Jaxen Turner: Grid-Hoop State POY

Rancho Verde’s Jaxen Turner averaged 23 points per game for a CIF Southern Section Open Division team in basketball and had 16 career interceptions with multiple positions played (including QB) for team that went 13-1. Photos: Twitter.com.

As we’ve known for a year, there isn’t more than a handful of legit all-state level Grid-Hoop athletes in both sports in California this year and two that clearly stood out above the rest — Jaxen Turner of Rancho Verde and Drake London of Moorpark. We break down how we came up with the tough choice for Turner as the 2018-19 Cal-Hi Sports Grid-Hoop State Player of the Year. This doesn’t mean that Drake also isn’t of the best grid-hoopers we’ve evaluated in the last 10 years. Turner also keeps up strong tradition of grid-hoopers from the Inland Empire.

Note: We’ve been selecting grid-hoop all-state teams since the 1986-1987 school year when the San Diego Section Player of the Year in both sports, Junior Seau, was named Grid-Hoop State Player of the Year. Since the immortal Seau was selected, other combo athletes we’ve honored as Grid-Hoop POY include Willie McGinest, Tony Gonzalez, Marcedes Lewis and Matt Barnes. We have archived all of our previous Grid-Hoop all-state teams for easy reference. To access those, you need to be a member of our Gold Club. It’s a great deal and it’s a great time to join our team by CLICKING HERE.

To view the 15-man 2018-19 Grid-Hoop All-State Team, CLICK HERE (GOLD CLUB).

To go straight to our archive of all previous 15-member Grid-Hoop All-State Teams,CLICK HERE.

The raw participation numbers in high school football are noticeably down all around the state and that means there are less football-basketball combo athletes. Going forward, many parents are less inclined to allow their sons to play football, even though the reality is talented combo athletes have a better shot statistically of playing in the NFL than in the NBA.

A couple of athletes who would have made the 33rd annual Cal-Hi Sports Grid-Hoop All-State Team decided not to play football this season either because of their parents’ reservations about injury or simply because they decided to concentrate on basketball. For Liberty of Bakersfield’s Isaiah Hill, the focus on hoops helped secure a scholarship to Tulsa.

The competition for a basketball scholarship is especially cut throat and there are fewer Grid-Hoopers good enough to actually make the elite all-state team in both sports than a generation ago. Our state has been blessed with incredible athletes over the years and those types of players just don’t come along each year. With Hill not playing football this season, there are only two repeat selections to this year’s Grid-Hoop All-State team and it’s the two players who were going to be locks on the honors squad provided they avoided injuries.

Drake London of Moorpark stepped into basketball right after a dominant football season as a receiver. He was one of the most explosive scorers in the state and showed he could play at a high D1 level in college. Photo: OCSportsZone.com.

Those two players are wide receiver-small forward Drake London of Moorpark and defensive back-combo guard Jaxen Turner from Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley. While it’s always fun to do the research and unveil the state’s top combo athletes, we knew it was going to be an antagonizing process and decision to choose one over the other for top billing. After all, we never have ties or co-Players of the Year for any honor we publish.

London and Turner were the only two combo athletes to make this year’s Elite All-State Basketball team. Both of them were second 10 selections, and had the ability to be first 10 selections. So of course we had to dig deeper to come up with our Grid-Hoop player of the year choice. Looking over the Elite All-State Football team, both players were third team, so their statewide honors didn’t decide it. We had to further break it down.

Turner and London were both first team all-CIF Southern Section choices in both sports, but at the local level is where the differences begin to emerge. When it was all said and done, we decided Turner was the stronger choice so he will be the 2018-19 Cal-Hi Sports Grid-Hoop State Player of the Year by the slimmest of margin.

London hauled in 62 receptions for 1,089 yards and 12 touchdowns for an 8-4 team that lost to Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth in the CIFSS D3 quarterfinals. Turner was in on 20 tackles, five pass deflections and had one interception, which he returned 30 yards for a touchdown. Modest numbers for this year’s Grid-Hoop Player of the Year right? That’s true until you look deeper and realize he did much more than that for a 13-1 team that lost 24-13 to Upland in the CIFSS D2 title game.

Turner hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass late in the game from freshman quarterback AJ Duffy to help the Mustangs in their incredible 41-38 come-from-behind playoff semifinal victory over Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks. When the team needed his offense the most, “Jack Jack” came up with 10 receptions for 105 yards versus Notre Dame. For the season, Turner had 35 receptions for 448 yards and two scores on a team with four other skill position players who made first team all-CIFSS.

Turner also rushed the ball 12 times for 106 yards with five more touchdowns. When the son of coach Pete Duffy couldn’t play in the title game versus Upland because of injury, guess who was called upon to take the snaps? Turner completed 16-of-22 passes for 168 yards with a touchdown pass, a rushing touchdown and interception in the gut-wrenching loss. When you take a further look into his statistics, what the Arizona gridiron recruit did is even more impressive. When defensive backs who are terrific as Turner was as an underclassman, teams tended to avoid that player’s area as a senior. For his career, Turner had 17 interceptions, 16 pass break ups and 158 tackles.

