The 29th annual San Diego Classic summer girls basketball event tips off this week with 152 teams, including one from within California that is traveling nearly 2,000 miles. This latest edition of our Girls of Summer series previews this year’s tourney and we have updates from the Battle in the Boro held in Tennessee and more.
Note: Thanks to the Orinda Magic club team, West Coast Jamboree and CalStars club team for supporting analyst Harold Abend in his annual Girls of Summer series of stops at many of California leading summer tournaments. Appreciation also goes out to the Mission Valley Sheraton in San Diego, a great place people are staying this week (including Harold) in the heart of the San Diego area’s top attractions.
The 29th annual July 16-19 San Diego Classic gets under way on Thursday with a total of 152 teams competing in three divisions.
The tournament is for high school teams only, meaning it’s not for AAU or all-star teams. Some schools will use a nickname or mascot as the team name instead of the school’s name but nonetheless all girls must play at the same school.
The tournament is held during the July 13-22 “dead period” when the NCAA Division I coaches are on a 10-day break from observing the players.
Because of this, the San Diego Classic is a favorite of the lower division and junior college coaches, so playing in the tournament is a chance for the non-elite girls to get some eyeballs on them from the over 100 coaches attending.
The 3A division has 32 teams, 2A has 96 teams in a very solid field, and the 1A field will also be very competitive with 24 junior varsity and freshmen teams.
The tournament was started in 1987 by former Santana of Santee head coach and 2006 McDonald’s All-American Game winning head coach Wade Vickery with eight teams. This year’s 152 teams come from seven different states plus Germany. The California team making the longest journey is Del Norte of Crescent City. There will be both a 2A and 1A team from Del Norte, which is nearly 2,000 miles from San Diego despite being in the same state.
The 3A and some of the 2A games are held at the RIMAC Center at UC San Diego with five games taking place simultaneously. The other 2A games are at Alliant International University, and the 1A competition takes place at San Diego Francis Parker.
Cal-Hi Sports will once again be the media sponsor for the San Diego Classic and will have a report after 3A Pool play concludes on Friday as well as a championship wrap-up on both the 3A and 2A divisions.
There is little question the team to beat in 3A and a team looking for a four-peat is St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Last year, the Rams became the first team ever to three-peat when they took a 59-54 victory from a very solid Oregon City team from the Portland suburbs.
Most state and national analysts agree St. Mary’s will be the top preseason team in both California and the nation for the 2015-16 season.
What’s scary is head coach Tom Gonsalves will have everyone in San Diego that played in last year’s tournament, and all the starters on this year’s CIF Open Division state championship squad.
Ms. Basketball finalist Mi’Cole Cayton (2016) will take a break from playing with Team Taurasi to be with her schoolmates in San Diego. State Freshman of the Year Aquira DeCosta, who exploded onto the scene at last year’s San Diego Classic, and First Team All State Junior Kat Tudor will join the team after a very successful Nike EYBL first half of the viewing period with the Cal Stars. Incoming juniors Naje Murray and Sierra Smith, both of whom have been playing very well this summer, round out the starting five.
Oregon City is back for another crack at St. Mary’s as are last year’s third-place finisher Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) and its duo of Chloe Eackles (2016) and Stella Kailahi (2018), and fourth-place finisher Corona Centennial.
The local San Diego teams are well represented with defending Division IV state champion La Jolla Country Day leading the way. The Torrey are led by Mai-Loni Henson (2016) and outstanding incoming junior Alaysia Styles.
The Bishop’s School (La Jolla) and State Sophomore of the Year Destiny Littleton is in the field, as is Horizon (San Diego) and All State First Team Elite star Dijonai Carrington. Carlsbad, San Marcos Mission Hills and San Marcos round out the CIF San Diego Section participants.
After a 5-0 record in April at the Boo Williams tournament and then a 5-0 finish last weekend at the Battle in the Boro in Nashville, Tennessee, the Cal Star Nike Elite team completes Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) play undefeated in league and will go to the Nike Nationals on July 27-29 in South Carolina as the top seed of the 24 teams that qualified.
The Stars have been behind in eight of the 10 games but a testament to the coaching of head coach and Miramonte (Orinda) head coach Kelly Sopak and his staff is each time they have made adjustments the girls have responded and pulled out the victories.
“The difference between EYBL and club basketball is EYBL is a league,” Sopak said. “All the teams are well-coached, they scout you and know your sets, and the talent level is high on every team.”
The Stars, led by Ms. Basketball finalist and State Junior of the Year Sabrina Ionescu of Miramonte, Ms. Basketball finalist Valerie Higgins (Chaminade, West Hills), DeCosta, Tudor and Minyon Moore of Richmond Salesian, opened in Nashville with a 67-54 win over North Tartan from Minnesota. Next came a 66-54 victory over Southern California West Coast Premier, followed by a big comeback 70-68 win over the Lady Gym Rats from Indiana, and then a blowout 71-36 victory against New Jersey Sparks, and finally an 82-75 triumph over Essence (Florida) to complete their 10-0 record heading to South Carolina.
Orinda Magic looking solid
The Orinda Magic Black also had an excellent first half of the viewing period after a 4-1 record and consolation championship at the End of the Trail in Oregon and a 3-2 record against a very formidable field at the Nike Tournament in Chicago.
Look for a report on their entire summer when the girls return from the second half of the viewing period, and for several of the girls to be ranked high in the Girls of Summer player rankings.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend