We decided for this year that there will be six finalists for this season’s Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year honor and that there will be eight for Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year. Winners will be announced near the end of next week. We have also included any McDonald’s All-American Game updates from Wednesday night.
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Congratulations to the following six players who have been chosen as finalists for the 2017 selection as Mr. Basketball in California. This is also the Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year, which dates back to 1905 and includes Lonzo Ball, Tyson Chandler, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, Bill Walton, Paul Silas, Jim Pollard and Hank Luisetti as previous winners.
(All listed in alphabetical order)
Marvin Bagley (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) 6-11 Jr.
He’s already been selected as the Gatorade State Player of the Year and with about one month left to go in the season it did look like he was the front-runner, especially after he broke the Nike Extravaganza scoring record with 42 points in a win against Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas. The season didn’t end well for the Trailblazers, however, as coaching issues contributed to a loss to Bishop Montgomery in the CIF Southern Section Open Division semifinals and then another loss to St. Augustine of San Diego in the CIF SoCal playoffs. Bagley, who averaged 24.9 points and 10 rebounds per game and made 66 percent of his shot attempts, had 28 points and nine rebounds in a win vs. Oak Hill Academy, 28 points and 14 rebounds in a win vs. Findlay Prep of Nevada and 28 again in that loss to Bishop Montgomery. Bagley, who transferred to Sierra Canyon after playing his sophomore season in Arizona, is regarded as the No. 1 junior recruit in the nation.
Li’Angelo Ball (Chino Hills) 6-5 Sr.
By the end of the season, Gelo was slowed by an ankle injury that caused him to miss five games and made him just a bit less effective than he was at the beginning. In looking at the totality of his season and four-year career, however, him being a Mr. Basketball finalist (an award older brother Lonzo was chosen for last season) makes a lot of sense. We don’t have a final career scoring total for him, but believe it will be similar to Lonzo’s (2,522) and will be enough for a state record book listing. His scoring average for the season of 33.8 ppg was boosted by the 56-point and 72-point back-to-back outings early on against Orange Lutheran and Rancho Christian, but he also had 28 in a win against Foothills Christian (also with a Mr. Basketball finalist) and 33 in a win against Woodcreek of Roseville (also with a Mr. Basketball finalist). He also had 52 in a SoCal regional playoff game against state-ranked Birmingham. Li’Angelo will head to UCLA next season where his older brother has already had his one-and-done season and will be moving to the NBA.
Jordan Brown (Woodcreek, Roseville) 6-11 Jr.
While he had a slow start in the CIF Open Division state championship, Brown ended up setting an Open Division scoring record with 35 points and he grabbed 17 rebounds in the loss to Bishop Montgomery of Torrance and Ethan Thompson. We saw him earlier this season knock down two big free throws to win the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship and he was again impressive at the line against the Knights as he made 17 of his 21 free throw attempts. Not only is he considered one of the top junior recruits in the state but in the nation as he is ranked fifth in the ESPN 60 Class of 2018 player rankings. He also had 38 points in the NorCal Open final vs. Sheldon and averaged 26.3 points and 15.8 rebounds per game.
Jaylen Hands (Foothills Christian, El Cajon) 6-0 Sr.
Making the most of his one season with the Knights before he heads to UCLA, this senior guard averaged 29.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists. He led Foothills Christian to the CIF San Diego Section Open Division semifinals before back to back losses. Hands wasn’t chosen as the section’s player of the year, but he is universally considered the No. 1 college prospect in the state among seniors. It’s not like he had a bad season, either. Named a McDonald’s All-American, he was the second-leading scorer for the West squad that beat the East 109-107 in Wednesday’s game in Chicago. Hands had 14 points, three assists and two steals.
Kezie Okpala (Esperanza, Anaheim) 6-6 Sr.
Headed to Stanford, this Orange County Player of the Year had 22 points, 12 rebounds and four assists on Saturday as the Aztecs captured the CIF Division II state championship with a 72-65 win over Moreau Catholic of Hayward. Wrapping up a three year varsity career, he went from averaging 8.1 points his sophomore season to 23.1 points last season and then averaged 30.4 points and 10.6 rebounds a game this season. During the season, Okpala scored at least 40 points in a game five times with his season-high of 46 points coming during the state playoffs and a win over Crossroads of Santa Monica.
Ethan Thompson (Bishop Montgomery, Torrance) 6-4 Sr.
The CIF Open Division state championship game featured two Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year candidates and it was Thompson and the Knights who started the season and ended the season as the No. 1 team in the state. Showing his skills on the break, in the half court and down in the post he finished with a team-high 26 points and said after the game “I just wanted to get us going offensively” and that was what he did. Knights’ head doach Doug Mitchell told the South Bay Daily Breeze, “He is the best player ever to come out of Bishop Montgomery” when Thompson was named by the newspaper earlier this week as its player of the year. Before the season started, he played with the Puerto Rican national team and he will be headed to play next year at Oregon State.
Congratulations to the following eight players who have been chosen as finalists for the 2017 selection as Ms. Basketball in California. This is also the Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year, which dates back to 1972 and includes Diana Taurasi, Lisa Leslie, Cheryl Miller, Jackie White and Ann Meyers:
Sarah Bates (Clovis West, Fresno) 5-9 Sr.
