We’ve watched teams and evaluated players in both SoCal and NorCal and we give our quick observations on what we’ve learned about some of the state’s top-ranked teams so far.
*Damari Milstead of Moreau Catholic is quickly developing into one of the West’s top point guards in the 2017 class. Milstead looked bigger, stronger and more confident in his game than he did last time we evaluated him in a Mariners’ uniform. He was looking forward to his matchup with the Sierra Canyon backcourt duo of Remy Martin and Devearl Ramsey, the latter who is committed to Nevada. Martin was his teammate last season on the Oakland Soldiers travel ball club and he wanted to make a statement. “I was fired up and I really wanted to prove I was the best guard on the court,” Milstead said. “This is the most confident I’ve ever been.” Martin was ranked No. 10 in our latest Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100 for the class of 2017 and Milstead was No. 14.
*Jordan Brown’s Woodcreek teammates are not quite yet developed enough for the Timberwolves to be a Top 20 ranked team in the state. We began Woodcreek No. 19 in the state, but No. 20 Sheldon of Sacramento is the more talented team. Woodcreek misses Noah Blackwell (Long Beach St.) and Brown, last year’s state freshman of the year, is going to be facing double and triple teams all season long. He still went for 33 points, 18 rebounds and 6 blocked shots, but the team needs to do a better job of cutting and moving without the ball when he has it. There was too much standing around. As for Brown, he was a bit disappointing at the USA Basketball Mini-Camp in early October, but he’s definitely a top 10 national prospect in our eyes. He’s patient in the post and still have plenty of room for improvement.
*St. Mary’s (Berkeley) wasn’t a great test, but Manteca is more than just a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D3 title contender. The Buffaloes, which began the season No. 35 in the state, could be a threat in the CIF NorCal Open division if they shore up their backcourt and get the maximum production out of talented 6-foot-8 junior Tydus Verhoeven. He’s a point forward who needs to lead this team and demand the ball. Verhoeven is aware of his potential impact with regards to how far his team can go in the post-season.
*Moreau Catholic has the talent, motivation and focus to be a FAB 50-ranked team. Yes, the Mariners are more talented than Modesto Christian and De La Salle of Concord, but we wanted to see how the Mariners responded against the state’s No. 2 ranked team after falling flat in their NorCal Open Division playoff opener last season against Serra of San Mateo. They responded with flying colors and pulled off the 60-59 victory over the team with the most talented personnel in SoCal. “We were down 14, but we kept fighting,” said Moreau Catholic head coach Frank Knight. “At halftime Damari said to me , ‘We can beat them (Sierra Canyon)’. We were extra motivated by the butt kicking we took by Serra. We always knew we had a good team.” Moreau is now off until December 11, when it plays in Northern Nevada, then its off to the Lahainaluna Maui Classic (Hawaii) before closing the month at the Maxpreps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs, where Knight’s boys open against Alemany of Mission Hills. Moreau falls on the same side of the top bracket as state No. 1 Chino Hills.
*We were a bit worried by the lack of size preseason No. 15 Redondo Union had, but the Seahawks started off their season strong by winning their own Dijon Thompson Pac Shores Tournament with a 64-49 win over preseason No. 10 Long Beach Poly in the title game. Reggie Morris Jr.’s club also defeated preseason No. 12 Westchester of Los Angeles 69-65 in the semifinals. Wesley Gilbert, a 6-foot-8 senior, is a serviceable post player and he gave Redondo Union nice production in its first tournament. He has a turnaround jumper that falls and does a solid job on the defensive glass.
*The season fate for preseason No. 8 Crespi and No. 10 Long Beach Poly will likely hinge on injury. Crespi was shocked in its Pac Shores opener by Peninsula of Rolling Hills Estates before bouncing back with three wins. In that game, 6-foot-6 senior Mitchell Mykhaylov went down with a leg injury post play and if he’s lost for an extended amount of time, it will be a major blow for the defending CIF D4 state champs because he’s its only regular with any significant size. Either way, it won’t be an easy task for them to navigate through the CIFSS Open Division playoffs. As for Poly, the Jackrabbits do have a bit more depth, but senior point guard Drew Buggs suffered a leg injury at the tournament as well. The Hawaii-bound senior reportedly hurt his knee and head coach Shelton Diggs told us on Tuesday he’s waiting on the results of an MRI to see if its an ACL or MCL type of injury. If Poly loses Buggs for an extended period of time, it will be a crushing blow for a team with a real chance to do damage in the CIFSS Open Division playoffs.
*Isaiah Mobley of Rancho Christian of Temecula was ranked No. 2 in the Cal-Hi Sports Top 25 for the 2019 class and showed he was worthy of that ranking at the Pac Shores Tournament. The 6-foot-7 Mobley already has solid post moves and is a long way from peaking physically. What we found out was that his freshman classmate, 6-foot-6 Solomon Davis, also has a chance to be a big-time player. Right now he’s a four-man, but he has the athleticism and skill to develop into a big-time wing man in the future. He didn’t crack the initial 2019 Top 25, but me may in the next rankings shuffle for the class at the end of the season.