It’s time to launch our winter basketball content on CalHiSports.com and we are doing it with a preseason State 35 ranking of the top teams from north to south. This group is led by Modesto Christian and El Cerrito at No. 16 and No. 17 and includes the rest of teams down to No. 35 Foothills Christian plus a list of 12 more who just missed.
For Part 1 of these preseason state rankings, CLICK HERE.
For last season’s final state rankings, CLICK HERE.
For lists of state’s all-time coaching leaders (Gold Club), CLICK HERE.
To see the list of major tournaments and showcases involving California’s best teams, CLICK HERE.
Note: During the season, all of our writeups, analysis and predictions of what’s coming next will be content for our Gold Club VIPs only. To become a member of our Gold Club so you can check out all of our boys basketball content, including player rankings in each class, CLICK HERE.
16. (26) Modesto Christian 24-9
Coach Richard Midgley takes over the coaching chores on a solo basis for retiring Gary Porter, who went out by winning the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title before losing to Bishop O’Dowd in the NorCal Open Division playoffs. The Crusaders have played tough schedules in recent seasons and will continue to do so, and their late season win over El Cerrito shows what this club can do when all the parts are clicking. Pacific-bound Anthony Townes (6-6, Sr.) is one of the best forwards in the state, Christian Ellis (6-2, Jr.) is hoping for a breakout season after an up-and-down sophomore campaign and guard Jeff Wu (6-1, Sr.) has D1 ability. Coach Midgley is looking forward to competing in the open division once again this year. He should feel good about it because he has a talented club with experience and balance.
17. (28) El Cerrito 28-5
The Gauchos are a bit similar to No. 15 Maranatha — you know they are talented but it’s hard to gauge until all of the pieces are on the floor in a regulation game. For now, we’ll start El Cerrito lower than Modesto Christian since the Crusaders beat them last season 73-64 and won a game in the CIF NorCal Open Division regional whereas the Gauchos did not. Coach Michael Booker welcomes back four-year starting guard Tyrell Alcorn (6-0, Sr.) and his 16.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Sayeed Pridgett (6-4, Jr.) is a versatile wing who excels inside and out and in transition, while Aaron Banks (6-8, So.) could have a breakout year. Carlos Johnson (6-4, Jr.) is the X-factor, as this rugged inside player can take this team to the next level. He transferred in from Shadow Mountain of Phoenix after helping that program win an Arizona state title. As he displayed during the NorCal Clash over the summer, Johnson has a unique set of talents and will quickly develop into one of the state best underclass players.
18. (NR) Damien (La Verne) 22-7
The Spartans very well could be the one of the state’s best teams – and finish third in their league. With Chino Hills and Etiwanda now all in the Baseline League, it could rival the Trinity League and WCAL for title of top hoops league in the state. Since there will be some losses between those three teams, one is not likely to climb too high in the state rankings and in the preseason that team has to be Damien since Chino Hills handily beat them twice last season. With five returning starters and some talented newcomers, coach Matt Dunn loves his team’s chances to do well in league and secure a CIFSS Open Division playoff berth. It all begins with San Diego State-bound Jeremy Hemsley (6-4, Sr.). He was a bit inconsistent as a junior, but during the summer and fall he showed why he’s ranked No. 4 in the Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100 for seniors. Malik Fitts (6-5, Sr.) has improved his physical conditioning and is one of the most improved talents in SoCal. Bryce Peters (6-3, Jr.) has big-time potential and Isaiah McCullough (6-3, Sr.) provides versatility. Dunn likes his depth, but is a bit concerned about lacking size at the CIFSS Open Division level.
19. (25) Cathedral (Los Angeles) 24-6
Head coach William Middlebrooks’ club has great all-around talent and will look to erase a stinging loss to Santa Margarita in the CIF Division III regional playoffs. Cathedral is an athletic, finesse team that excels in transition and has solid shooting. The pieces are in place for Cathedral to have a spectacular season if everyone finds their role. Lucas Siewart (6-9, Jr.) is one of the best shooters in the state while UCLA commit Kobe Paras (6-5, Jr.) is a flashy player who just needs focus on the simple instead of spectacular to be an all-CIFSS level player. Jameel McGill (6-1, Sr.) also is an experienced player in the backcourt while Chino Hills transfer Milan Acquaah (6-0, Jr.) is a physical specimen with loads of potential. Semaj Shepard (6-1, So.) also has plenty of ability while Modesto Christian transfer Leandro Amador (6-7, Sr.) will do the dirty work.
