NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of our four NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week are Vanessa De Jesus from Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth and Jordan Brinson from Westchester of Los Angeles. Photos: Courtesy school & @TP_HdayClassic / Twitter.com.


Two of our honorees this week led their state-ranked teams to wins in out-of-state tournaments. One of the others did the same at a major tourney in Modesto while the other rained down points at the West Coast Jamboree. The four are from Stockton, Santa Rosa, Los Angeles and Chatsworth.

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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 markjtennis@gmail.com.

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

Caroline Chambers
(Rincon Valley Christian, Santa Rosa) Sr.

Rincon Valley Christian is a small school that because of recent success, including two straight CIF North Coast Section Division VI titles, has been moved up to Division V this year based on the competitive equity formula the NCS now uses. That hasn’t stopped the Eagles or their star Caroline Chambers, however, who has been a member of both section titlists.

About the only thing that has stopped Chambers this season is a groin injury that forced her to miss the three-game Windsor tournament where Rincon Valley Christian lost all three games in an 8-6 season so far.

Last week, her Eagles came up a little short in their West Coast Jamboree Quartz Division title game matchup with Turlock, but even so Caroline continued to shine and as a result Chambers has been named the Northern California Player of the Week.

In the Jamboree opener against Los Banos, Chambers had a monster double-double 42 points (20 of 33 from field) with 14 rebounds in a 56-42 victory. Against host Alhambra (Martinez) in the semifinals, the 6-foot senior forward had another double-double after finishing with 19 points and 13 rebounds in a 52-29 victory. Turlock held her to 17 points and seven rebounds in 48-38 loss but for the tournament Chambers averaged 26.0 points and 11.3 rebounds a game.

So far this season, Chambers is averaging 21.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

Rincon Valley Christian has had some very good players over the years. The 42 points not only broke the career high 36 points Chambers had in last year’s NCS D6 title-game victory over Laytonville, it is the No. 3 mark in school history. The No. 2 mark is 47 points in 2000 by Tara Long, and the top mark is 52 points by former WNBA star Erin Buescher in the same year she was named the 1997 Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year.

As for her career, Chambers has 1,823 points and only needs 63 points to break the school career scoring record of 1,885 points set from 2004-07 by Teri Higgenbottom, the daughter of current Rincon Valley Christian head coach Richard Higgenbottom. With eight games in January, the career 2,000 point mark seems likely to be reached this month.

It’s worth noting that Buescher had 2,552 career points but only 1,595 came in two years for the Eagles after she transferred from Rohnert Park Rancho Cotate.

With 1,043 rebounds, Chambers is also the No. 2 career all-time rebounder to the 1,408 rebounds of last season’s graduated teammate Kylie Olson.

What makes it somewhat impressive is Care, as her teammates and Higgenbottom call her, really didn’t play organized basketball until she arrived at Rincon Valley Christian.

“Care’s goal is to get a degree in nursing and only wants to attend a Christian University,” Higgenbottom said of the multi-sport athlete with a 3.9 GPA. “There are a limited number of schools that fit her criteria. Of those schools, she had a lot of interest but ultimately decided that Freed Hardeman, defending National Champions NAIA D1 in Tennessee, was the best fit for her.”

What’s a fit for Chambers this week is the NorCal girls top player award.

Gavin Wilburn is only a junior, but is earning a reputation for being one of most versatile players in Northern California. Photo: @Soldiers_Salute / Twitter.com.


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

Gavin Wilburn
(Weston Ranch, Stockton) Jr.

Comparisons to Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors may be a bit much, but Wilburn is that type of player who can excel in any offensive scheme or shut down any opposing offensive player.

Wilburn nabs this week’s top NorCal boys honor for being named MVP of the Modesto Christian Holiday Classic and leading the Cougars to the tourney title. Last year’s MVP, Jalen Green of Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, is one of the top-ranked juniors in the nation. Wilburn doesn’t generate that kind of attention, but he’s one of the state’s highest rising junior prospects as well.

Since the Modesto Christian tourney also involved the host school and its state top 15 ranking, Weston Ranch’s tourney title and its 13-1 record heading into this week is especially impressive.

