Coaches Speak: State’s best raved about both Plum and Canada

Scoring nearly 30 points per game against the best teams in the nation helped Kelsey Plum gain a ton of respect among the coaches she faced. She's shown above after team last season won CIF Division IV state title.

Scoring nearly 30 points per game against the best teams in the nation helped Kelsey Plum gain a ton of respect among the coaches she faced. She’s shown above after team last season won CIF Division IV state title.

As a new aspect to the selection process for Ms. Basketball, several of the state’s most successful coaches agreed to say publicly who they’d vote for. La Jolla Country Day’s biggest rival school also cast a vote.

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The reason Cal-Hi Sports is the most reliable source for rankings, state records, plus teams and players of the year, is not only have we been doing it for 35 years with a team that has over 75 years of high school coverage experience, we have the ears and lips, and more importantly the trust, of coaches throughout the state in all the major sports.

Because of this, we tried a new twist this year in the selection process for Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year that included the opinions and votes of six current coaches and one retired coach with a combined 23 state championships between them.

In the end, the vote was 4-3 in favor of La Jolla Country Day Washington-bound senior guard Kelsey Plum over Jordin Canada of Windward, with just about everyone agreeing Bishop O’Dowd post Oderah Chidom was third.

Surprisingly, one of the votes for Plum and one for Canada came from coaches that had a finalist in the running but didn’t vote for their own player.

Even more astonishing is the vote that ultimately broke a 3-3 tie, although he wasn’t the last coach to vote, came from a much unexpected source, and the only coach of the seven not to win a state title, although he has an appearance in the CIF Division I state title game. When this very reliable source for California girls basketball was contacted, it seemed doubtful he would vote for Plum, but he did despite a huge rivalry.

The fact Bishop’s of La Jolla head coach Marlon Wells settled on Plum after evaluating his choices using the criteria presented was huge (given that Bishop’s and La Jolla Country Day very much are rivals), but not as colossal and deciding as the votes of two coaches that played and saw both players.

Even so, this was the toughest decision since the first player from La Jolla Country Day won the Ms. Basketball award, and that was when the Torreys’ 2004 winner Candice Wiggins won out over Courtney Paris of Piedmont, Charde’ Houston of San Diego and Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood of Lynwood.

These “on the record” votes were not the sole reason that Plum won the selection (other non-coaches gave input and there were votes by everyone on the Cal-Hi Sports’ team). Still, it was an interesting twist and here’s what the coaches said:

Malik McCord, Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) (two state championships)
“You’re kidding,” was his response after being told Plum was fighting a two-week long bad stomach virus when she faced his Dragons a second time. The first game she had 29 points and 11 rebounds in a semifinal loss at the Oaks Christian tournament. Then, after telling the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan “this stomach virus is kicking my butt,” Plum went out and dropped in 29 again, with eight rebounds and four steals at the MLK weekend event in Stockton. Two days prior to that she had 25 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against MLK event host St. Mary’s. “I know I have a lot of horses so that makes it hard for Oderah (Chidom) to win, but the girl (Plum) is baaad. With her team and what they had, I couldn’t believe what she did. She’s brilliant, a great shooter. She’s Ms. Basketball. No one can stop her.”

Tom Gonsalves, St. Mary’s (Stockton) (six state championships)
“It comes down to two players, Jordin Canada and Kelsey Plum, with Oderah Chidom right behind them because she led her team to a state championship. It’s a tough decision, and you can’t go wrong with either one of them, but I give the slight edge to Canada. Jordin is just at a little bit higher level. She’ll be outstanding in college.”

Kevin Kiernan, Mater Dei (Santa Ana) (six state championships)
“My bias pick is Katie Lou (Samuelson). After that I go with Canada then Plum.” Note: Kiernan was not on the bench when his Monarchs beat Country Day this season.

Carl Buggs, Long Beach Poly (five state championships)
“We played both of them and in my honest opinion I give the nod to Kelsey. Right now she can do so many more things than Jordin. We have to run multiple switches to try and stop her and you can’t trap her. She can score seven different ways. She just brings more to the table. With Jordin you have to stop her from getting to the paint but you can give her the outside.”

Terri Bamford, the head coach of Plum at La Jolla Country Day, and Steve Smith, the current athletic director at Canada’s school, each made a case for their school’s player. Marlon Wells from Bishop’s of La Jolla was the other vote for Plum.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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