More Boys BB State Players of Year

Two of the class-by-class state players of the year are Malik Thomas of La Verne Damien (left) and Mikey Williams of San Ysidro. Photo: damienathletics.com & @FullTimeHoops / Twitter.com.

Here’s where to go to see the Cal-Hi Sports 2020 honorees for seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen and for each CIF division. State Team of the Year Sierra Canyon has added a second state player honor in addition to Mr. Basketball, and that selection process wasn’t easy, either. One additional junior has gained a statewide honor and of course we have a freshman who scored 77 points in one game and he’s actually player of the year in two different places.

For official writeup on the 2020 Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year, CLICK HERE.

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Congratulations to these boys players for being selected as a Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year. Stay tuned for the upcoming release of the 41st annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams. With respect to there not being CIF state finals this year and with thoughts of all of those affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, here is a complete list of our boys basketball individual players of the year for the 2019-20 season:

(Note: For this year, we have again considered the Open Division and Division I to be a mixed category. The Open/D1 all-state team also will be much larger than the other divisions to accommodate all worthy players.)

SENIORS & CIF D1/OPEN DIVISION
Brandon Boston Jr. (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth)

The talented forward earned Mr. Basketball not only over Evan Mobley and his own teammate Ziaire Williams, but we’d be remiss not to mention Jalen Green of Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif. Since the program he competes for isn’t eligible to play CIF schools, he isn’t eligible for Mr. Basketball, but he’s the best player to come from the Central Valley since DeShawn Stevenson of Washington Union in 2000. Even without the luxury of his senior year, he’s the all-time leading scorer at San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno over two-time state D3 Players of the Year Roscoe Pondexter (1970, 1971) and Cliff Pondexter (1972, 1973). Stevenson was the honoree in D3 in both 1999 and 2000. Since Green is a finalist for Mr. Basketball USA (a national player of the year honor our Ronnie Flores conducts and publishes annually), it’s safe to say he would have been in the running for Mr. Basketball with Boston and Mobley had he stayed in Fresno for his senior year. The last two forwards we can think of as talented as Boston and Williams on the same CIF team was the Fairfax of Los Angeles duo of Chris Mills and Sean Higgins in 1987 when the Lions finished 26-1 and were SoCal D1 runner-up. Higgins was a top five national recruit and Mills, as a junior, was the L.A. City Section Player of the year who earned Mr. Basketball honors as a senior in 1987-88.

JUNIORS
Malik Thomas (Damien, La Verne) 6-3 G

Two years ago, Malik was the one who snagged State Freshman of the Year honors in a close decision and now he’s got it for the juniors.

Already named as the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Sun/Bulletin Player of the Year, Thomas pumped in 25.4 points per game and also averaged 7.0 rebounds. The recent commit to USC also broke a school record with 888 points scored on the season. Some of his top individual outings included 29 points, 19 rebounds and 18-of-18 free throw shooting in a win over CIF Southern Section Open Division team St. Anthony of Long Beach in the CIF SoCal D1 regional playoffs plus 41 points when Damien recorded that epic 128-123 win in six overtimes (the longest playoff game in state history) over Riverside Poly. In addition, Thomas was reported to have shot 50 percent from the field during one two-week stretch of the season.

As a team, Damien finished 26-9 and was No. 19 in the final, expanded State Top 40 rankings. The Spartans fell to Renaissance Academy in overtime, 76-73, after their win against Riverside Poly.

Damien head coach Mike LeDuc, the second-winningest coach in state history, has had the State Junior of the Year before in 1998 when he was at Glendora and had future NBA player Casey Jacobsen. This also is the second time in three years that the State Junior of the Year is from the powerful Baseline League. In 2018, the pick went to Chino Hills’ Onyeka Okongwu.

Thomas had all-league recognition as a freshman in the Baseline League. He improved to 19.5 ppg as a sophomore, but was not chosen as State Sophomore of the Year in favor of Santa Ana Mater Dei point guard Devin Askew. Prior to this season, Askew reclassified to be a senior so he obviously could no longer be considered in the same class as Thomas and others that were considered for this year’s most outstanding junior.