Wilburn had a team high 17 points and added five rebounds and four blocks in Weston Ranch’s 60-47 triumph against Campolindo of Moraga last Saturday in the tourney final. In an earlier game against Tracy, Wilburn led the way with 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. There’s no MaxPreps stats for him, but it’s estimated he’s averaging nearly 19 points, eight rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

In addition to becoming a breakout star at Weston Ranch, Wilburn also has made a name for himself on the Oakland Soldiers’ AAU team. He’s already a three-year varsity performer at Weston Ranch and has a reported single-game career high of 28 points.

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

Vanessa De Jesus
(Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) Jr.

Sierra Canyon is loaded with talent this season, but a big part of the reason the team stood at 15-0 entering this week and will be moving up to No. 3 in the next Cal-Hi Sports state rankings is because of this flashy junior who has earned this week’s SoCal girls honor.

De Jesus has been putting up solid numbers all season but the reason we’re picking this week to reward Vanessa, is last week the 5-foot-7 combo guard was instrumental in leading the Trailblazers to the Platinum Division title of the PIL Holiday Classic in Portland, Oregon.

In an opening round 61-47 victory over Jesuit of Portland, De Jesus had a double-double 19 points and 13 rebounds with six assists and two steals. Then, in an 80-55 semifinal victory over Grant (Portland), Vanessa got the best of the local girls after she double-doubled again with 21 points and 10 rebounds with three assists and two steals.

Finally, against Washington Kentridge of Kent, where Sierra Canyon rolled to the championship in an 84-60 title-game victory, De Jesus deposited 20 points with eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. For the tournament, she averaged 20.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game.

There was no MVP in the PIL Holiday Classic but De Jesus would have been the choice if there had one. However, she was named All-Tournament along with teammate Ashley Chevalier, who had 18 points and six assists in the championship game.

On the season, De Jesus, who excels in the classroom at academically challenging Sierra Canyon, and who is being recruited by Ivy League schools and several Mid-Majors, is averaging approximately 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game.

In an interesting side note, basketball is not the only thing where De Jesus excels with her hands and fingers. She’s pretty good at tickling the ivories as a classically trained pianist.

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

Jordan Brinson
(Westchester, Los Angeles) Sr.

The top team in the Los Angeles City Section, the new No. 22 team in the latest Ballislife.com FAB 50 rankings, and the No. 4 team in the last Cal-Hi Sports state rankings, with a lone loss to state No. 1 Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth, went across the country to South Carolina last week to play in the Beach Ball Classic at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center and came back with the tournament title and a 13-1 record.

Here’s a small snapshot of all the banners that hang in the Westchester gym, including the one that refers to Cal-Hi Sports’ No. 1 ranked team despite not participating in the playoffs.

The Comets were down all game in the final (actually played on Monday of this week), at more than one time by double digits, and by seven points with 6:15 remaining to Scott County of Georgetown, Kentucky. In fact, legendary head coach Ed Azzam’s boys only took the lead with 26 seconds left in a 42-41 victory.

While Brinson didn’t score the winning points, the 6-foot-3 senior guard had game-highs of 19 points and nine rebounds, with all his points coming in the second half.

With his performance in South Carolina, Jordan now adds the Southern California Boys Player of the Week honor to the Most Valuable Player award he earned at the Beach Ball Classic.

In the first game of the Beach Ball against North Mecklenberg of Huntersville, North Carolina, Brinson, who Cal-Hi Sports managing editor and Ballislife grassroots editor Ronnie Flores calls “one of the best guards in California,” had 17 points and 8 rebounds in a 54-44 victory. Then, in a 47-45 semifinal victory against North Crowley of Fort Worth Texas, Brinson scored 24 points with nine rebounds.

Brinson also has de-committed from Missouri State and is open to options once again.

“We played well as a team but I knew I had to lead us and take over the game,” said Brinson, who besides the quote also told Flores that Hawaii, Loyola Marymount, New Mexico and Utah plus others are hot on his heels right now. “As far as recruitment, it’s been crazy.”

Jordan would want us to give a shout out to his teammate, Kaelen Allen. The 6-foot-6 post with an offer from Boise State stole the ball near midcourt with 26 seconds remaining and hit both ends of a one-and-one at the free throw line after being fouled to give Westchester the lead and close out the scoring. Allen finished with 11 points and joined Brinson on the All-Tournament team.

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


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