Girls of Summer: Paopao & Early Standouts

Oregon commit Te-hina Paopao of La Jolla Country Day is healthy and in the best shape of her career heading into the NCAA Summer Viewing Period. Photo: Harold Abend

Harold Abend’s Girls of Summer kicks off its 15th year of the Caravan roaming throughout California, and in years past outside the Golden State, in search of the state’s top girls high school basketball talent. Abend profiles Te-hina Paopao of La Jolla Country Day and profiles other early standouts on the summer circuit.

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The Girls of Summer series began in 2005 when the Caravan ventured to the Nike World Campus in Beaverton, Oregon for the no longer held Nike Girls Skills Academy, where Jayne Appel of Carondelet (Concord), Jacki Gemelos of St. Mary’s (Stockton), and Morgan Medlock of Narbonne (Harbor City) represented California in a field of 22 girls selected for the event that included current WNBA superstars Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles, plus plenty others that starred in college and played in the WNBA.

The camels are getting a little long of tooth so instead of putting on upwards of 7,000 miles during the summer the Girls of Summer will probably log around half that many miles by the time the NCAA Viewing Period concludes at the end of July.

For this feature, we include girls from the Eighth Annual Stockton Summer Classic and the 33rd Annual San Diego Classic, the grandmother of all high school summer basketball tournaments in California.

We will go with a Starting Five and a Second Five and the rest will be Off the Bench of which there are 41 players mentioned in this feature. Note that the starters and second five will not necessarily be slotted by position.

Only girls observed at these two events are included, with one exception, and that’s Te-hina Paopao of La Jolla Country Day.

Although Country Day did not play in the San Diego Classic, while the Caravan was at the event we arranged an 8:30 a.m. interview with Paopao at the school and prior to games starting at nearby Alliant International University. There aren’t too many girls we would do that for, but Paopao is one of them.

After missing almost all of her first two seasons and the beginning of this past season, Paopao was in even better shape when we saw her in the gym last week than when she came back for 26 of the Torreys’ 34 games and averaged 17.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, and 4.0 assists and 2.4 steals a game. With her not even at full strength, Paopao led Country Day to the semifinals of the CIF San Diego Section Open Division and then a CIF Southern Regional Division I title game appearance before she and the Torreys bowed out, 62-53, to eventual state champion Rosary Academy of Fullerton.

Now coming into 2019-2020, the Oregon-committed, 5-foot-11 incoming senior that can play anywhere on the court, is one of a handful of pre-season favorites for the 2020 Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year award.

“She’s in great shape. In fact she’s in the best shape she’s ever been in,” said Country Day head coach Terri Bamford.

With her in shape it’s no doubt Paopao answered “very anxious” when asked how anxious she was for her senior season and the prospects of a complete season provided she stays healthy.

“We have a new team coming up for my last season here, including a post that’s nice to have since we haven’t had one, and I’m very excited for that,” Paopao said. “I’m just really anxious to get back on the court with them and stay healthy and have a full season.”

The post by the way is 6-foot-2 incoming freshman Breya Cunningham, and that’s a name to remember

“I’m still getting my speed back, and I’m working on my lateral movement, and there’s always room for improvement,” continued Paopao. “But from the feel I get I feel like I’m a hundred percent.”

Not surprisingly Paopao has some lofty goals. “We want to win CIF (San Diego Section) and an Open Division state title. We’re trying to make a run for that.”

If Paopao is healthy and continues to improve, don’t count her and the Torreys out. Stay tuned.

Starting Five

G – Jayda Curry (Centennial, Corona), 5-6, 2021: Had Centennial won the 3A Division of the San Diego Classic, the Girls of Summer San Diego Classic MVP honors would have gone to this flashy guard that can go the basket with either hand with moves that keep fans in a frenzy. In a 58-53 semifinal victory over Clovis, Curry had the highest point total in a game in the 33-year history of the Classic where stats were kept after going for 33 points with eight rebounds, seven steal and six assists. Long Beach Poly did its best to defend her but even in a 50-42 loss, Curry went for 14 points with three 3-pointers, including one from NBA range, plus three each of assists, rebounds and steals.

G – Kalaya Buggs (Long Beach Poly), 5-9, 2021: The daughter of Poly head coach Carl Buggs and his wife and assistant Lakeisha Buggs, was the Girls of Summer San Diego Classic Co-MVP after taking charge of the perimeter in helping lead the Jackrabbits to the 3A title. She had 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 50-42 title game victory over Corona Centennial and 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals in a 44-29 victory over Bonita Vista of Chula Vista.

C – Ashlee Lewis (Long Beach Poly), 6-2, 2020: Lewis was the Girls of Summer San Diego Classic Co-MVP after going for 10 points and 13 rebounds in the Jackrabbits’ 50-42 victory over Centennial of Corona in the San Diego Classic 3A title game. She had 22 points and 14 rebounds in a 44-29 victory over Chula Vista Bonita Vista in the semifinals and was unstoppable in the paint. Lewis has multiple D1 offers, but we won’t get into recruiting until after the NCAA Viewing Period.

W – Te-hina Paopao (La Jolla Country Day), 5-11, 2020: Everything that can be said about Paopao came in the intro.

G – Selena Peterson (Bonita Vista, Chula Vista), 5-6, 2021: After spending her first two seasons at Spring Valley Mount Miguel, Peterson has transferred from the East County area to the South County area of the CIF San Diego Section. In the Third Place game of the 3A Division of the San Diego Classic her team won 60-45, despite the fact she went out near halftime after hitting her chin on the floor. Although she was banged up from USA trials, Peterson still showed why she is one of the top players in the San Diego Section during the six games of the Classic.

Second Five

Incoming freshman Sydney Summers turned a lot of heads with her play at the San Diego Classic. Photo: Harold Abend

G – Christina Bacci (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa), 5-9, 2020: Cardinal Newman was missing its best player and a 6-foot-2 post transfer, but still managed to snag fifth place in the 3A Division after a grueling win over defending NorCal Open Division champion Pinewood of Los Altos Hills where Bacci had 10 of the points (two three-pointers) in a 29-14 victory. Bacci averaged 17 points a game for the six-game tournament, including one game where she was 6-of-9 from behind the three-point line and finished with 27 points.

G – Alexis Mead (ML King, Riverside), 5-5, 2021: After knocking off San Diego Classic 2A favorite Seton Catholic from Arizona, her team was outsized against Sahuaro, another top team from Arizona. After falling behind by 12 points early and trailing by eight at the half, one of the top incoming junior guards in the Inland Empire took control in a game between two teams that should have been in the 3A Division and finished with 15 points (three 3-pointers) four assists and three steals in a 51-41 victory.

G – Annika Shah (Palo Alto), 5-6, 2021: Shah was the best player observed while playing for Peninsula Basketball Platinum at the Stockton Summer Classic. When we saw her she played a 9:00 a.m. game and then an 11:00 a.m. game and it’s hard for kids to play one early morning game, let alone two. Her team won both games but in the second game with legs a little weary she played solid defense after going 5-of-7 on three-pointers in the first game

G – Sydney Summers (Centennial, Corona), 5-7, 2023: There is a long way to go in the career of Summers, but get used to hearing her name. She can drive and use either hand to finish, defends, and she can shoot the three ball. In the San Diego Classic 3A title game 50-42 loss to Long Beach Poly, Summers had Tournament Director Wade Vickery turning his head after two NBA and one college range 3-pointers. In four of the six games she was observed in at the Classic Summers, she made five three-pointers from NBA range.

G – Nala Williams (Long Beach Poly) 5-8, 2021: Williams played JV last year but the way she looked at the San Diego Classic against some very sold competition was impressive for a girls getting her first shot at the varsity level. Not only did she nail 3 three-pointers and finish 13 points, plus six rebounds, three assists and two steals, she did a great job on defense in the Jackrabbits 50-42 3A title game victory over Corona Centennial. She played very well in all six games.

Off the Bench

G – Nia Anderson (St. Mary’s, Stockton), 5-7, 2023
G – Nia Boston (Modesto Christian, Modesto), 5-6, 2020
W – Teagan Brown (Oak Ridge, El Dorado Hills), 5-10, 2021
G – Kiley Butchert (Clovis), 5-7, 2021
F – Analillia “Lu” Cabuena (Lincoln, Stockton), 6-0, 2021
W – Ella Cardoza (Foothill, Santa Ana), 5-9, 2020
G – Julia Cosalan (Bonita Vista, Chula Vista), 5-7, 2021
G – Layla Curry (Centennial, Corona), 5-8, 2022
G – Annika Decker (Pinewood, Los Altos Hills), 5-4, 2021
G – Kelsey Delgado (Clovis), 5-7, 2020
G – Aysia Dural (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa), 5-9, 2021
W – Avery Evans (Clovis), 5-11, 2020
G – Madison Green (Centennial, Corona) 5-4, 2020
G – Mariah Harris (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa), 5-9, 2021
G – Megan Jones (Foothill Santa Ana), 5-8, 2020
G – Sofia Lee (St. Mary’s, Stockton) 5-7, 2022
G – Ari Long (Valley View, Moreno Valley), 5-9, 2023
W – Keyanna McCoy (Bonita Vista, Chula Vista), 5-10, 2021
G – Eden McKenzie (Saugus), 5-8, 2021
W – Nyah Moran (ML King, Riverside) 5-11, 2020
G – Emma Nordby (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa), 5-8, 2020
C – Megan Norris (Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton), 6-2, 2021
G – Brooklyn Perry (St. Mary’s, Stockton) 5-7, 2023
W – Eden Perry (Woodcreek, Roseville), 5-11, 2020
W – Valentina Saric (Pinewood, Los Altos Hills), 6-0, 2022
G – Reese Searcy (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa), 5-7, 2022
F – Katherine Shipp (Centennial, Corona), 6-0, 2021
G – Raya Smith (ML King, Riverside), 5-6, 2021
G – Denise Stine (Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton), 5-4, 2020
G – Courtney Thompson (Pinewood, Los Altos Hills), 5-5, 2021
W – Arianna Webb (St. Mary’s, Stockton), 5-11, 2022

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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