20. (NR) Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 27-7
This team is a bit like Sierra Canyon in that it is extremely talented, but still relatively young. The Mariners’ talent level would dictate they could be a few notches higher, but they will have to prove it. After all, Moreau lost to Bishop Montgomery by a record-setting margin, and the teams Montgomery beat
in the SoCal Division IV regional were no where near as overmatched. Coach Frank Knight sees great improvement in wing Oscar Frayer (6-6, Jr.), a Cal commit, while Damari Milstead (6-1, So.) is the top 10th-grade point guard in NorCal. St. Mary’s of Berkeley transfer Hadarri Darden (6-5, Jr.) will provide a much needed rebounding and interior presence for a team that is guard-oriented. Brandon Lawrence (6-3, Jr.) and Armond Simmons (5-11, Jr.) are D1 guards who can adapt their game to play off the ball if necessary. Knight also has a lot of options with his lineup and the players are motivated to prove to SoCal fans last year’s showing in the state title game was not indicative of their ability.
The Next 15 Outside The First 20:
21. (29) La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 27-6
The defending CIF San Diego Section Open Division champ Mavericks were a cinch to begin in the top 20 until Patrick Fisher (6-4, Sr.) transferred to a New England Prep School in the off-season. He was a go-to defender, but still you have to like a team with veterans such as Harvard-bound Tommy McCarthy (5-10, Sr.), Brown-bound Travis Fuller (6-7, Sr.) and Northern Arizona-bound Brady Twombly (6-6, Sr.) back in the fold.
22. (12) Loyola (Los Angeles) 27-4
Last season was one of tremendous highs and lows for the Cubs, and the graduation losses are plenty, but coach Jamal Adams has enough talent to challenge for a CIFSS Open Division berth. UC-Irvine bound point guard Max Hazzard (5-11, Sr.) was Loyola’s most crucial player at times last season while Henry Welsh (6-10, Jr.), Stone Gettings (6-7, Sr.) and Josh Lavernge (6-6, Jr.) are much improved.
23. (NR) Windward (Los Angeles) 23-10
Windward is similar to La Costa Canyon in that off-season factors dropped the team down a bit to where they projected at the end of last season. Grid-Hoop standout Roy Hemsley (6-6, Sr.) will leave school early to enroll at USC and long-time coach Miguel Villegas is now at St. Monica of Santa Monica. New coach and former Windward girls coach Steve Smith still has loads of talent to work with such as point guard Jaylen Harris (5-11, So.), Roman Davis (6-6, Sr.) and Breland Brandt (6-5, Jr.).
24. (NR) Orange Lutheran (Orange) 14-15
The Lancers struggled in the Trinity League last season, but with the returning talent and newcomers there is no reason to believe coach Chris Nordstrom’s club can’t challenge for the Trinity League title. UC-Davis bound Rogers Printup (6-4, Sr.), C.J. Hankins (6-1, Sr.) and Grid-Hoop standout Keisean Lucier South form a formidable trio, while Kavaughn Scott (6-5, Jr.) and newcomer Chris Williams (6-2, So.) could take this club to another level.
25. (9) J.W. North (Riverside) 26-2*
The Huskies lost in the CIFSS Open Division semifinals to Mater Dei and likely will take a step back as coach Mike Bartee is concerned about a lack of size and the youth of the roster. Still, with Dikymbe Martin (5-11, Jr.), Christian Gray (6-4, Jr.), Cameron Nunley (6-5, So.) and C.J. Clark (5-9, Jr.), this team will be competitive and but not likely back to the level it was last season until 2015-16.
26. (NR) Sacramento 23-6
The Dragons are similar to J.W. North in that next season they’ll be even more formidable. Sac High does have a dominant presence inside in Solomon Young (6-6, Jr.), who averaged 18.8 ppg and 8.8 rpg, and talent in the backcourt with Christian Terrell (6-3, Jr.) and Stephen Matthews, Jr. (5-10, So.).
27. (19) Mayfair (Lakewood) 25-7
Last season, the Monsoons were dubbed the “Giant Killers” by longtime SoCal PA announcer Kenny Miller, and if they get the breaks to go their way again, they’ll be competitive despite graduation losses and a lack of size. It all starts with all-state guard Kendall Small (5-11, Sr.) a big-game player who is complimented by C.J. Walker (6-6, Sr.) and Myles Purnell (6-3, So.).
