Our boys basketball coverage for Gold Club VIPs continues with a first look at the state’s top incoming ninth-graders. The freshman (2021) class has some elite talent in the post and on the wing, but a top-flight pass-first point guard has yet to emerge. Many in the group are already mature and it’s important to keep that in mind when projecting future success, especially for post players who often develop later. Some of the state’s better freshmen also won’t contribute right away because they are joining strong programs with veteran players.
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The first 2021 Cal-Hi Sports Top 25 for the 2017-18 school year is based on evaluations from this past summer’s NCAA viewing periods and non-viewing showcases and middle school events over the past year.
The baseline of where we begin with each prospect begins with high school basketball, so keep that in mind when you view the initial rankings for the 2021 class because none of them have played a regulation varsity basketball game yet. These rankings will expand as we see varsity games this winter and change over time as players develop and new ones emerge during the 2017-18 high school season. Cal-Hi Sports realizes some talented ninth-graders will sit behind talented upperclassmen, while a select few remain in junior high this school year. We did not factor in projected playing time with the high school team into our rankings. We also realize not every 2021 prospect participated in a spring or summer showcase or with their high school team this fall and we might not have had an opportunity to evaluate them. That’s why we limit this list to 25 players.
There was many prospects we considered for the top spot, but when the dust settled we went with power forward Wilhelm Dorsz from Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Dorsz is expected to contribute quality minutes for the state’s preseason No. 1 ranked team. The 6-foot-8 Dorsz is aggressive, competitive and excels with a variety of post moves, including a sweeping left hand hook shot. He had some impressive moments for the Monarchs this summer and fall, including at the Ron Massey Memorial Fall Hoops Classic.
We also strongly considered Pape Nomar Cisee, a talented face-up forward who was the best prospect at the 2017 Pangos Jr. All-American Camp, for the top spot and he settles in at No. 2. Among guards, Dorsz’s teammate Devin Askew comes into high school highly-regarded, but both of them will have to fight for minutes on a deep team. Askew is a point guard who can light it up and he’ll have to display the ability to run a team and there is perhaps not a better player in the state to learn that from than Harvard-bound and 2018 Hot 100 member Spencer Freedman. Waiting in line is not likely to be the case for Tyler Powell, our top-rated wing player who is headed for St. Bernard of Playa del Rey. Even in seventh grade, we saw him hold his own physically against high school players and he should be one of St. Bernard’s better players as the Vikings navigate through the tough Del Rey League. He comes in at No. 4 overall right behind Askew.
Dorsey of Los Angeles joins Mater Dei as the only two programs with two players among the Top 25. Damion McDowell checks in at No. 15, while Kennedy Reese Dixon checks in at No. 19. The Dons also feature 6-foot-2 freshman Jaylen Carter, a talented guard who just missed the Top 25 cut. He’s the son of former L.A. Manual Arts point guard Darwin Carter, a member of our 1995 Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100.
One of the reasons it was so tough to come up with the pecking order is this class lacks the ballyhooed middle school prospects we’ve seen come through the ranks over the years like a Tyson Chandler, Jordan Brown, Schea Cotton, or Kenny Brunner. Those guys and many more we’ve chronicled over the years simply were can’t miss high school stars and it was easy to project them as big-time college recruits. This group just doesn’t have that type of physically dominant player yet, and that could be a good omen down the line.
Every class of incoming ninth-graders develops at a different pace and some of the greatest classes of 8th grade prospects we’ve seen over the years (1991-92 for example when Cotton was as big a can’t miss prospect we ever evaluated) had many players that missed. Keep that in mind, as we track these prospects over the next four years. Some who are not even on the initial Top 25 list will eventually emerge in this class.
There is also a big range when it comes to how old this group is, but we’re not as concerned with “holdbacks” as we are with skill and potential because there are plenty of 19-year-old seniors around the country. Once you get to the highest level of the game (which all these players aspire to do) where drafting players and offering pro contracts comes into play, age is much less of a prevalent evaluation factor as skill level and fitting into a pro environment.
|1||Wilhelm Dorsz||6'8||PF||Mater Dei||Santa Ana|
|2||Pape Nomar Cisee||6'9||PF||Fairmont Prep||Anaheim|
|3||Devin Askew||6'2||SG||Mater Dei||Santa Ana|
|4||Tyler Powell||6'4||SF||St. Bernard||Playa del Rey|
|5||Mikey Mitchell||6'3||SG||Mitty||San Jose|
|7||Chris Howell||6'4||SG||San Marcos||H.S.|
|8||Obinna Anwanyu||6'6||SF||Cathedral Catholic||San Diego|
|9||Luke Turner||6'6||SF||Rancho Christian||Temecula|
|10||Trumann Gettings||6'7||SF||Harvard-Westlake||North Hollywood|
|11||Malik Thomas||6'3||SG||Damien||La Verne|
|12||Justin Ebor||6'5||PF||Oak Park||H.S.|
|14||Cole Anderson||6'0||PG||Clovis West||Fresno|
|15||Damion McDowell||6'5||SF||Dorsey||Los Angeles|
|16||Christian Bento||6'10||C||Greak Oak||Temecula|
|17||Arrish Bhandal||6'8||C||Mitty||San Jose|
|19||Kennedy Reese Dixon||6'3||SG||Dorsey||Los Angeles|
|22||Thomas Notarainni||6'3||SG||Cathedral Catholic||San Diego|
|23||Langston Redfield||6'2||PG||Mission Viejo||H.S.|
|24||Christian Johnson||6'0||PG||View Park||Los Angeles|
For in-depth national player rankings, please visit hoopscooponline.com.