More Boys BB State Players of Year

Looking through the media hype, it was still obvious that Chino Hills’ La’Melo Ball was a greatly improved player from his freshman season. Photo: James Escarcega.

Here’s where to go to see the Cal-Hi Sports 2017 selections for seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen and for each CIF division. Marvin Bagley (Sierra Canyon) wins in a close call over someone from the opposite end of the state among juniors while for sophomores it was more of a case of one teammate from Chino Hills getting the nod this time over the other one who got it for freshmen last year.

For official writeup on the 2016-17 Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year, CLICK HERE.

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Congratulations to these boys players for being selected as a Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year. Writeups by Mark Tennis & Ronnie Flores. Stay tuned for the upcoming release of the 39th annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams. Here is a complete list of our boys basketball individual honorees for the 2016-17 season:

(Note: For this year, we have considered the Open Division and Division I to be a mixed category. The Open/D1 all-state team also will be much larger than the other divisions to accommodate all worthy players.)


Marvin Bagley (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth)
This 6-foot-10 left-hander is one of the most talented “bigs” to hit the hardwood in California in many years, perhaps since 6-foot-8 and two-time Mr. Basketball John Williams of L.A. Crenshaw in 1983-84. Still, despite his production for one of the nation’s best teams and his talent level, he was pushed for this honor by Jordan Brown from Woodcreek of Roseville, who made the race tight by closing the season strong and putting up big performances in the process. Even though Sierra Canyon didn’t finish as strong, it didn’t have much to do with Bagley’s individual production, as he averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and shot 66 percent from the field against a national schedule. On a team with four senior starters all headed to D1 college programs, it was clear from the start of the season Bagley was the team’s most talented player. He sat out his sophomore season after leading Corona del Sol of Tempe, Ariz. to a state crown as a freshman. Brown was named the state’s class player of the year the past two seasons and clearly would have been the winner again had not Bagley arrived. Bagley, also generally ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the nation, already has been named L.A. Daily News Player of the Year and Gatorade State Player of the Year. Bagley is the first honoree among juniors from a San Fernando Valley program since Jrue Holiday of North Hollywood of Campbell Hall in 2007. Regardless of the route he takes, most feel it will be just a short time before Bagley plays in the NBA.
Last 11 State Juniors of the Year: 2016 Brandon McCoy (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego); 2015 Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills); 2014 Ivan Rabb (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2013 Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2012 Aaron Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 2011 Brandon Ashley (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2010 Josiah Turner (Sacramento); 2009 Jeremy Tyler (San Diego); 2008 Renardo Sidney (Lakewood Artesia); 2007 Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood Campbell Hall); 2006 James Harden (Lakewood Artesia).

La’Melo Ball (Chino Hills)
Last year, we mentioned Melo and his good friend and classmate Onyeka Okongwu might be trading honors during their careers and it’s now happening. Last season, both were freshman starters for a 35-0 team that won a mythical national title, but Okongwu had the bigger impact on the outcome of Chino Hills’ games. This season, however, Ball had a noted increase in production and grew bigger (from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-2) and stronger and gets the nod among tenth-graders. The youngest of the three ball brothers (Gelo Ball was a senior and Lonzo is headed to the NBA after one season at UCLA), Melo gets the nod because he received more local honors and put up 27.8 points and 7.8 assists for a nationally-ranked 30-3 club. Melo had a 92-point game (the second highest in state history) and scored more than 30 points over seven times. Ironically, Melo was probably at his best during a 36-point performance against Oak Hill Academy of Virginia in a game which snapped the Huskies’ 60-game winning streak. One of the most flamboyant and well-known players in the country, Melo joins Lonzo as a state sophomore of the year honoree (2013-14 season).
Last 11 State Sophomores of the Year: 2016 Jordan Brown (Roseville Woodcreek); 2015 Cody Riley (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2014 Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills); 2013 Ivan Rabb (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2012 Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2011 Aaron Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 2010 Brandon Ashley (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2009 Angelo Chol (San Diego Hoover); 2008 Jeremy Tyler (San Diego); 2007 Renardo Sidney (Lakewood Artesia); 2006 Drew Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty).

Photo: Ronnie Flores.

