We choose honorees for seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen and for each CIF division. Two girls – Katie Lou Samuelson and Sabrina Ionescu – actually both collect two separate honors.
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Congratulations to these girls players for being selected as a Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year. Thanks to Harold Abend for providing two of the writeups and for contribution by Paul Muyskens. Stay tuned for the release next week of the 34th annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams. Here is a complete list of our girls basketball individual honorees for the 2013-14 season (note that for CIF divisions players who were on Open Division teams were considered for the CIF division they would have played in):
Seniors & Division IV
Jordin Canada (Windward, Los Angeles)
It really is a shame that Mariya Moore of Richmond Salesian also falls into the same CIF divisional class as Canada because it means she doesn’t get what would be a very deserved player of the year honor. Moore just isn’t underclass and also is Division IV.
For Canada, our overall Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year, she is actually the third Division IV state player of the year from Windward. She follows Hailey Dunham for 2006 and Imani Stafford for 2011. Canada was a freshman starter at Windward when Stafford was a senior.
Juniors & Division I
Katie Lou Samuelson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
Like Mariya Moore, had Katie Lou Samuelson led her team to the CIF Open Division state championship, it could have overcome the advantage Jordin Canada had obtained and the Mater Dei star very well might have been selected Ms. Basketball.
Although she fell a bit short of top honors, the 2013 State Sophomore of the Year was a clear-cut choice to repeat for this year’s junior class and the top Division I player as well. Samuelson’s state player of the year honors also make it six straight years in which a Mater Dei girl has been selected in at least one of our statewide categories. Before 2009, there had never been one and since then there’s been several years with not just one but two.
Lou, as she’s now known by throughout the state, was not short on awards this year even prior to the Cal-Hi Sports honors being given out. She was the Gatorade State Player of the Year and the Orange County Register Player of the Year. She was also the MVP of all three tournaments she played in — the Battle of the Beach, the prestigious Nike TOC and West Coast Jamboree against the nation’s top teams.
This past season, Lou averaged 26. 3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. She shot an amazing 54 percent (81-of-150) on 3-pointers and 62 percent overall from the field. Her 89.4 percent from the free-throw line was tops in the state, the 3-point percentage topped anyone that shot more than 45 treys, and her overall accuracy was better than anyone scoring over 20 points per game.
The ESPNW top-rated wing and No. 2 player from the 2015 class has not wanted to talk about offers and the colleges she’s considering, but it’s fair to say every major college in America would like to have her, including Stanford, where her sisters Bonnie and Karlie Samuelson are currently enrolled and playing.
CIF Division II
Natalie Romeo (Carondelet, Concord)
For the fifth time since 2004, a Carondelet girl has been voted at the top of the statewide Division II category. Of course, for three of those occasions from 2004 to 2006 it was the same girl – former Stanford All-American Jayne Appel.
Romeo, a 5-foot-8 guard, follows Hannah Huffman (now at Notre Dame), who won just two years ago, as the Cougars’ latest state player of the year.
A four-year starter for the Cougars, she averaged 19.8 points, 7.8 assists and 5.6 steals per game. Considered also to be among the top-rated college prospects in the state, she will be headed to play next year at Nebraska.
Romeo’s career assist total of 735 makes her the school’s all-time leader, which is a more impressive feat considering she also ended with 2,151 points, which is second highest in school history behind only Appel. Her other career totals are 552 rebounds and 613 steals with the steals also being another school record.
With Romeo leading the way, Carondelet went undefeated in East Bay Athletic League play and captured the NCS Division II championship before its season came to an end in the CIF NorCal Open Division semifinals.
Sophomores & Division III
Sabrina Ionescu (Miramonte, Orinda)
Ater being edged out for State Freshman of the Year honors last year by Dijonai Carrington of San Diego Horizon, who was sidelined most of this season with a knee injury, Ionescu rises to the top of the class and while doing it also takes the top prize for CIF Division III.
This year, with the season Ionescu produced, the 6-foot guard was a hands down winner for both honors even though Miramonte played in the Open Division of the CIF state playoffs.
From a historical perspective, Ionescu becomes Miramonte’s first-ever state player of the year in any category and she’s done it twice. She’s also the third straight CIF North Coast Section winner in Division III after Oderah Chidom of Bishop O’Dowd last year and Kendall “K.C.” Waters of Bishop O’Dowd from the year before. The last State Sophomore of the Year from the East Bay was Courtney Paris of Piedmont in 2000.
Although Miramonte had a solid starting five, it was Ionescu who led the Matadors to the CIF NorCal Open Division title game where they lost 78-64 to Richmond Salesian and finished with a 30-2 record.
In that game, Ionescu had a game-high 23 points. The previous game, in a 92-87 win over Concord Carondelet in the semifinals, she went for 35 points. It was her seventh 30-point performance of the season.
For the season, Ionescu, who is on the radar screen of every top college, including NCAA champion Connecticut, scored a school record 598 points (18.7 per game), had a school record 150 steals (4.7 per game), snagged 7.8 rebounds a game, and led the team in assists and 3-point shots at 4.2 per game and 60 for the season, respectively.
After walking on to the 2013 USA U16 Gold Medal winning team last summer, she is coincidentally being honored by Cal-Hi Sports on the same day she was officially named one of 39 girls invited to try out May 22-26 in Colorado Springs for the 2014 USA U17 team that will compete this summer for another gold medal.
Destiny Littleton (Bishop’s, La Jolla)
While the performance by freshman post player Ayanna Clark of Long Beach Poly caused some hesitation, Littleton was the state’s top frosh for the entirety of the season and had to step up into much more of a leadership role than expected when the mother of senior star Imani Littleton (no relation to Destiny) died suddenly in December.
Littleton, a 5-foot-9 guard, is the second straight San Diego girl to be chosen State Freshman of the Year following DiJonae Carrington of Horizon Christian from last season. She also is the just the second player of the year from Bishop’s. The school’s only other honoree was Gizelle Sturdivant for Division IV in 2009.
Littleton already has become the lone freshman to be selected to the All-San Diego Section team and was a key part of the Knights’ success this season that saw them capture the San Diego Section Open Division championship.
For the season, Destiny averaged 20.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 3.6 assists a game. Some of her biggest games included 42 points during a win over Horizon Christian and 32 points during a win over CIF Division II state finalist Archbishop Mitty.
CIF Division V
Marissa Hing (Pinewood, Los Altos Hills)
Unless there’s a Division V player who leads the state in scoring or does something similar (like Michelle Miller of Pasadena Poly for 2012), the choice in this division is usually going to go to the top player from the Division V state title team. That is the case with Hing, the exceptionally quick floor leader for this year’s champs from Pinewood.
Hing is the sixth player from Pinewood to be chosen Division V State Player of the Year. One of those players, Hailie Eackles, was chosen twice for 2010 and 2011. The others are Sami Field-Pelisso (2007), Daniela Roark (2005), Lauren Smith-Hams (1999) and Eileen Shea (1987).
At times, the junior point guard is the smallest player on the court, as she stands just 5-foot-1, but her play on the court makes her presence gigantic. She scored a team-high 17 points in the Division V state championship win over La Jolla Country Day. On the season, she averaged a team-high 12.5 points per game along with 3.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game for her head coach Doc Scheppler, who was named as our Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year.