame suggests that he has the upside to become one of the best shooting guard prospects in Southern California. Adding strength and improving his handle, especially when pressured, are areas where he needs to improve.
Kyle Paranada - 5-3 PG GP Wildcats - Paranada, one of the smallest competitors all day, did not let that stop him from knocking down several jumpers from distance. If he’s left open, chances are he will convert from the perimeter. Additionally, he’s a nice ball handler and penetrator who can find crevices in the defense and create for others with the pass.
Michael Pope - 5-8 SG GP Wildcats - The Pope twins are a pair of cerebral guards who are solid in most aspects of the game on the offensive end. They can shoot it from deep, handle it enough to initiate the offense, and move well without the ball. Michael has a quick trigger release, and his follow through and release are smooth.
Bryce Pope - 5-8 SG GP Wildcats - Bryce is the more dynamic of the two Pope brothers, a nice playmaker who can handle, penetrate and score from multiple levels. Not the shooter that his brother Michael is, Bryce is still a capable perimeter shooter, albeit a bit streaky. Both Popes will need to continue to improve their lateral quickness on the defensive end.
Jacks of all trades
Evan Mobley - 2020 6-0 G/F Triple Threat Temecula - The younger brother of Isaiah Mobley, Evan is a promising combo guard in his own right, blessed with the prototypical basketball frame. The rangy guard does everything well - crafty handles, distributes, shoots, defends - but needs to continue to grow in each of those facets of his game.
Jacob Jovien - 5-11 G/F San Diego All-Stars - Jovien is a slender and sleek utility wing cut from the same mold as Jordan Hilstock and Graham Cook. He was really quiet on the offensive end, which is uncharacteristic of the versatile Ramona-area product. He will need to continue to improve his perimeter shooting as he does most of his damage around the rim either on post mismatches or drives to the rim.