NorCal/SoCal Players of the Week

Two of this week’s honorees are Brandon Whitney from Alemany of Mission Hills and Patricia Chung from Mark Keppel of Alhambra. Photos: @_EBEvents & Courtesy school.


It’s a valley-style edition of this weekly feature as we hit four separate valleys to find our four honorees, beginning with the San Fernando Valley, then the Sacramento Valley, followed by the San Gabriel Valley and finishing up in the Santa Clara Valley. We also have three guards and one post player getting the nods.

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Note: For these honors, we consider CIF Central Section players for Northern California. This is the second week for basketball honorees. This feature too a break for the Holidays and now returns after the conclusion of major tournaments just before New Year’s day. To nominate someone by 12 noon on most Mondays, email markjtennis@gmail.com.

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

Brandon Whitney (Alemany, Mission Hills) Sr.

The San Fernando Valley is our destination for this week in the south for boys and there we find a flashy guard who now adds the statewide Southern California Player of the Week award to being honored by the Daily News as its Boys Athlete of the Week.

Last week, he started with an 18-point performance including the winning basket in a 73-71 Mission League victory over Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks.

The Montana-committed 6-foot-1 senior guard followed that up with a 42-point performance in an 83-79 overtime win over Crespi of Encino. In that victory, the home standing fans at Crespi also had to witness Whitney drop in 36 of his 42 points in the second half.

Earlier this season, Whitney was the MVP of the SoCal Christmas Classic after leading Alemany to wins over Van Nuys, Redmond from Washington state and Palisades of Pacific Palisades.

So far this season with Brandon as the linchpin of the Warriors’ attack the team is 18-5 and tied for second at 3-1 in the Mission League.

Grant Tull of Gridley attacks the basket during game at this year’s Gridley Invitational Tournament. Photo: Joshua Porcayo / gridleyherald.com.


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

Grant Tull (Gridley) Jr.

For our Northern California boys honoree, we head to a small, rural farming community located about 50 miles north of Sacramento off Highway 99 that is already famous for basketball since Gridley High is home to what is the longest standing basketball tournament in Northern California, the Gridley Invitational Tournament, that was started in 1953.

The town of 7,000 has had its hearts full while watching Tull this season, who stood even taller than his 6-foot-6 height, and head and shoulders above the competition last week, despite the fact that at his height, Grant likes to handle the rock as a point guard. He’s also listed as a shooting forward and center, and that means according to our sources who have seen him play, he can shoot, dish, go to the rack and defend as well.

This is a week to honor the promising junior but in reality last week was just another week at the office for Tull. He started with 22 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in a 69-47 win over Wheatland, and then in a 83-47 victory over Orland, Tull made the bell toll after a double-double 30 points and 10 assists with five rebounds, three steals and three blocks.

Tull, a 4.2 GPA student athlete who’s interested in architecture as a career, started playing basketball at 8-years-old and was predominantly a post until developing other skills at the AAU level.

Tull has the numbers to prove it and is averaging 27.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. Grant has made 35 three-pointers and is shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc and 63-percent from the field. He has seven double-doubles, and has been over 30- points seven times for the 13-7 Bulldogs. His high-water mark is 37 points and he has done that twice, including adding 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in an 82-45 win at Pioneer of Woodland.

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

Patricia Chung (Mark Keppel, Alhambra) Sr.

We head just east of Downtown Los Angeles and south of Pasadena to honor a girl that we personally observed when she and the Aztecs were in Northern California, and in the only performance during the period for which Chung is being honored that she didn’t have a triple-double.

On Monday, at the MLK Classic at Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland), the Long Beach State-bound guard and triple-double machine put Keppel on her back just like she’s done so many times in a 16-6 season against some quality competition.

Keppel was down 25-12 early against a bigger and taller Berkeley team but after Patricia made like a magician the Aztecs pulled out a 56-54 victory behind a double-double 30 points and 14 rebounds with five steals and four assists by Keppel’s point guard, and she did it on a bad ankle she aggravated during the game.

Prior to coming up to the Bay Area, Chung had two triple-doubles with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 12 steals in limited action in a big victory over Montebello, and 10 points, 18 rebounds and 11 steals with seven assists in a 43-23 win at San Gabriel.

In the Aztecs’ first game at the MLK Classic she couldn’t quite get Keppel over the hump in a 44-42 loss to a quality Carondelet (Concord), but she did her best and had a triple-double 23 points, 13 rebounds and 10 steals.

When we contacted Keppel head coach Jose Herrera on Tuesday night to tell him of Chung being named the Southern California Girls Player of the Week, Herrera told us earlier that evening he only played Patricia a little more than a half but she went for another triple-double 30 points, 21 rebounds and 11 steals with four assists in a blowout of crosstown arch-rival Alhambra.

Not including the Tuesday game, Chung was averaging 24.7 points, 13.9 rebounds, 8.6 steals and 5.6 assists per game.

“Patricia Chung is as good as it gets,” said Herrera, who before taking the Keppel helm for the 2015-16 season had 6 years of college coaching experience at Chapman University. “Patricia is a gym rat and a hard worker on and off the court. She is the type of warrior and player that would run through a brick wall in order to help her team win, and who plays hurt like she did against Berkeley.

“Even though Patricia has been the main player on this year’s team she’s the biggest cheerleader when it comes to cheering on her teammates,” added Herrera.

Maia Garcia has been a double-double machine recently for Pinewood of Los Altos Hills. Photo: Harold Abend.


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

Maia Garcia (Pinewood, Los Altos Hills) Jr.

We had several nominations for the Northern California Girls Player of the Week, and they all could have garnered the award, but the story of Garcia has the kind of twist we’re always looking for in these special features.

Here’s the first thing unique about Garcia. Until the 6-foot-3 post transferred to Pinewood for her junior year, she was a track and field star at Santa Clara, and in fact won the CIF Central Coast Section girls high jump title and then placed ninth at the 2019 CIF State Meet, the best finish of any girl from the Bay Area.

Fast forward to the San Diego Classic a couple of months later in late June, and Garcia is really playing organized team basketball for the first time since her freshman year at Santa Clara, and despite the fact you could see she had some hop in her game, she was raw.

Pinewood may have lost a game in the West Bay – Foothill League for the first time in a long time this season, but what it has gained is a big girl, and that’s something Panthers’ head coach Doc Scheppler has never really had despite winning six CIF state championships and two Northern Regional Open Division titles the past two seasons.

It hasn’t really taken that long for Garcia to develop her game.

“Maia has come a long, long way. Over the past month, she’s developing at a rapid rate,” Scheppler remarked. “Her movement is more fluid, she’s flying the lanes, finishing plays well, and attacking the boards for putbacks.”

“What’s like a Christmas present for our guards is we’ve never had a big player to throw the ball up,” Scheppler continued. “Now, we have set plays for her.”

After the loss to Menlo School two weeks ago, Garcia responded with back-to-back double-doubles. First, she had 15 points and 11 rebounds with three steals in an easy win over Notre Dame of Belmont, and then in a 43-31 win over a Woodside Priory (Portola Valley) team that almost beat Menlo, Maia had 19 points and 13 rebounds.

On Monday she had seven points and seven rebounds with four blocks in a blowout of Aptos that allowed Scheppler to limit her minutes, but she came back with 10 points and 17 rebounds in a Tuesday night 57-41 victory over a Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton team that was coming off a win over Menlo.

On the season, Garcia is averaging a team second-highest 10.5 points per game behind standout junior Una Jovanovic, and 7.9 rebounds per game. The 19 points was her high-water mark she equaled against Oakland Tech, and she’s had four double-doubles, all in January.

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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