London is a big-time receiver who looks to play both sports at USC and is one of the greatest athletes we’ve ever seen come out of Ventura County, but Turner simply did a bit more for a better football team. London’s individual basketball numbers were more impressive, but once again Turner was playing on the more talented team. His statistical resume was too good to ignore, as he averaged 23.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 4.7 apg for a 27-7 team that competed in the ultra-competitive CIFSS Open Division playoffs and finished ranked No. 12 in the state. Turner had 22 points in a pool play win over eventual CIFSS open finalist Bishop Montgomery of Torrance and another great line on his resume was earning Ivy League MVP honors and leading his team to a perfect 12-0 mark over teams with other D1 college prospects.

The selection of Turner marks the second consecutive season an athlete from the Inland Empire takes home top Grid-Hoop honors. Lineman-forward Jeremiah Martin from Cajon of San Bernardino was the choice in 2017-18. Martin is expected to make an impact for the Texas A & M football team as a sophomore.

The annual Grid-Hoop all-state team traditionally leads off end-of-school year honors for Cal-Hi Sports and has been done in this format since the 1986-87 school year, with a player of the year named since 1979-80. There have only been three Cal-Hi Sports Grid-Hoop Players of the Year from the vast Inland Empire. The first was eventual NFL linebacker Chris Claiborne of J.W. North of Riverside in 1995-96. He’s now the head football coach at Calabasas.

It’s been over 20 years since one of our player of the year picks made it to the NBA. That would be Matt Barnes from Del Campo of Fair Oaks in 1997-98. In fact, he’s the only one who’s been able to, as most of the POYs have developed more into NFL prospects.

We’re going to be rooting for Turner at U of A and for London in his pursuit to one day make an impact on Trojans’ football and basketball teams because it takes an incredible amount of discipline, coordination and natural athletic ability to excel in both sports in the same school year. If past all-state Grid-Hoop all-state teams are any indication, a few of this year’s 15-man team and the other athletes of distinction will eventually play in the NFL and we might even see someone break into the Big Leagues.

Cal-Hi Sports Grid-Hoop
State Players of the Year

Jeremiah Martin probably stopped counting sacks in his senior season and probably stopped counting D1 college offers more than a year earlier. Photo: Twitter.com.

2018-19 – Jaxen Turner, Moreno Valley Rancho Verde
2017-18 – Jeremiah Martin, San Bernardino Cajon
2016-17 – Niamey Harris, San Francisco Mission
2015-16 – Jamal Hicks, Harbor City Narbonne
2014-15 – Justice Shelton-Mosley, Sacramento Capital Christian
2013-14 – Alex Van Dyke, Elk Grove Cosumnes Oaks
2012-13 – Max Redfield, Mission Viejo
2011-12 – William Stallworth, Tulare
2010-11 – William Stallworth, Tulare (Jr.)
2009-10 – Victor Dean, San Diego Lincoln
2008-09 – James Boyd, Los Angeles Jordan
2007-08 – Nelson Rosario, Oceanside El Camino
2006-07 – Rob Jones, San Francisco Riordan
2005-06 – David Ausberry, Lemoore
2004-05 – Danny Williams, Los Angeles Fremont
2003-04 – Marcus Everett, West Hills Chaminade
2002-03 – Steve Smith, Woodland Hills Taft
2001-02 – Marcedes Lewis, Long Beach Poly
2000-01 – Antwon Guidry, San Jose Leigh
1999-00 – Teyo Johnson, San Diego Mira Mesa
1998-99 – Josh Shavies, Oakland Fremont
1997-98 – Matt Barnes, Fair Oaks Del Campo
1996-97 – Jason Thomas, Compton Dominguez (Jr.)
1995-96 – Chris Claiborne, Riverside J.W. North
1994-95 – Johnnie Sanders, Los Angeles Franklin
1993-94 – Tony Gonzalez, Huntington Beach
1992-93 – Stais Boseman, Inglewood Morningside
1991-92 – Stais Boseman, Inglewood Morningside (Jr.)
1990-91 – Rob Johnson, El Toro
1989-90 – Willie McGinest, Long Beach Poly
1988-89 – Shante Carver, Stockton Lincoln
1987-88 – Eric Bamberger, Concord Ygnacio Valley
1986-87 – Junior Seau, Oceanside
1985-86 – Dan McGwire, Claremont
1984-85 – Michael Johnson, Baldwin Park
1983-84 – Jerald Jones, Vallejo
1982-83 – John Paye, Atherton Menlo School
1981-82 – Reggie Rogers, Sacramento Norte Del Rio
1980-81 – Jack Del Rio, Hayward
1979-80 – Don Rogers, Sacramento Norte Del Rio

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at ronlocc1977@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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