Kyree Walker (Moreau Catholic, Hayward)

This was our toughest choice among boys’ selections and it came down to the talented Walker and the gifted Jalen Green of San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno. The duo is currently ranked No. 1-2 in our Cal-Hi Sports 2020 Top 25 as prospects and had the best seasons among first-year players. It came down to a statistical comparison, team success and answering the question, “In a championship-level game, which player makes the biggest impact, right now, today?” Our choice is Walker, who helped the Mariners advance to the D2 state title game with some big post-season performances. The 6-foot-5 scoring wing had 24 points and nine rebounds in Moreau’s NorCal regional final overtime victory over St. Francis of Mountain View and 30 points in the regional semifinal win over Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa. The state was able to witness his rebounding prowess and trademark contact drives to the bucket in the state title game, where he went for 28 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in the loss to Esperanza of Anaheim. San Joaquin Memorial was on the opposite side of the NorCal D2 bracket and fell in the second round to Del Oro of Loomis despite 25 points and eight rebounds from Green, who averaged 18.1 points while shooting 55 percent from the field, 9.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Walker finished with averages of 21.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. Both players are among the nation’s Top 10 freshmen prospects and we have a feeling they’ll be going head-to-head for more honors in the future. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise us to see Green as or even more highly touted than Walker three years from now when they are on their way to the next level. Walker is the first honoree among ninth-graders from a North Coast Section school since 1989, when Jason Kidd was teammates with McDonald’s All-American Calvin Byrd (the 1986 pick) at St. Joseph of Alameda.

Last 11 State Freshman Players of the Year: 2016 Onyeka Okongwu (Chino Hills); 2015 Jordan Brown (Roseville Woodcreek); 2014 Cody Riley (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2013 Trevor Stanback (West Hills Chaminade); 2012 Marcus LoVett Jr. (Burbank Providence); 2011 Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Los Angeles Loyola); 2010 Roschon Prince (Long Beach Poly); 2009 Gabe York (Orange Lutheran); 2008 Darius Nelson (Sacramento Sheldon); 2007 Jeremy Tyler (San Diego); 2006 Roberto Nelson (Santa Barbara).

Ethan Thompson (Bishop Montgomery, Torrance) 6-5 Sr.

As the overall Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year, Ethan also has to fall into one of the divisional categories and this is where he goes. Another Mr. Basketball finalist we have to mention for this category is Roosevelt of Eastvale 6-foot-6 senior Matt Mitchell, who led that team to the CIF Division I state crown. While Thompson is the first from Bishop Montgomery to be Mr. Basketball, he’s not the first from the school to be a divisional state player of the year. He joins a list that includes Justin Bibbins (Division IV in 2014), Justin Cobbs (Division IV in 2009) and Erick Craven (Division III in 2001).

Photo: Devin Ugland.

Kezie Okpala (Esperanza, Anaheim) 6-6 Sr.
A California elite who truly elevated himself during his senior season in the fashion of previous players of the year like Klay Thompson (Santa Margarita 2008 for D3) or Kahwi Leonard (Riverside King 2009 for overall), Okpala went from averaging eight points as a sophomore to some All-American acclaim as a senior. Okpala is currently ranked No. 11 in the 2017 Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100 and will likely move into the top 10 in the final rankings after posting 30.4 points and 10.6 rebounds for a team that finished 30-3 and ranked No. 16 in the state as the D2 state champions. The Stanford-bound Okpala had 22 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in the state title game, 28 points in the SoCal regional final versus Pasadena and a school-record 46 points in the regional semifinals versus Crossroads of Santa Monica. He went over 40 points five times this season, including a 41-point performance versus nationally-acclaimed Zion Williamson of South Carolina during a tournament in Illinois. The Orange County Register Player of the Year, Okpala will participate in the Ballislife All-American Game May 6 and is the first Orange County recipient in this division since Taylor King of Santa Ana Mater Dei in both 2007 and 2006.
Last 10 State D2 Players of the Year: 2016 Solomon Young (Sacramento); 2015 T.J. Leaf (El Cajon Foothills Christian); 2014 Daniel Hamilton (Bellflower St. John Bosco); 2013 Aaron Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 2012 Aaron Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 2011 Angelo Chol (San Diego Hoover); 2010 Tyler Johnson (Mountain View St. Francis); 2009 Brendan Lane (Rocklin); 2008 DeMar DeRozan (Compton); 2007 Taylor King (Santa Ana Mater Dei).

Photo: Ronnie Flores.

Jules Bernard (Windward, Los Angeles) 6-5 Jr.

