Boys BB: All-State Best of Best

Two of this year’s top 10 are Jaylen Hands from Foothills Christian of El Cajon and Matt Mitchell from Roosevelt of Eastvale. Photos: & Mark Tennis.

One year after Lonzo Ball was written up for this top group of 10 players, brother LiAngelo gets his turn and joins nine others as first team overall and headliners for the 39th annual Cal-Hi Sports all-state boys basketball teams. These players are named regardless of year in school or CIF division and two of them are from the same team.

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RELATED All-State Boys Basketball All-State Teams: 2nd & 3rd Teams Overall | By Divisions (Gold Club) | Underclass (Gold Club) | Final List of Nominees (Gold Club)

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F ­- Marvin Bagley III (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) 6-10 Jr.
Making a big splash in his first year playing California basketball, Bagley averaged 24.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and shot 66 percent from the field for one of the most talented teams in the state and nation. After sitting out his sophomore season, Bagley didn’t waste any time showing basketball fans around the state why many respected recruiting evaluators feel he’s the No. 1 recruit in the national class of 2018 and one of the best amateur prospects in the world. He edged fellow first-teamer Jordan Brown for state junior of the year honors and shared the CIFSS Division I John Wooden Award with Mr. Basketball Ethan Thompson. A left-hander with good face-up skills, Bagley has also been named player of the year by the L.A. Daily News and could go down as one of the top players ever from a San Fernando Valley school.

Gelo Ball grabs rebound for Chino Hills during 2016 CIF Open Division state final at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Photo: Phillip Walton/SportStars.

F -­ Li’Angelo Ball (Chino Hills) 6-6 Sr.

A repeat Elite Team selection, Ball moves up to first team after an excellent senior season that saw him lead the Huskies in scoring for the second consecutive season. He was the leading scorer on teams that were among the best in the nation the last two seasons, averaging 27.4 ppg on a 35-0 team that scored over 100 points 18 times and won the mythical national title in 2015-16 and 33.8 ppg on a team that hit the century mark 17 times and finished 30-3 and ranked No. 3 in the state. Gelo has been one of the most demoralizing scorers we’ve seen in the state in recent years, meaning he could flat out embarrass teams or go on a complete roll to turn the tide of a game in a short period of time. The San Bernardino Sun Player of the Year and a two-time selection to the L.A. Times’ all-star team and the all-CIFSS Open Division team, Gelo is a confident shooter, has a great pair of hands and has worked hard to improve his all-around game in the areas of interior scoring, passing and rebounding.

C -­ Jordan Brown (Woodcreek, Roseville)
6-11 Jr.

It was a cinch call for Brown to move up to first team after earning a spot on second team as a sophomore after leading the Timberwolves to the NorCal Open Division championship. It wasn’t as easy a call to name Marvin Bagley the state junior of the year after the type of season Brown had. After being named class player of the year the past two seasons, he had some early monster games versus Salesian and Chino Hills that clearly showed the Timberwolves were going to be a forced to be reckoned with. He later proved that by scoring 38 points in the second win of the season over highly-regarded Sheldon in the NorCal title game and finished with 35 points and 17 rebounds in the state title game vs. Bishop Montgomery. After averaging 26.7 points and 15 rebounds per game as a sophomore, Brown averaged 26.3 ppg and 15.8 rpg on a better team this season. The Sacramento Bee Player of the Year, named Brown its player of the year and he would be our pick for that region as well.

F -­ Taeshon Cherry (St. Augustine, San Diego)
6-8 Jr.

He had a standout season, as the top player on the top team in the CIF San Diego Section. While we would have Jaylen Hands as the county’s top individual player, Cherry was named Player of the Year by the San Diego Hall of Champions after leading Saints to a 28-5 record and the state’s No. 6 final ranking. For the season, Cherry averaged 20.3 points and 10.4 rebounds and went for 27 points in the big win over Sierra Canyon in the first round of the SoCal Open regional playoffs. Cherry hit six 3-pointers in that game and has improved his overall game away from the rim, where he’s known for his rim-rattling dunks.

Devante Doutrive scored 25 points for Birmingham in L.A. City finals. Photo:

G ­- Devante Doutrive (Birmingham, Lake Balboa) 6-5 Sr.
The Patriots won their first-ever L.A. City Section Open Division title and Doutrive had plenty to do with it. He can shoot, drive and defend, as a combination, as well as any wing guard in the state. What elevates Doutrive to first team is his production and local honors, as he was named L.A. City Section Player of the Year and was the Wooden Award winner for the entire section. He averaged 22.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals (all team highs) for a team that played above expectations, going 27-4 and finishing No. 9 in the state rankings. He’s also the first ever Elite Team first teamer in school history and that goes back 39 seasons.