No one on the balanced group of starters at Clovis West scores that much, but in looking for one of the Golden Eagles to include as a Ms. Basketball finalist we are going with Bates. She’s not the ball-handling point guard like Danae Marquez, she’s not quite the top 3-point shooter like Megan Anderson and she’s not the inside battler like Bre’yanna Sanders, but she’s like a second point guard, can shoot threes and defends. She scored 11 straight points in the fourth quarter of the CIF Open Division state final to help lift Clovis West past Mitty of San Jose. She also was co-leader with Anderson as top scorer with 10 points against Long Beach Poly and had 17 earlier in the season against Poly. Bates will play next at UC Santa Barbara.
Julia Blackshell-Fair (Vanden, Fairfield) 5-10 Sr.
She’s had a stellar four-year career for the Vikings that reportedly includes more than 1,200 career rebounds and a 20 ppg scoring average. But Blackshell-Fair’s play down the stretch in the CIF Division II state championship game against Mater Dei of Santa Ana is what set her apart. With Vanden trailing by 17 points, Blackshell-Fair led a rally that pushed Vanden to a 58-41 victory. She finished with 20 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists. Headed to Houston and considered one of the top 100 recruits in the nation, Blackshell-Fair led the Vikings in scoring, rebounds and steals.
Ayanna Clark (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) 6-1 Sr.
A double-double machine for the Jackrabbits, this 6-foot-1 senior center finished the season averaging 15.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. Committed to USC, she was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game and earlier this week she was named to the Los Angeles Times girls’ basketball team. In the McDonald’s game played Wednesday, Clark had no points, two rebounds and one steal. Last season, she was named to our All-State Junior First Team. She also has extensive USA Basketball experience and choosing her as a finalist reflects on her entire four-year career. Clark had 19 points as a freshman in Poly’s 70-52 win over Richmond Salesian in the CIF Open Division state final. She was the State Freshman of the Year and has been near the top of the class as a recruit since then. Along with teammate Jasmine Jones, Clark led Poly to a final No. 3 state ranking.
Haley Jones (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose) 6-0 Soph.
She’s ranked as one of the top 10 college prospects in the nation among sophomores and may move up after enjoying a stellar season. In the CIF Open Division state final, Jones was the only player on either team with a double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) and she had similar outings against the other elite opponents that Mitty faced. Among those were 20 and 10 against Bishop O’Dowd, 23 and 12 against Seton Catholic, 20 and 10 vs. Eastside College Prep, 17 and 11 against Pinewood plus 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in the NorCal final vs. Cardinal Newman. Jones, who averaged 15.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, also was asked by head coach Sue Phillips to guard the other team’s top scorer.
Destiny Littleton (Bishop’s, La Jolla) 5-9 Sr.
Earlier this season, this McDonald’s All-American went over the 4,000 career points mark and ended her high school career as the all-time leading scorer in state history. Named by us as our state freshman, sophomore and junior of the year over her first three years of high school she was named by Gatorade as its state player of the year but that doesn’t guarantee that she will take home this honor. In the McDonald’s game, Littleton made one free throw and missed four shots from the floor. She was committed to USC but reopened her recruitment after a coaching change by the Trojans. During her senior season, she averaged 33.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and finished her high school career with 4,300 points.
Charisma Osborne (Windward, Los Angeles) 5-8 Soph.
Just like fellow Ms. Basketball finalist Ayanna Clark, she was named to the Los Angeles Times girls’ basketball team earlier this week and did one better as the player of the year. Osborne impressed on both sides of the court during a Division I state championship season. She came up big particularly late in the season with a 35 point game in the SoCal regional final and scored 26 points in the state finals. On the year, she averaged 20.5 points per game and made 88 three-pointers. She has received offers from UCLA, USC and Cal and the offers are expected to grow as this sophomore still has two more seasons. She was the 2016 State Freshman of the Year.
Khayla Rooks (Mission Hills, San Marcos) 6-1 Sr.
Despite her father, former NBA player Sean Rooks, passing away last June it didn’t stop her from excelling on the court or in the classroom. Rooks wasn’t the San Diego Section Player of the Year behind Destiny Littleton, but has an argument to be higher since she led the Grizzlies to a San Diego Section championship all four years of her high school career. Last season, she was the runner up for the section player of the year award while being named to our first team all-state squad. Earlier this week, she was named by the San Diego Union-Tribune as its All-Academic team captain with a 4.17 GPA and will be headed to Washington next season. She averaged approximately 19 ppg per game.
Kianna Smith (Troy, Fullerton) 6-0 Sr.
Considering what transpired afterward, her last game actually put her over the hump in terms of being a Ms. Basketball State POY finalist. In that game, Smith hit for 22 points against Clovis West as the Warriors battled the eventual CIF Open Division state champs deep into the fourth quarter. And then check out how some of the other top players did against Clovis West after that performance, and Smith’s candidacy looks strong. She just played in the McDonald’s All-American Game for a West team that lost 80-74 and had four points, two rebounds and one assist. For the season, the Cal-bound Smith averaged 21.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. She didn’t have a 30-point game, but also had 26 against state-ranked Etiwanda.