NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s SoCal/NorCal Players of the Week are Makaila Sanders of Sacramento Foothill and Johnny Juzang of North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake. Photos: &

It’s that time of the year when we switch sports for these honors and have our first foursome (two boys, two girls) for the 2017-18 basketball season. Both girls already have had a 50-point game. One of the boys led his team to a 7-0 start while the other one’s team has suffered its only loss to the No. 2 team in the state. They represent Los Gatos, North Hollywood, Sacramento and Placentia.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. To nominate someone by 12 noon on most Mondays, email This is our first week of the 2017-18 season for basketball.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Boys Basketball Player of the Week

Dylan Belquist
(Los Gatos) Sr.

Los Gatos started this week at 7-0 for the early season and a big reason is this 6-foot-6 University of San Francisco-bound three-year starting forward who has been red hot both scoring points and cleaning the glass.

Last week, Belquist made the bell toll on three opponents, and as a result he was named MVP of the Los Gatos Lions Club Wildcat Shootout. His best effort was a double-double 32-point, 11-rebound performance in the 56-44 championship game victory over San Mateo.

So far this season, Dylan’s top effort was in the Cats’ first game when he gave San Jose Leigh fits with 42 points and 13 rebounds with five assists. So far, Belquist has four double-doubles in seven games and is averaging 28.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. It should be interesting to see if Belquist makes rival and host Saratoga twist this week when the teams square off on Friday night.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Boys Basketball Player of the Week

Johnny Juzang
(Harvard-Westlake, North Hollywood) Soph.

He may only be a sophomore, but with Cassius Stanley transferring to Sierra Canyon and taking his game and 6-foot-8 frame with him, the 6-foot-7 Juzang has had to turn up the juice to start the season and Johnny has not been coming late in an 8-1 start.

The ESPN No. 15 ranked wing in the class of 2020 might be the most consistent player in the state so far. In four games last week at the 32nd Annual Bob Hawking Simi Valley Tournament, Juzang rang up four opponents and scored 28 points in each of the four wins over Westlake of Westlake Village, Simi Valley, Cleveland of Reseda and Santa Barbara San Marcos in the title game. He also had 11 rebounds against Simi Valley and San Marcos.

So far in a season that has seen the Wolverines with a lone loss to Cal-Hi Sports No. 2 Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, Juzang is banging down averages of 23.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

Last year, as one of the top freshmen in the state, Juzang averaged 16.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 2.0 assists. Despite his sophomore status, he has offers from Cal and other Pac-12 schools including Arizona State, Oregon, Washington, UCLA and USC. Alabama, Miami, and UNLV have also made offers.

Cal-Hi Sports Northern California
Girls Basketball Player of the Week

Makaila Sanders
(Foothill, Sacramento) Sr.

For our first NorCal girls honoree we go to the state capital where we award a girl who has come on strong after transferring from Rio Linda and sitting out her sophomore season.

The 5-foot-9 senior point guard couldn’t quite get the Mustangs to a perfect start, but in the three games last week that got them to 7-0 before a 2-point loss to host Cosumnes Oaks in their Running with the Pack tournament, she was on fire, including a 50-point performance (six rebounds, five assists, five steals) in an 80-37 win over Merced Golden Valley in which she was 10 of 18 on 3-pointers. Sanders opened the tournament with 29 points (six rebounds, four steals, three assists) in a 71-67 victory over Vacaville Wood and in the semifinals she had a double-double 38 points and 14 rebounds.

Earlier this season, Sanders had 21 points and 11 rebounds in 70-68 upset of defending CIF Division II state champion Vanden of Fairfield.

So far this season, Sanders is averaging 29.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.0 steals a game. Last season she averaged 23.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 4.1 steals per game.

Cal-Hi Sports Southern California
Girls Basketball Player of the Week

Kennedy Lilly
(El Dorado, Placentia) Jr.

Her coach Sarita Stamps, who starred at nearby Brea Olinda of Brea and was evaluated in the first Girls of Summer player rankings in 2005, called this Orange County Register girls basketball player of the Week and nominee by Dan Albano of the Register “a hidden gem,” but at 6-foot-5 it’s a little hard to hide, so we’re going to launch this blossoming junior as our first SoCal girls honoree.

The Golden Hawks have taken a few lumps to start the season but Kennedy has dealt out plenty herself. Lilly certainly wasn’t silly after scoring 135 points in four games (33.8 ppg), including a school-record 50 points, to help the Golden Hawks place fourth at the Covina Classic. The all-tournament selection also posted games of 41 and 30 points. On the glass she had 22 rebounds in her 50-point effort and 71 total for the four games.

So far this season, Lilly is averaging 25 points and 15 rebounds per game, and that’s just about the same as she did last season, and a shade above what the three-year starter averaged as a freshman.

Harold Abend is the associate editor of and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend

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