G ­- Jaylen Hands (Foothills Christian, El Cajon) 6-3 Sr.
One of three players in serious contention for Mr. Basketball honors (along with Marvin Bagley and eventual honoree Ethan Thompson), Hands made up for lost time in becoming a McDonald’s All-American. He didn’t earn any Cal-Hi Sports honors as a junior after playing at Balboa Prep in San Diego, but he closed out his summer by earning MVP honors at adidas Nations and made national headlines by breaking the scoring record of former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic, were he earned MVP after leading the Knights to the title. He finished his senior campaign averaging 29.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists as the most explosive point guard in the state. We also didn’t see a better pull up jumper off the dribble from anyone in the state, either. Before heading to UCLA, he’ll compete in the Ballislife All-American Game May 6.

F ­- Matt Mitchell (Roosevelt, Eastvale) 6-6 Sr.
A bubble pick to the elite team as a junior, Mitchell forces his way up to the first team behind a fantastic campaign that included a great blend of individual accolades and team success. A four-year varsity standout, Mitchell helped King win a CIFSS title as a freshman and capped his career by scoring 24 points in a CIF D1 state title game win for Roosevelt. For the season, Mitchell averaged 25.4 ppg and stepped up in all of the Mustangs’ big games. He had 16 double-doubles, went over 30 points 10 times and averaged 30.8 ppg in five wins over Big VIII League rival Centennial of Corona. Mitchell also improved his outside shooting, made 89 percent of his free throws (225-of-253), and made clutch defensive plays, including his signature play the passing lane for a breakaway dunk. The Riverside Press-Enterprise Player of the Year, Mitchell signed early with Cal-State Fullerton but is going the prep school route and will likely be at a high-major college for 2018-19.

Esperanza’s Kezie Okpala flips the ball up off the backboard during win against Moreau Catholic. Photo: Willie Eashman.

F ­- Kezie Okpala (Esperanza, Anaheim) 6-8 Sr.
Perhaps no player on the elite team has come as far along as this dynamic wing since the beginning of his high school career. He grew up playing youth and NJB ball with a majority of his teammates who helped Esperanza capture its first ever state title (D2). They had continuity, of course, but it was Okpala’s supreme talent that got Esperanza over the hump, as he scored 46 points in a win over Crossroads of Santa Monica to propel his team to the SoCal D2 regional finals, where he scored 28 points in a win over Pasadena. For the season, the Stanford-bound Okpala averaged 30.4 points and 10.6 rebounds while also handling the ball at some of the most crucial moments for his team. The Orange County Player of the Year, Okpala has already been named D2 State Player of the Year and drew praise from many of his peers, who called him the “Real Deal.”

G -­ David Singleton (Bishop Montgomery, Torrance) 6-4 Jr.
In what could be a surprise to some, Singleton moves up from the third team from last year all the way to the first for this year. Despite a slow start recovering from a broken foot suffered in the fall, Singleton’s strong finish (especially the way he played for the Knights in the late moments of their biggest games) helped him join Mr. Basketball teammate Ethan Thompson on first team. Singleton averaged 16.5 points and 5.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists for a 31-2 team that also finished ranked No. 6 nationally in the FAB 50. Even more than his stats, Singleton’s approach to the game and take-no-prisoners attitude helped Montgomery pull out games against its biggest foes. Singleton was known to quickly heat up, most notably against Mater Dei in the SoCal Open Regional Final when he scored 13 points and nailed three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of the come-from-behind win.

G -­ Ethan Thompson (Bishop Montgomery, Torrance) 6-4 Sr.
Our 2016-17 Mr. Basketball, coach Doug Mitchell flat out calls Thompson the best player in Bishop Montgomery history. That’s a big statement considering some of the players that have been through the program such as the Craven twins (Errick and Derrick) and his older brother Stephen Jr. Even as early as a freshman when he helped Bishop Montgomery win the D4 state title, there were signs he could develop into the player he is now, bigger and stronger than his older brother. It all came together in the second half of the season to help propel him up from the third team as a junior into the state’s most acclaimed player. Thompson led the state’s best team in scoring (22.8 ppg), but doesn’t get the credit for his rebounding prowess and on-ball defensive abilities. Headed to Oregon St., Thompson was also the Daily Breeze, Los Angeles Times and All-CIFSS Open Division Player of the Year.

Note: Co-founder Mark Tennis contributed to this report.

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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