Which one of the two All-America candidates from St. Mary’s of Berkeley will emerge as that team’s leader for player of the year? Neither one, however, is in front of Windward’s Jordin Canada or Mater Dei’s Katie Lou Samuelson to be the 2013-14 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year.
Note: The Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year honor from Cal-Hi Sports dates back to 1972 for Ann Meyers. It is part of the state record book we have published seven times. To get state record updates as they happen, become a member of our Gold Club. For more info, CLICK HERE.
(The Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year tracker will be posted at least two more times. The next one will be released in mid-January including all of the major holiday tournaments. The next one after that will be at the end of the regular season. We will list the top 10 players with short writeup, then the next 10 without a writeup and then others who’ve come onto the radar screen.)
1. Jordin Canada (Windward, Los Angeles) Sr.
The extremely close runner-up for last year’s Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year was the top rated girl in the 2013 Girls of Summer rankings despite a knee injury in the late summer that knocked her out of action. Since recovering from the injury, Canada has picked up right where she left off before getting injured. The UCLA-bound point guard was currently averaging 15 points, six assists and four steals per game going into a Friday night matchup with defending CIF D3 state champion Bishop Alemany of Mission Hills.
2. Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) Jr.
Lou is in the same spot this year as Jordin Canada was last year, the top junior shadowing a senior. She didn’t get a chance to face off against Canada at the Battle of the Beach tournament at Redondo Beach because Windward was upset by a Gardena Serra team the Monarchs went on to beat 90-61 in the title game. Lou, who is rumored to have narrowed her college choices to Notre Dame, Connecticut, Louisville and UCLA, with Stanford in the mix as well, averaged 25 points, eight rebounds and four three-pointers for the four games, with a high of 30 points and 11 rebounds against Torrance West.
3. Mikayla Cowling (St. Mary’s, Berkeley) Sr.
No one works harder on the court or shows up earlier for practices or a showcase event than Cowling. After an unbelievable summer that saw her tied for the third-highest mark in the 2013 Girls of Summer rankings, the Cal-bound Cowling has moved up the ladder to be the No. 2 rated wing and No. 11 rated overall player in the nation by ESPN. She is currently averaging 16.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.2 steals and 2.8 blocks per game.
4. Gabby Green (St. Mary’s, Berkeley) Sr.
Green, who will be joining teammate Mikayla Cowling at Cal, and who with her long arms and legs looks like she’s flying up and down the court, was tied with Lajahna Drummer (who won’t be eligible to play at Long Beach Poly until Jan. 6) for the second-highest mark in the 2013 Girls of Summer rankings. The No. 4 rated wing and No. 13 overall ranked player in the nation by ESPN is currently averaging around the same numbers as Cowling whom she falls in behind in this first tracker, with 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.
5. Mariya Moore (Salesian, Richmond) Sr.
She’s from just up the road a few miles from Cowling and Green and obviously is in the same class. Moore, however, doesn’t have another teammate who could siphon off attention and honors. She led Salesian to the CIF Division IV state final last season with averages of 18.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists. She has signed with Louisville.
6. Kelli Hayes (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose) Sr.
She’s the returning two-time San Jose Mercury-News Player of the Year who has committed to UCLA. As a sophomore, she led the Monarchs to the CIF Division II state title with 15.2 points per game and 6.2 rebounds. Mitty was in the new Open Division for Northern California last season, but was still one of the state’s top teams. Hayes improved her averages to 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. She can play all five positions on the floor.
7. Natalie Romeo (Carondelet, Concord) Sr.
The 5-foot-7 point guard is a true leader and although she’s definitely behind some of the other more celebrated East Bay players (such as Cowling, Green and Moore) she’s also definitely a top 10 player for this first tracker. Romeo, who has signed with Nebraska, knocked down 21.4 points last season and also handed out an average of 6.7 assists.
8. Arica Carter (Long Beach Poly) Sr.
Leading Poly players never score that much, but Carter was the leader of a team that last season won the CIF Division I state title after getting knocked out early in the CIF Southern Section Division IAA playoffs. She was the Long Beach Press-Telegram Player of the Year with an average of 11 ppg. Headed to Louisville, it will be interesting to see if she remains the top player of the year candidate for the Jackrabbits once 6-foot-3 LaJahna Drummer becomes eligible. Our hunch is that she will.
9. Amy Okonkwo (Etiwanda) Sr.
A 6-foot-2 forward headed to USC, Okonkwo’s strong finish from last season makes her a stronger candidate to start this season than point guard teammate McKynzie Fort. Etiwanda, however, obviously is going to be a very good team so don’t be surprised if Fort is the one higher at the finish. Okonkwo was the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin Player of the Year as a junior. She averaged 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, including a 28-point outburst in an upset win against Mater Dei when the Monarchs were ranked No. 1 in the nation.
10. Monique Billings (Santiago, Corona) Sr.
With teammate Chrishae Rowe now up at Oregon, Billings’ stock as a player of the year candidate should go up and it already has since she’s averaging 20 ppg in her first six games. Billings is a 6-foot-3 forward who can play above the rim. She has signed with UCLA.
NEXT 10 IN ORDER:
11. Kristin Simon (Windward, Los Angeles) Sr.
12. Imani Littleton (Bishop’s, La Jolla) Sr.
13. Asha Thomas (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) Jr.
14. Sabrina Ionescu (Miramonte, Orinda) Soph.
15. Charise Holloway (St. Mary’s, Stockton) Sr.
16. Bri Moore (St. Mary’s, Stockton) Jr.
17. McKynzie Fort (Etiwanda) Sr.
18. Kennedy Burke (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) Jr.
19. Jaelyn Brown (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta) Soph.
20. Morgan Green (Pacific Collegiate, Santa Cruz) Sr.
ON THE RADAR SCREEN (10 more in alphabetical order)
Dijonai Carrington (Horizon, San Diego) Soph. *
Zoe Correal (Salesian, Richmond) Sr.
Lajahna Drummer (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) Sr. *
Chaya Durr (Sacramento) Jr.
Ayanna Edwards (Sacramento) Sr.
Joesetta Fatuasi (Wilcox, Santa Clara) Sr.
Desire Finnie (Berkeley) Sr.
Sydney Raggio (St. Ignatius, San Francisco) Jr.
Lauren Sakai (Mark Keppel, Alhambra) Jr.
Devin Stanback (Chaminade, West Hills) Sr.
*Note: Based on her summer performance, LaJahna Drummer of Long Beach Poly would probably be in the top five but since she missed last year with an injury and won’t be eligible to play until January, we’ve left her off the main list for now. State Freshman of the Year Carrington suffered a knee injury and it is still not known exactly when she will return. Carrington probably would have been the highest rated sophomore. Remember, this is a fluid list. It will change for upcoming trackers to reflect injuries, team performance and other factors.
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