NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Atin Wright from Fairmont Prep of Anaheim and Alexis Whitfield from Chaminade of West Hills. Photos: @FairmontPrep & Harold Abend.

This is the last week in which we’re honoring basketball players for 2018-19 school year. They all had games on the evening in which these selections were done & come from schools in Anaheim, West Hills, Fresno & Oakland.

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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

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

Atin Wright (Fairmont Prep, Anaheim) Jr.

For our Southern California boys award winner this week, we go to Orange County and the shadows of the Matterhorn at Disneyland where we find our honoree.

Wright has been lighting it up all season for the 25-7 Huskies and while the main performance we’re honoring him for was not his season’s best, it might as well be akin to it for Atin since it came in the biggest game of the season so far.

Last week, in a 52-49 CIF Southern Section Division 4AA title game victory over Pacifica Christian of Newport Beach, Wright was right on target after finishing with 28 points on six of 13 from three-point range, plus he had four rebounds, two assists and two steals.

Two weeks ago when he scored 28 points in a 64-36 win over Temple City, 26 points in an 81-60 win over California of Whittier and 19 points in a 55-54 win over Silverado of Victorville, Wright was named the Orange County boys athlete of the week so a week later he now captures a statewide honor.

So far this season, and heading into a Tuesday night CIF Southern Regional Division III opening round match-up for the No. 4 seeded Huskies against visiting Palm Springs, Atin is averaging 25.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game and he’s gone over 30 points seven times with a high of 33 points in an early season loss to a very solid team from Australia.

It was almost silly the way Alex Villi was playing last week for Clovis West in CIF Central Section. Photo: Courtesy school.

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

Alex Villi (Clovis West, Fresno) Sr.

While sophomore guard Cole Anderson gets a lot of deserved attention for the talent he displays on the court, it’s fair to say that the Golden Eagles’ season would have been derailed last week in the CIF Central Section Division I playoffs if not for the hot shooting and stellar play by Villi, the team’s 6-foot-4 senior guard.

Villi had 24 points earlier in the week when Clovis West, the top seed in the bracket and gunning for its first section title in 13 years, rallied from a 20-point deficit to stun Clovis North of Fresno 66-63 in overtime to even punch its ticket for last Saturday’s final at Selland Arena.

Then in that game, Villi had an even more memorable night with 42 points and it again went to extra time, in fact two overtimes, as Clovis West topped Bullard of Fresno 89-81.

“That’s probably the best week he’s ever had,” said Clovis West head coach Vance Walberg, whose team is hosting Menlo-Atherton of Atherton in Tuesday’s first round of the CIF NorCal D1 playoffs. “He’s had big games for us all year, but especially in the fourth quarter of both he was great.”

According to Central Section historian Bob Barnett, Villi’s point total is the fourth best for a single game in school history. It’s also the most points scored in any section final, surpassing Grant Verhoeven of Central Valley Christian (Visalia), who had a 41-point title game output in 2012.

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

Alexis Whitfield (Chaminade, West Hills) Jr.

We go to the San Fernando Valley once again for our final Southern California girls honoree this season where our award winner has been turning some heads with her stellar play the past two seasons, but now she’s done it on one of the biggest stages in girls basketball in Southern California and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Last Saturday, in a 52-49 victory over M.L. King of Riverside in the CIF Southern Section Division I title game at Cal Baptist University in Riverside, Whitfield was like a one girl wrecking crew and dashed the hopes of the local girls and their fans that filled the stands with her performance.

All the 6-foot-2 wing who can play any position on the court did was hammer home a monster double-double 24 points and 25 rebounds with four assists, four blocked shots and four steals, and the Eagles needed every ounce of her performance against the scrappy King girls.

With the game going back and forth in the final moments, Whitfield also came up with a huge play on defense. After a basket by Whitfield put the Eagles on top 50-49, she stole the in-bounds pass and King had to foul and two free-throws by fellow junior teammate Maiya Jackson closed out the scoring.

The King game isn’t the only time Whitfield has come up big. In a heartbreaking 70-67 loss to CIF NorCal D1 No. 5 seed Miramonte (Orinda) at the Mater Dei (Santa Ana) Matt Denning Classic, she had 31 points and 21 rebounds. In a 72-65 loss to state No. 4 and CIF Open Division No. 3 seed Sierra Canyon, Whitfield had another double-double after finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds. In an 86-78 win over one of Canada’s top teams from Nova Scotia at the Nike TOC, Whitfield had 31 points and 16 rebounds.

Heading into an opening round CIF SoCal Division I playoffs for the No. 7 seed against No. 10 seed Long Beach Poly on Tuesday night, Whitfield, who has interest from several mid-majors including schools in the West Coast Conference, has posted 23 double-doubles for the 22-10 Eagles and is averaging 21.1 points, 18.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.4 steals per game.

Kennedy Johnson’s performance in O’Dowd’s win over Miramonte has put her in the conversation for State Sophomore of the Year. Photo:

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

Kennedy Johnson (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) Soph.

We go to the hills of Oakland for our final Northern California girls honoree where we find an award winner who was one of the top freshmen in Northern California last season.

This year, the bottom line is Johnson has had to overcome some adversity and then some.

The 6-foot wing, that can pretty much play any position on the court, played the first 12 games prior to the break between the early season tournaments and the beginning of West Alameda County – Foothill League play and in her last game helped lead the Dragons to a third-place finish in the Gold Division of the West Coast Jamboree with a victory over Granada Hills Charter.

We say last game because during the 10-day break after the Jamboree, Johnson strained her Achilles tendon and missed the next nine games.

Because of the way an Achilles has to heal, when Johnson did return it was against Piedmont in the Dragons’ one league loss and she was only allowed to play six minutes but had seven points. In her next game, she was restricted to eight minutes in a win over Mt. Eden of Hayward and had 12 points. Against Castro Valley in her third game while still nursing the injury, she had no restrictions but head coach Malik McCord still regulated her minutes in a 23-point victory.

Since then, and in the final league game and the first three games of the CIF North Coast Section Division II playoffs, McCord has been bringing her along slowly, but that all changed when No. 2 O’Dowd advanced to the title game.

Last Saturday, in a 64-59 victory over top-seeded Miramonte on a neutral court at Dublin High, Johnson showed that even though according to McCord she is still not 100 percent, she came into the game with determination after a career game in which she blazed the nets and cleaned the glass for a double-double 32 points and 10 rebounds with four blocks and three steals, and the Dragons needed every bit of her production to pull off the minor upset.

Heading into a CIF Northern Regional Division I first round match-up between the fourth-seeded Dragons and No. 13 seed Presentation-San Jose, Johnson is averaging 14.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.4 blocks per game and has posted 10 double-doubles in 20 games played with her minutes restricted in the previously mentioned games.

O’Dowd may only be the D1 NorCal No. 4 seed, but opponents beware because if Johnson and her Dragons’ teammates, including Grand Canyon-bound Jada Holland, start rolling they could make some big noise because according to McCord his assessment of Johnson’s progress in recovering from the Achilles strain is this: “The scary thing is she is still not 100 percent now.”

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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