This is a player who played on a team that did not get into the CIF SoCal regional playoffs, but if it had it would have been in Division III. We had to do that for a lot of players on different teams from different section playoffs, and in this case it paid off for Bernard. In looking over everyone who was on a team in the CIF D3 bracket, there were some great candidates, but Jules held off all of them.
Regarded as one of the top juniors in the nation, Bernard averaged 25.3 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. In his 23-7 team’s CIFSS D2AA playoff loss to Highland of Palmdale, Bernard had 41 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He had a season-high 45 points against Campbell Hall of North Hollywood, had 25 points in a loss to national power Sierra Canyon, grabbed a season-high 23 rebounds with 26 points in a win vs. Chaminade (West Hills) and had 31 points and 19 rebounds vs. CIF San Diego Section Open Division semifinalist Vista.
Heading into the late spring, Bernard is showing offers from Cal, Oregon, UCLA, Stanford, Alabama, Nevada, Vanderbilt and more. He is the third divisional state player of the year from Windward, joining a list that includes Darius Morris (D5 in 2009) and Wesley Saunders (D4 in 2011).
Last 10 State D3 Players of the Year: 2016 Jaelen Ragsdale (Stockton Weston Ranch); 2015 Ivan Rabb (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2014 Ivan Rabb (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2013 Isaac Hamilton (Bellflower St. John Bosco); 2012 Marqueze Coleman (Mission Hills Alemany); 2011 Brandon Ashley (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2010 Deonta Burton (Compton Centennial); 2009 Chase Tapley (Sacramento); 2008 Klay Thompson (Rancho SM Santa Margarita); 2007 James Harden (Lakewood Artesia); 2006 Alex Stephenson (North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake; 2005 Junior Russell (Santa Cruz).



Matt Bradley  (San Bernardino) 6-4 Jr.
We were a bit surprised to see Bradley snubbed in the John Wooden Award voting in San Bernardino’s respective CIFSS Division (Cal-Hi Sports has a vote on that committee), but we weren’t going to overlook him for statewide honors in the Cardinals’ respective CIF state division. The muscular and powerful 6-foot-4 left-handed wing player was named all-county by the San Bernardino Sun after leading his team to a 22-11 record and a section semifinals appearance. Bradley reminds us of former St. John Bosco and Long Beach St. standout James Cotton, but he’s even a bit more explosive around the rim. Usually once or twice a game, he’ll make an “Oh My God” play, whether it’s snatching a rebound and taking it coast to coast or blocking a shot high above the rim. He also has the numbers to back up his selection in this division, averaging 31 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals per game, with at least one triple-double performance. Overshadowed a bit because of the exploits of the Ball Brothers at Chino Hills, Bradley was at his best against San Bernardino’s toughest foes and had a 72-point game in a win over Rubidioux of Riverside. He’s the first honoree in this division from the greater Inland Empire region since Grant Jerrett of La Verne Lutheran in 2012.
Last 11 State D4 Players of the Year: 2016 Colin Slater IV (Reedley Immanuel); 2015 Tyler Dorsey (Sierra Madre Maranatha); 2014 Justin Bibbins (Torrance Bishop Montgomery); 2013 Jabari Bird (Richmond Salesian); 2012 Grant Jerrett (La Verne Lutheran); 2011 Wesley Saunders (Los Angeles Windward); 2010 Allen Crabbe (Los Angeles Price); 2009 Justin Cobbs (Torrance Bishop Montgomery); 2008 Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood Campbell Hall); 2007 Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood Campbell Hall); 2006 Quincy Pondexter (Fresno San Joaquin Memorial).


Jimmy Beltz (Elliot Christian, Lodi) 6-2 Sr.

It was tougher for this division in one sense because competitive equity has moved up some of the schools that have tended to have the top players. Beltz still did some things and had some performances that lifted him up over other contenders.
Despite actually being held to limited minutes in some of Elliot Christian’s league games, Beltz still averaged 19.8 ppg for a team that reached the CIF NorCal D5 final before losing on the road 69-64 to St. Francis CCC of Watsonville. It was his 3-point shooting, however, that proved too hard to ignore. He had a chance in the last two weeks, in fact, to set a new single-season state record but fell short of the record of 165 set in 2001 by Chad Bickley from Santa Maria Valley Christian and wound up with 156. For his career, Beltz also will go into the state record book in the top five with his total of 443.
Some of Beltz’s top games of the season included 31 points (9-of-14 on 3-pointers) vs. Jesuit of Carmichael, 32 points (10-of-17 on 3-pointers) vs. Elk Grove, 33 points vs. Ripon Christian in the CIF Sac-Joaquin D5 semifinals and 26 points vs. Argonaut of Jackson in the SJS D5 championship.
Beltz is the first D5 State POY from the SJS since Adrian Oliver of Modesto Christian in 2006.
Last 10 State D5 Players of the Year: 2016 Jade’ Smith (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2015 Cody Riley (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2014 Temidayo Yussuf (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2013 Mamadou Ndiaye (Huntington Beach Brethren Christian); 2012 Brandon Randolph (Playa del Rey St. Bernard); 2011 Brendan Keane (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2010 Troy Leaf (El Cajon Foothills Christian); 2009 Darius Morris (Los Angeles Windward); 2008 Oliver McNally (Ross Branson); 2007 Oliver McNally (Ross Branson); 2006 Adrian Oliver (Modesto Christian); 2005 Adrian Oliver (Modesto Christian).

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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