Seven Californians named to Underclass All-American boys’ basketball team. Members of last year’s Team USA 17U team, including Mater Dei’s Stanley Johnson, headline group of 60 elite players selected.
It’s ironic Jason Kidd just retired after a 19-year NBA career because when it comes to the nation’s best high school basketball players, the former St. Joseph of Alameda star is the last California high school player you can point to as the nation’s best individual player.
Kidd is the last Mr. Basketball USA honoree from the state of California, as picked by the editors of HighSchoolHardwood.com. In that 1991-92 season when he led the Pilots to their second straight Division I state title, Kidd shared some national honors with senior Rodrick Rhodes of St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) and junior Randy Livingston of Newman (New Orleans, La.). In fact, Kidd shared Parade Magazine National Player of the Year honors with Livingston, although we stated at the time that Kidd should have been a unanimous choice. It’s easy to say picking Kidd by himself was the right call, but Livingston was never the same after a knee injury he suffered before ever playing a single college game for LSU.
So what about next season? How does California’s elite boys hoops talent stack up to the rest of the country?
Taking a look at the 2012-13 Underclass All-American team, the talent is about on par to recent seasons. The state’s very best players have a solid chance to earn All-American acclaim next season and the watch list includes yet another California player that will leave for a national basketball academy type program. That’s a trend that doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon.
From a national perspective, headlining the 2012-13 Underclass All-American watch list as the intense AAU summer season swings into full gear are junior center Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young (Chicago), this year’s National Junior Player of the Year, guard Tyus Jones of Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.) and forward Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana). All three played together on Team USA’s U17 team that won the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship in Kaunas, Lithuania.
All three were already named to the overall 2012-13 HighSchoolHardwood.com All-American team.
The other two underclass players to earn All-American honors (second team) were guard Joel Berry of Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.) and center Cliff Alexander of Curie (Chicago). Berry joined Okafor, Jones, and Johnson on Team USA last summer along with junior All-American Justise Winslow of St. John’s (Houston).
If Johnson were to lead Mater Dei to its fourth consecutive state title next season, he’ll be in the thick of the Mr. Basketball USA race. From a team standpoint, that would be unprecedented in California and something even Kidd wasn’t able to accomplish. From an individual standpoint, however, Johnson is not yet a more dominant player than Mitty’s Aaron Gordon, who will be a freshman at Arizona this fall. Gordon, the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball the past two seasons, finished third in the final Mr. Basketball USA voting this past season so other factors will have to swing in Johnson’s favor to join Kidd, Crenshaw’s John Williams (1984), Elk Grove’s Bill Cartwright (1975), Redondo Beach Aviation’s Paul Westphal (1968) and L.A. Jefferson’s Edgar Lacey (1963) as Californians on the all-time Mr. Basketball USA list.
The seven Californians and 53 other underclass honorees all had standout campaigns for their high school teams, yet others are sure to emerge this summer as bonafide All-America candidates heading into the 2013-14 season. Nearly every summer on the circuit, well-known players are eclipsed by lesser-known commodities, and every so often a prospect comes out of nowhere to emerge as a Mr. Basketball USA candidate.
One player who might fall under the latter category is Josh Perkins of Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.). Last season, the flashy 6-foot-2 point guard was beaten out for some local honors by fellow junior Dominque Collier of Denver East, but at the recent Pangos All-American Camp it was clear Perkins is an elite talent and likely played his way into a McDonald’s All-American berth.
No player from Colorado has ever won Mr. Basketball USA honors, but it’s likely Perkins will spend his senior season at Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.). That’s the same school 2013 winner Andrew Wiggins (a Kansas recruit) attended.
One junior All-American definitely headed to Rob Fulford’s program at Huntington Prep is Jalen Lindsey of Christ Presbyterian Academy (Nashville, Tenn.).
Another talented senior-to-be on the move is Namon Wright of California Division IV state champ Pacific Hills (Los Angeles). He’s the latest Californian headed to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.).
