We begin our statewide series of stories and rankings on preseason girls basketball with a look at impact transfers both in the north and south. The major winners could be Long Beach Poly, Gardena Serra and McNair of Stockton.
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Is transferring to a different school the new norm in girls basketball? It’s certainly happening in California statewide more than ever before and will have major ramifications on how teams match up throughout the upcoming season.
Two teams smack dab in the middle of the transfer madness in Southern California are at Long Beach Poly and Serra of Gardena.
When the Cal-Hi Sports preseason state rankings come out soon (possibly as early as next Friday), Long Beach Poly is going to be a couple of notches higher than it would have been had not its roster changed, and in a huge way.
Before going any further, several of the key transfers are related to a coaching change at St. Bernard of Playa del Rey. When former coach Bo Corona left (he’s now at Leuzinger of Lawndale), some of the girls wanted out for whatever reason, and they have scattered.
Senior forward Michelle Curry transferred to Culver City, and according to CIF Southern Section Director of Communications Thom Simmons, she will be eligible after sitting out the mandatory period stipulated by the National Federation of State High School Associations, and being used by all 10 CIF Sections. That period ends on January 6 of next year.
Two other girls from St. Bernard and one from Richmond Salesian now appear on the Serra roster, but according to Simmons no paperwork has been submitted by the school for the three.
They are senior guard Chyanne Butler, who led St. Bernard in scoring last season at 20.5 ppg, and current senior Cydney Bolton (who actually played at Serra earlier in her career). The other girl is former Richmond Salesian 6-foot-2 post Deja Stallworth, the younger sister of current Kentucky senior forward DeNesha Stallworth.
The biggest prizes, although one didn’t play last season and the other played only three games, went to Poly, where all the paperwork is in order. The result is that after January 6 this team could become an Open Division favorite.
Emoni Jackson, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, only played three games last season at St. Bernard before an ACL injury sidelined her. As a sophomore, however, she was chosen all-state for her class. While it remains to be seen if Jackson will be a major contributor on a team that returns everyone except one major star, the other girl is the biggest catch of them all.
The transfer of senior Lajahna Drummer from St. Bernard to Poly is just as huge as Karlie and Katie Lou Samuelson transferring from Edison of Huntington Beach to Mater Dei of Santa Ana last season.
After an outstanding sophomore season, Drummer missed all of last season with an ACL injury.
When Drummer returned to action with Cal Sparks Gold this summer she was the one turning heads amongst the college coaches. “She’s baaaaak,” said one that wanted her but didn’t sign her.
Of the girls witnessed in person during the Girls of Summer sojourns, the UCLA-bound Drummer was tied for the second highest ranking with Cal-bound Gabby Green of Berkeley St. Mary’s. Only Drummer’s soon to be UCLA teammate, Jordin Canada from Windward of Los Angeles, received a higher mark.
Poly already had size up front from last year, and Louisville-bound Arica Carter to run the backcourt. Now after January 6 you can look for the flashy Carter to be finding Drummer down low or the two working the fly.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, three girls that tried to transfer to Piedmont from Oakland Tech — junior guard Ameela Li, and junior twin bigs Kelea Pickeral-Dennis and Kiara Pickeral-Dennis — turned in their paperwork and are attending the school but were denied eligibility by the CIF North Coast Section.
The denial was supposedly for undue athletic influence, although the section wouldn’t comment. Piedmont head coach Bryan Gardere really didn’t want to comment much, either, since the case is under appeal.
What he did say makes sense and leads to an interesting analogy.
“This is not a normal situation academically here at Piedmont,” Gardere remarked. “I know for a fact they want to be here for academics and they didn’t leave for athletics.”
Knowing Piedmont and the doors that its academics and arts programs can open, leads one to think. If a musical prodigy had a chance to transfer from a school in Oakland to get an opportunity to play in the orchestra at Piedmont, people would be hailing the opportunity. For good basketball players, however, there are always questions.
The news out of the CIF San Diego Section sees two girls leaving San Diego Mission Bay and one from La Mesa Helix.
Junior point guard Bri Shepard is now at Helix, junior 6-foot-2 center Onjalise Hilliard is now at Chula Vista Mater Dei and sophomore guard Layla Cunningham comes to Bishop’s of La Jolla from Helix.
All have passed the litmus test and will be eligible after the sit-out period.
The big news from the CIF Sac Joaquin Section is the departure of Tiara Tucker from Stockton Brookside Christian to McNair of Stockton. Tucker, one of the state’s leading scorers last year at more than 28 ppg including one game of 73, is poised to place her name high on the all-time leading career scoring list in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book despite her switch of schools.
The University of San Francisco-bound Tucker, who comes into the season with 2,519 points, will be teaming up at McNair with Oklahoma State-bound Mandy Coleman. According to CIF Sac-Joaquin Section media relations director Will DeBoard, Tucker has completed her paperwork but won’t be eligible to play until January 6.
The move may cause Tucker to finish lower on the all-time career scoring list, but would seem to make McNair a major contender for a NorCal and state title in Division II, since most of the top D2 teams in Northern California will probably be in the Open Division.
Simmons has the lion’s share of the estimated 7,000 statewide transfers since almost half of the state’s schools are in the Southern Section. As for the number he has for girls basketball?
“I couldn’t even venture a guess but it’s quite a few,” he told Cal-Hi Sports.
We’d venture to guess it’s probably more than last year and it will probably be more next year.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend