It’s time to launch our winter basketball content on CalHiSports.com and we are doing it with a preseason Top 40 of the best boys teams from all across the state. This group is led by No. 16 Cathedral Catholic of San Diego and includes the rest of these teams down to No. 40 St. Joseph Notre Dame, plus a list of 20 more teams that just missed.
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To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.
16. (NR) Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 24-10
There are three excellent teams in the CIF San Diego Section worthy of Top 20 status and we’ll start with the Dons at No. 1. We like their combination of closing strong to end last season, their returning guard play and the addition of Hawaii-bound Beon Riley (6-5, Sr.), previously at Mater Dei Catholic. The Dons peaked at the right time in 2018-19, defeating highly-regarded Western League foe Mission Bay and No. 19 St. Augustine in return games and capturing the San Diego Section D1 title. Obinna Anwanyu (6-6, Jr.) gives veteran coach Will Cunningham a go-to scorer and another reason we like this team is the improvement of Dillon Wilhite (6-9, Jr.). Alex Wade (5-9, Jr.) and Thomas Notarainni (6-3, Jr.) give the Dons a veteran backcourt and that’s a rankings plus, too, because St. Augustine and Foothills Christian will rely more heavily on new backcourt players. Cathedral Catholic will find out right away where it stands when it faces No. 1 Sierra Canyon at the San Diego Tip-Off Challenge on November 23.
17. (NR) JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 22-8
The third Trinity League team to crack the Top 20 is the Lions, which have a nice blend of returnees and newcomers with size and skill to warrant this spot. Leading the way is Utah-bound Ian Martinez (6-4, Sr.), one of the state’s most explosive wing guards who had a terrific summer on the travel ball circuit. He’s primed for a big year and with Francesco Borra (6-11, Sr.) in the middle, the perimeter players will be even more dangerous once the Italian transplant finds his groove. Another reason to like JSerra is the improvement of all-league guard Justin Williams (6-2, Sr.), while Paxton Burzell (6-7, Jr.) and San Jose St.-bound Hugo Clarkin (6-9, Sr.) add muscle and rebounding while creating matchup problems when head coach Keith Wilkinson decides to go big. “We should be very well-rounded because we have good size, good guards and good skill level,” Wilkinson said. JSerra can’t overlook always-tough Corona Centennial before it takes on No. 14 Riordan at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic. It will also compete in the North Orange County Championships and at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic after Christmas.
18. (NR) Poly (Riverside) 21-9
The Bears are starting in the Top 20 for the second consecutive season, as they opened at No. 19 last year and return three starters and seven lettermen. Coach Yancy Dodson had high hopes for that team, but it was fellow Ivy League club Rancho Verde that ran the gauntlet in a competitive league and it’s something he hopes his veteran team can replicate this season. It begins with San Diego State-bound Lamont Butler (6-1, Sr.), a two-time all-state underclass pick who knows how to run a team and puts winning before individual accolades. D.J. Davis (5-11, Sr.) also is back in the fold and is one of the best scoring guards in the state, as he returns to the Bears’ program from Corona Centennial. Add in three-time all-league choice Evan Oliver (6-0, Sr.) and Chance Stephens (6-2, So.) and Dodson would put his backcourt up against any in the state. What he’s concerned about, and what will ultimately decide the Bears’ chances for a spot in the CIFSS open playoffs and their final ranking, is rebounding. Simply put, returning starter Derek Rubidoux (6-3, Sr.) along with Mason Bates (6-5, Jr.) and Travis McDowell (6-5, Jr.) will need to step up in the big games against ranked foes.
19. (NR) St. Augustine (San Diego) 22-8
For the second consecutive season, the Saints start off as our No. 2 team from the CIF San Diego Section. In last year’s preseason, it looked like St. Augustine had the makings of a Top 10 team for 2019-20, but it faded off and didn’t close the season strong. Saints lost to No. 16 Cathedral Catholic in the second round of Western League play, to Mission Bay at home in the opening round of the CIF San Diego open playoffs and to No. 27 Birmingham in the SoCal D1 regional. Counting the loss to No. 17 JSerra at the Nike Extravaganza, Saints lost four of their final six games. Guard play will be paramount for this team after its up-and-down summer showing, so the production of grid-hooper Tyson McWilliams (6-0, Sr.) will be key to a strong start. Isaiah Brickner (6-2, Jr.) is also counted on to handle the ball and should those two players step up, Saints will be in business because the frontcourt is one of the state’s best. Texas Tech-bound Chibuzo Agbo (6-7, Sr.) is one of the better scoring forwards in the state and Luke Haupt (6-5, Sr.), the son of coach Mike Haupt, can contribute in many ways scoring, rebounding or handling the ball. Nakial Cross (6-7, Sr.) has always had loads of potential, and if he has a big season the Saints have a good chance to capture the CIF San Diego Section Open title. Similar to Cathedral Catholic, they’ll also get a crack at state No. 1 Sierra Canyon early in the season and also participate at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas and the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.
20. (7) Westchester (Los Angeles) 24-5
As we said two years ago, as long as veteran coach Ed Azzam and his staff are in place at this L.A. City Section power, it will begin in the preseason state Top 20. For most of the past decade, the program didn’t have the blinding talent it did when it won six CIF D1 titles between 1998 and 2010, but it still grinds out big wins against ranked foes by playing terrific defense and team-oriented ball. If Azzam (899-276) can get talented transfer scoring guard Tsalta Wainwright (6-3, Jr.) on the same page with the other talented perimeter players, the Comets should challenge Western League rival Fairfax, plus West Valley League clubs Taft and Birmingham, for the coveted L.A. City Open Division crown. Azzam has his coach on the floor in returning starter and all-leaguer Ky-mani Pollard (6-2, Sr.) and two defensive dynamos in Zion Sutton (6-0, Jr.) and Noah Laurie (5-10, Sr.). Westchester will be competitive with any state-ranked team in this range simply because it consistently plays hard, but in order to move up and capture its third L.A. City open title in five seasons, the frontcourt must produce. That means transfer Marland Harris (6-7, Sr.) and talented Angel Corona (6-8, Fr.) must rebound and score when called upon and put forth consistent defensive effort before any offensive opportunities come their way. A silver lining for the Comets is Fairfax and the other L.A. City open contenders also have interior question marks.
The Next 20
21. (31) Campolindo (Moraga) 27-7
The defending CIF D2 state champs lose leading scorer David Ahazie to graduation, but return most of their key contributors. The Cougars are led by Aidan Mahaney (6-1, So.), last year’s State Freshman of the Year, and his brother, Northern Arizona-bound Carter Mahaney (6-2, Sr.). Carter did a tremendous defensive job on Sedrick Altman (Pepperdine) in the state title game and the Cougars will need other contributors such as Emmanual Callas (6-4, Jr.), Max Weaver (6-0, Jr.) and Matt Radell (6-6, So.) to step up in order to challenge for a NorCal open berth.
22. (32) Colony (Ontario) 31-6
The Titans begin right behind the Campolindo club they lost to in last year’s CIF D2 state title tilt, 55-40. Brenton Knapper (5-11, Jr.) will take over the reigns as the go-to guard, while Kylan Boswell (6-0, Fr.) should help ease the loss of graduated all-state guard Sedrick Altman. The Champaign, Ill. transplant is that good and one of the early candidates for state freshman of the year honors. Denim Dawson (6-5, Jr.) provides athleticism and length and NorCal transplant Fred Burton (6-3, Sr.) is a cagy veteran who you want on your side in crunch time or in a dark alley. Colony could face No. 4 Etiwanda in the championship of the Inland Empire Classic on November 23.
23. (21) Foothills Christian (El Cajon) 24-7
It was close, as we almost went with the Knights as San Diego Section No. 2, but we’ll let it play out on the hardwood as Foothills begins the season ranked two spots lower than it finished last season, but 10 spots higher than it started in 2018-19. Coach Brad Leaf has a fast team that can stretch the floor and looks to force teams to play at its pace. Derrien Carter-Hollinger (6-5, Jr.) should develop into one of the top players in the section and Jalal O’Keith (6-5, Sr.) is a key cog up front. Jaden Lebel (6-1, So.) also is an up-and-coming talent, while transfer Nico Meza (6-4, Jr.) is one of the better outside shooters in San Diego County. Foothills is not deep, so Yale-bound Yassine Gharram (6-2, Sr.) is the vital piece in terms of staying healthy and having the ball in his hands during crunch time.
24. (35) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 18-9
Head coach Tim Kennedy’s squad started last season as the final team in our preseason rankings, but will be much better this season and starts 11 spots higher than it finished in 2018-19. We were tempted to put the Monarchs even higher, perhaps right next to or even in front of No. 14 Riordan, but they took a hit when 2019 WCAL Player of the Year Devan Sapp left for a Pennsylvania independent program. Transfer Nigel Burris (6-6, Jr.) from Stuart Hall in San Francisco eases some of the sting of losing Sapp and the Monarchs still have an excellent backcourt with Pepperdine-bound Mikey Mitchell (6-2, Jr.), Marcus Greene (6-2, Sr.) and Aidan Burke (6-2, So.). The interior development of Arrish Bhandal (6-8, Jr.) will be key for Mitty, which opens up versus No. 21 Campolindo at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic.
25. (25) Clovis West (Fresno) 30-4
With top five national talent Jalen Green leaving San Joaquin Memorial for non-CIF program Prolific Prep of Napa, the CIF Central Section is more wide open and we give the early nod to the Golden Eagles ahead of Clovis East and the Panthers (who are still solid without Green). We’ll start off Clovis West in the same rankings spot it finished last season and let the results play out. Veteran coach Vance Walberg welcomes back all-state underclass choice Cole Anderson (6-4. Jr.) and eight other lettermen, but dependable scoring options must be developed because graduated Grayson Carper and Dante Chachere were outstanding high school players.
26. (26) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 23-9
The Dragons didn’t come into 2018-19 with high preseason rankings expectations, and it paid dividends with the team’s “play anyone, anytime” mentality under coach Lou Richie. Similar to Clovis West, we start O’Dowd in the same position it finished last season. With its schedule, the only NorCal program to win a CIF Open ring can easily move up. It certainly has the talent to, led by Cal-bound wing Monty Bowser (6-5, Sr.) and Marsalis Roberson (6-4, Jr.), another future D1 player. O’Dowd was able to win the 2015 CIF Open crown because of its franchise big man (Ivan Rabb) and Jalen Lewis (6-8, Fr.) could be the program’s and region’s next great pivot.
27. (NR) Birmingham (Van Nuys) 17-13
Head coach Nicholas Halic is confident his team will have a much stronger record, as last year’s club was beset by injury yet still able to advance to the L.A. City Section semifinals and record a regional win over No. 11 Harvard-Westlake. West Valley MVP Corey Cofield (6-5, Jr.) was the leading scorer and rebounder (15.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and should be even more dangerous this season with older brother Elisha Cofield (6-6, Sr.) healthy and in the lineup. Both brothers are athletic wings and James Nobles (6-3, Jr.) is a fearless dunker and play-maker. David Elliott (6-2, Jr.) is the X-Factor because when he’s on offensively and disciplined, this team is tough to beat and capable of moving up in a hurry.
28. (17) De La Salle (Concord) 29-4
At first it would seem the Spartans start off too low, or at least a gap too wide between coach Justin Argenal’s club and the Weston Ranch team it beat in the NorCal open playoffs. On further inspection, however, the Spartans usually rely on senior leaders and the graduation losses of Thomas Gregorios and Tim Kostolansky will be felt. Argenal has two excellent young pieces to build this team around in Chris Bunch (6-6, So.) and Jeremiah Dargan (6-5, So.), both who showed over the summer they could develop into big-time players. Jack Byers (6-2, Sr.) will step into a senior leadership role and if Noah Clifford (6-6, So.) takes his game to the next level, this club will be hard to beat in February and March.
29. (NR) Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro) 27-6
This team has a nice blend of experience and talented young players and should enjoy another banner year after capturing the 2018-19 CIFSS D3AA championship. Veteran coach Harvey Kitani (849-279) welcomes back four starters and eight lettermen, including CIFSS D3 Wooden Award honoree J.T. Tan (6-7, Sr.), who is bound for Lehigh. Vaughn Flowers (6-3, Sr.) brings athleticism and will play at the next level, while Troy Murphy Jr. (6-4, Sr.) has all-CIFSS potential. The player who makes this team go, however, is Benny “The Jet” Gealer (5-11, So.), a fearless point guard who has steadily improved since entering the program as a highly-regarded middle school player. Can Rolling Hills Prep win enough games to get serious CIFSS Open Division consideration?
30. (NR) Taft (Woodland Hills) 27-10
The Toreadors must begin below No. 27 Birmingham since that team won the West Valley League crown and a quarterfinal game in the L.A. City Section open division playoffs, whereas Taft did not. Regardless, veteran coach Derrick Taylor (440-129) likes the talent level of his team, particularly his perimeter players and shooting. Demetrius Calip (6-3, Sr.) is a lethal deep-range threat and transfer Ramel Lloyd Jr. (6-6 So.) is an offensive threat anywhere on the floor. Jason Hart Jr. (6-0, So.) is a cerebral point guard who gets others involved, but it’s fellow L.A. Dorsey transfer Amir “Duke” Gibson (6-7, So.) who is key because the team doesn’t have another inside defensive presence. If Gibson plays up to par, that will make the team’s best all-around player, Khalil Haywood (6-4, Sr.), that much more dangerous.
31. (NR) Ribet Academy (Los Angeles) 27-3
Although the Fighting Frogs were not ranked at the end of last season, they were still able to walk away with hardware after defeating Immanuel of Reedley for the CIF D4 state title. With the CIF’s competitive equity model in place, Ribet Academy will look to make noise in a much higher SoCal regional this time around, perhaps even D1. That’s due to talented returnees such as Tyler Powell (6-4, Jr.), already a two-time all-state underclass choice, along with Xavier Williams (6-3, Jr.). Barrington Hargress (6-1, So.) is an up-and-coming backcourt talent, while Snookey Wigington (5-9, Sr.) is a flamboyant play-maker and shot-maker. Marcus Reedy (6-6, Jr.), Yuuto Williams (6-9, Jr.) and Ignacio “Nacho” Camacho (6-8, Sr.) give this club the necessary size and depth to compete with the CIFSS’ higher-rated clubs down the line.
32. (38) Dublin 26-6
The Gaels begin eight slots lower than they started last season, but still higher than they finished after losing to NorCal D1 champ James Logan in the North Coast Section D1 semis. That was a team Dublin beat during the regular season. The Gaels clearly would have started higher had talented guard Robbie Beasley not transferred to Daugherty Valley in the off-season. Still, this team is formidable and the backcourt is in capable hands with Devon Jackson (6-1, Sr.) and Malik Jackson (6-3, Sr.). Anthony Roy could have a breakout season and is a bonafide Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100 recruit, while Jalen Pierce is a seasoned veteran up front. Dublin will see what it is made of without Beasley right away as it faces No. 12 Weston Ranch at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic and is in the main draw at The Classic at Damien as well.
33. (19) Torrey Pines (San Diego) 25-7
A lot has to be replaced off last year’s Falcons’ club, but there is still enough talent for the defending CIF San Diego Section Open Division champs to be preseason ranked in the range it was the past two seasons. In fact, head coach John Olive’s club opened up 2017-18 at No. 33 and last season at No. 26, so replacing its strong senior class puts it at No. 4 in the San Diego Section coming into 2019-20. Brandon Angel (6-7, Sr.) is the key building block and he played well enough this summer to earn and accept a scholarship from Stanford. Helping to ease the graduation loss of the Pope brothers (Bryce and Michael) is the transfer of talented Chris Howell (6-5, Jr.) from San Marcos.
34. (NR) Capital Christian (Sacramento) 17-13
The Cougars had a slow start to 2018-19, but they have a plethora of talent returning and could quickly move up this season. In fact, we strongly considered the Cougars a few spots higher, but some talented newcomers have to mesh with the veterans and there was a late coaching change. Matt Filer takes over for McCall Wollman, who is now at Sacramento High, and he welcomes four returning starters and nine lettermen, including Evan Johnson (6-4, Sr.) who led a balanced scoring attack (10 ppg) last season. Also returning is Darrion Williams (6-6, So.) and the terrific backcourt trio of Sione Lose (6-2, Jr.), Cayden Flowers (6-1, Jr.) and Jonah Alvarez (6-2, Jr.). With Craig McMillian (6-5, Jr.) bringing his 18 ppg average from Sweetwater of National City there is no telling how good this team could be should all the parts jell into a cohesive unit.
35. (NR) Chaminade (West Hills) 21-10
Head coach Bryan Cantwell’s club showed what it was capable of with a late regular season win over No. 11 Harvard-Westlake (and lost to No. 7 Windward by just a point) and should be much better this season. The Eagles’ two big guns are back in K.J. Simpson (6-3, Jr.), who averaged 18.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, and 3.1 spg and earned all-state underclass honors, and Keith Higgins Jr., who was nearly as good with 17.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg. ‘Nade also has big man Richard “Abe” Eagle (6-9, Sr.), who averaged 11.8 ppg and 8.0 rpg, back in the fold. If transfers Colin Weems (5-11, Jr.) and Jaylen Henderson (6-4, Jr.) find their roles, this team could challenge for the Mission League title.
36. (NR) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 21-7
As usual, coach Shelton Diggs’ team will be a tough out, but we’ll take a cautious approach because it began last season at No. 39 and wasn’t ranked at the end of it. Still, there is reason for optimism despite losing a backcourt featuring Justin Rene (Long Beach St.) and Giordan Williams (Santa Clara). That’s because Peyton Watson (6-6, Jr.) is quickly developing into one of the state’s best prospects regardless of class even though he did not start last season. If Solomon Jones (6-6, Jr.) and Gabe Cummings (6-2, So.) step up as they showed flashes of this summer, there’s no reason why the Jackrabbits can’t make noise in the CIFSS D1 playoffs.
37. (9) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 24-7
Oregon State has yet another Knights’ player headed its way as Isaiah Johnson (6-6, Sr.) is going there off of this year’s team. That’s also where Stephen Thompson and former Mr. Basketball Ethan Thompson have gone. Johnson will have to carry more of the load for head coach Doug Mitchell early in the season with Jalen “Butter” Vazquez (6-0, So.) injured to start the season. Mitchell, who won his 700th game last season and has five CIF state titles, also will be looking for younger players to step with several freshmen on the roster, including talented post player Xavier Edmonds (6-7, Fr.). Another class of 2020 prospect who will need to step up is Christian Bood (6-6, Sr.).
38. (NR) Grant (Sacramento) 26-8
Head coach Denard Wilson figures to have one of the top teams in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. The Pacers have some graduation losses, but the combo of Corey Yerger (6-0, Jr.) at the point and A.J. McGee (6-1, Sr.) also at guard should be hard to stop. Yerger averaged 14 ppg as a sophomore while McGee slashed and shot for 10.9 ppg. Athletic Jonathan Schooley-Tyson (6-4, Jr.) is a transfer from nearby Inderkum who should certainly fit in with those two guards quite well.
39. (NR) Heritage Christian (Northridge) 24-6
Skyy Clark (6-2, So.) was one of the most exciting freshmen in Southern California last season. He averaged 15.3 ppg and recently participated in the USA men’s junior national team mini-camp. It was senior Dillon DePina, though, who was MVP of the league. He knocked down 16.0 ppg. Heritage Christian, which will be tested early at the Westchester Tip-Off Classic and The Warrior Classic (Alemany) and has the opportunity to move up quickly, also will need big outings from Kyle Frelow (6-6, Jr.) on the interior and wing. Justin Rochelin (6-5, Jr.) also returns with 13.5 ppg.
40. (NR) St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 20-8
An enticing combination of the legendary Don Lippi coaching (winningest in NorCal history with 872 wins at several schools) with some blossoming talent has us liking the Pilots for this last spot in our preseason presentation. The Pilots are coming off a season in which they won 14 of their last 18 games with three of those four losses coming in overtimes and the other to Salesian of Richmond (which was unbeaten at the time). The team’s most exciting young player is Jaylen Thompson (6-4, So.), who can score inside and out and clean up the glass. Guard Elijah Palmer (6-1, Sr.) and wing Aston Korth (6-5, So.) also should be able to hit double-figure scoring consistently.
20 Teams That Just Missed:
(NR) Alemany (Mission Hills) 19-10
(NR) Bellarmine Prep (San Jose) 20-8
(NR) Brentwood (Los Angeles) 23-7
(5) Centennial (Corona) 27-6
(NR) Clovis East (Clovis) 21-9
(NR) Crossroads (Santa Monica) 14-12
(36) Folsom 26-7
(NR) Franklin (Elk Grove) 19-10
(NR) Jesuit (Carmichael) 21-9
(NR) Los Altos (Hacienda Heights) 24-6
(23) Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 26-8
(NR) Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 17-12
(12) Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 27-7
(37) San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) 21-11
(NR) St. Anthony (Long Beach) 21-8
(NR) St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 12-16
(NR) St. Patrick-St. Vincent (Vallejo) 20-12
(NR) St. Joseph (Santa Maria) 23-8
(NR) St. Mary’s (Stockton) 26-7
(NR) Valencia 26-8
(NR) Vanden (Travis AFB) 20-9
To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.