2012-13 Underclass All-American watch list
Juniors to watch (2014)
C — Cliff Alexander, Curie (Chicago) 6-9
G — Grayson Allen, Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.) 6-4
G — Casey Benson, Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.) 6-2
G — Joel Berry, Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Fla.) 6-1
G — James Blackmon Jr., Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, Ind.) 6-2
G — Devin Booker, Moss Point (Moss Point, Miss.) 6-5
G — Justin Coleman, Wenonah (Birmingham, Ala.) 5-10
F — Bonzie Colson, St. Andrew’s School (Barrington, R.I.) 6-6
G — Clay Custer, Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.) 6-1
G — T.J. Haws, Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) 6-2
G — Tadric Jackson, Tift County (Tifton, Ga.) 6-2
F — Stanley Johnson, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 6-6
G — Tyus Jones, Apple Valley (Apple Valley, Minn.) 6-1
F — Jalen Lindsey, Christ Presbyterian Academy (Nashville, Tenn.) 6-6
G — Wyatt Lohaus, Iowa City West (Iowa) 6-2
F — Kevon Looney, Hamilton (Milwaukee, Wis.) 6-7
F — Trey Lyles, Arsenal Tech (Indianapolis, Ind.) 6-8
G — Jordan McLaughlin, Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.) 6-2
G — Emmanuel Mudiay, Prime Prep Academy (Dallas, Texas) 6-4
F — Ja’Quan Newton, Neumann Goretti (Philadelphia) 6-3
C — Jahlil Okafor, Whitney Young (Chicago) 6-9
G — Josh Perkins, Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.) 6-2
G — D’Angelo Russell, Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) 6-4
F — Karl Towns, St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) 6-11
F — Reid Travis, De La Salle (Minneapolis, Minn.) 6-7
G — Romelo Trimble, Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) 6-2
F — Craig Victor, St. Augustine (New Orleans) 6-8
G — Isaiah Whitehead, Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) 6-4
F — Justise Winslow, St. John’s School (Houston, Texas) 6-6
F — Namon Wright, Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) 6-5
2013 National Junior of the Year: Jahlil Okafor
Highlights: Johnson is the early front-runner for Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball, but Okafor probably holds the edge from a national perspective unless he’s beaten out in his own backyard by Cliff Alexander. McLaughlin is a McDonald’s All-American candidate but certainly not a lock. Wright probably has increased his post-season national all-star game chances by leaving for Findlay Prep, but he’s struggled the times we’ve seen him so far this spring-summer.
Sophomores to watch (2015)
G — KeVaughn Allen, North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) 6-3
G — Sedrick Barefield (Centennial, Corona, Calif.) 6-0
G — Isaiah Briscoe, St. Benedict’s Prep (Newark, N.J.) 6-2
G — Jaylen Brown, Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) 6-4
G — Jalen Brunson, Stevenson (Lincolnshire, Ill.) 6-0
F — Thomas Bryant, Bishop Kearney (Rochester, N.Y.) 6-8
G — Eric Davis, Arthur Hill (Saginaw, Mich.) 6-3
F — Marcus Derrickson, Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) 6-7
C — Cheick Diallo, Our Savior New American (Centereach, N.Y.) 6-9
G — Tyler Dorsey, St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) 6-5
G — Hyron Edwards, Central (East Chicago, Ind.) 6-0
C — Alex Illikainen, Grand Rapids (Grand Rapids, Minn.) 6-9
G — Luke Kennard, Franklin (Franklin, Ohio) 6-5
F — K.J. Lawson, Hamilton (Memphis, Tenn.) 6-6
G — Malik Newman, Callaway (Jackson, Miss.) 6-2
C — Ivan Rabb, Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.) 6-9
F — Malachi Richardson, Roselle Catholic (Roselle, N.J.) 6-6
C — Diamond Stone, Dominican (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) 6-9
G — Allonzo Trier, Tulsa NOAH (Tulsa, Okla.) 6-0
C — Stephen Zimmerman, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 6-10
2013 National Sophomore of the Year: Malik Newman
Highlights: While California’s 2014 class is considered average at best, the 2015 class is loaded with point guards and some quality big men. Rabb recently made Team USA’s U16 National Team and potentially could be a two-time high school All-American. Dorsey is a great candidate for the McDonald’s All-American Game in 2015 and this summer and next season will be critical for Barefield to expect the same type of acclaim when he’s a senior. The wild card of California’s 2015 group is point guard Marcus Lovett Jr. He certainly has the talent to be a high school All-American, but he didn’t receive any national or statewide honors this past season after leaving Providence of Burbank before the end of the season. It remains to be seen where he’ll spend his junior year of high school.
Freshmen to watch (2016)
G — Bryce Aiken, Pope John XXIII (Sparta, N.J.) 5-9
G — Tyus Battle, Gill St. Bernard’s (Gladstone, N.J.) 6-5
G — Alterique Gilbert, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) 5-10
F — Harry Giles, Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) 6-7
G — Eron Gordon, North Central (Indianapolis, Ind.) 6-2
F — V.J. King, St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron, Ohio) 6-6
G — Josh Langford, Madison Academy (Madison, Ala.) 6-5
C — Thon Maker, Carlisle School (Martinsville, Va.) 7-0
C — Trevor Stanback (Chaminade, West Hills, Calif.) 6-10
G — Seventh Woods, Hammond (Columbia, S.C.) 6-1
2013 Freshman Player of the Year: Eron Gordon
Highlights: Only Stanback, the Cal-Hi Sports State Freshman of the Year, made the 10-man freshman list, but several California players were considered. 2016 has the makings of a special class, even though Derryck Thornton Jr. will transfer from Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth to Findlay Prep. Thornton’s old teammate, Devearl Ramsey, joined Rabb as the only Californians to make the 12-man U.S. U16 team that won the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Maldonado, Uruguay. Both Thornton Jr. and Ramsey are major college point guard prospects. Most national and local scouts feel a third lead guard who didn’t make the USA Basketball cut, 6-foot-4 Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills, is the best long term prospect of the trio. He’s had a fantastic spring-summer so far.
Note: All selections based on high school accomplishment during the 2012-13 season. Similar to the Mr. Basketball USA honor, those ineligible due to age or academics are not eligible for underclass honors.