28. (14) Chaminade (West Hills) 27-6
It looked like the defending CIF Division III state champs were going to be shoo-ins for a repeat title until center Trevor Stanback left for Maranatha. Still, coach Todd Wolfson loves the chemistry of this team with IQ players such as Jordan Ogundiran (5-9, Sr.) and Jake Porath (6-8, Sr.). Similar to Kendall Small and Mayfair, Wolfson has the luxury of a dominant guard in Montana-bound Michael Oguine (6-0, Sr.) and that means ‘Nade can be competitive with nearly any team in the state.
29. (22) Compton 25-8
The Tarbabes graduated a talented senior class, but the cupboard is hardly bare for veteran coach Tony Thomas to challenge Long Beach Poly and Long Beach Millikan in the Moore League. Southpaw Robert Lewis (6-2, Sr.) is one of the state’s best shooters, Javonntie Jackson (6-6, Jr.) is as athletic as they come and Raysean Scott (6-5, Jr.) brings toughness and versatility.
30. (16) Cantwell-Sacred Heart (Montebello) 23-9
The Cardinals broke through to challenge the state’s elite last season but will be hard-pressed to play at that level without graduated guards Joey Covarrubias and Emiliano Mejia. If coach George Zedan’s guards make up for their lack of foot speed by knocking down timely shots, the Cardinals will be formidable because few teams have an inside duo like Oregon State-bound Gligorise Rakocevic (6-10, Sr.) and Harvard-bound Balsa Dragovich (6-9, Sr.)
31. (33) Jesuit (Carmichael) 29-4
The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions know how to win close games and have enough veteran talent to crack the preseason rankings. Jesuit beat St. Mary’s of Stockton during the regular season and with veterans such as Isaiah Bailey (6-1, Sr.) and Malik Duffy (6-6, Jr.) they will be a tough out once again this season.
32. Roosevelt (Corona) 20-9
Head coach Vonn Webb, who previously coached at Easton Washington Union where he had NBA player DeShawn Stephenson, is quietly building a juggernaut in the Inland Empire, but Roosevelt must close the gap with Etiwanda (66-52 loss last season) and Corona Centennial (84-50 & 78-67 losses) before it moves into the upper echelon. With talents such as Jemarl Baker (6-1, So.) and Chris Seeley (6-6, Jr.) back and Matthew Mitchell (6-5, So.) and Alize Travis (6-0, Jr.) coming in, don’t be surprised if the Mustangs do.
33. (40) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 27-3*
The Rams will miss Stockton Record Player of the Year Gabe Vincent (now at UCSB), but return enough talent to make a serious run at the CIF Sac Joaquin Section Division II title. Lance Coleman II (6-5, Sr.) should improve his junior averages of 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds while Devin Williams (5-9, Sr.) and Jacob Aruta (6-1, Sr.) form a formidable backcourt.
34. (NR) De La Salle (Concord) 21-9
A young team that lost plenty of close games (seven by single digits) should turn some of those into wins this season. Coach Frank Allocco welcomes back Jordan Ratinho (6-3, Jr.) and Nikhil Peters (6-3, Jr.) on a good shooting team, but he’s a bit concerned with the lack of size, plus it looks like national level football recruit Devin Asiasi (6-4, Jr.) won’t be playing basketball this winter.
35. (NR) Foothills Christian (El Cajon) 20-9
There is no clear cut No. 2 team in the CIF San Diego Section, but expect big improvement from a team with quality depth and a potential All-American in T.J. Leaf (6-8, Jr.). The depth is bolstered by San Diego Serra transfer Omajae Smith (6-3, Jr.) and Chula Vista Otay Ranch transfer Nikko Paranada (6-0, Jr.) and a talented freshmen class.
12 Teams That Just Missed:
Bullard (Fresno) 18-12
Canyon (Anaheim) 30-5
Foothill (Santa Ana) 24-8
Monte Vista (Danville) 32-1
Newark Memorial (Newark) 23-8
Price (Los Angeles) 22-8
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 19-12
San Ramon Valley (Danville) 24-6
Serra (Gardena) 22-10
Sonora (La Habra) 29-5
St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 23-11
St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 31-5
For Part I of these preseason state rankings, CLICK HERE.