Last 14 State Juniors of the Year (for obvious reason want to continue listing 2006): 2019 Evan Mobley (Temecula Rancho Christian); 2018 Onyeka Okongwu (Chino Hills); 2017 Marvin Bagley (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2016 Brandon McCoy (San Diego Cathedral Catholic); 2015 Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills); 2014 Ivan Rabb (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2013 Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2012 Aaron Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 2011 Brandon Ashley (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2010 Josiah Turner (Sacramento); 2009 Jeremy Tyler (San Diego); 2008 Renardo Sidney (Lakewood Artesia); 2007 Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood Campbell Hall); 2006 James Harden (Lakewood Artesia).

Bailey addresses media prior to the season at Sierra Canyon. Photo: sierracanyonathletics.com.

SOPHOMORES
Amari Bailey (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) 6-4 G

It was a tough call for the freshmen last year and it was just as hard for the sophomores at the close of the 2020 season.

But after stepping up from a reserve role at Sierra Canyon as a freshman, Bailey clearly became one of the top three players as a sophomore on the best team in the state and one of the best in the nation. Despite being on the same team as senior Mr. Basketball finalists Brandon Boston Jr. and Ziaire Williams, Amari posted averages of 10.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He led the Trailblazers in assists and was second on the team in minutes played. He was the leading scorer in several games, including 17 in a CIFSS Open Division playoff win vs. St. Anthony of Long Beach.

Amari’s explosiveness around the rim was evident to all when he did get to play a lot of minutes in last year’s CIF Open Division state final win vs. Sheldon of Sacramento. This year’s state final, of course, was never played, although Sierra Canyon did win the CIF SoCal Open Division title and was ranked No. 1 in the state for the third straight year.

Despite all of that, the difficulty of the choice for sophomore of the year is shown by the fact that another sophomore, Skyy Clark from Heritage Christian of North Hills, also was shown on the just-released L.A. Daily News first team honors for the San Fernando/Ventura region. The Daily News didn’t have to pick between them, but we don’t have ties and we did. Clark averaged 25.5 ppg and also like Bailey is a high-major recruit. We also strongly considered last year’s State Freshman of the Year, Aidan Mahaney from Campolindo of Moraga, plus we know that Mayfair of Lakewood point guard Dior Johnson is ranked right up there with Bailey. Bailey, who was first in our most recent Cal-HI Sports Hot 100 for 2022, just did enough in the biggest games that Sierra Canyon won to earn the nod.

The son of former Indianapolis Colts’ wide receiver Aaron Bailey, Amari is the second State Sophomore of the Year from Sierra Canyon. The first was Cody Riley in 2015. He’s also just the third from the San Fernando Valley in the more than 40 years that the honor has been handed out at the end of the season. The only other one besides Riley has been Trevor Wilson from Cleveland of Reseda for 1984. Current Sierra Canyon head coach Andre Chevalier was a star at Cleveland just after Trevor Wilson later in the 1980s. We also have State Sophomores of the Year chosen retroactively back to 1971.

Last 11 State Sophomores of the Year: 2019 Devin Askew (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2018 Jalen Green (Fresno San Joaquin Memorial); 2017 La’Melo Ball (Chino Hills); 2016 Jordan Brown (Roseville Woodcreek); 2015 Cody Riley (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2014 Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills); 2013 Ivan Rabb (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2012 Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 2011 Aaron Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 2010 Brandon Ashley (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2009 Angelo Chol (San Diego Hoover).

FRESHMEN
Mikey Williams (San Ysidro) 6-3 G

There are some in the scouting world who believe that teammate Jurion Dixon has even more potential for future success, but for now it has to be Williams as the top dog for ninth-graders in California. He’s not only the State Freshman of the Year, but also is regarded by some as the top freshman in the nation and was runner up for CIF San Diego Section Player of the Year.

“Mikey came in as probably the most hyped freshman in California history,” said San Ysidro head coach Terance Tucker. “He played in front of packed crowds and millions on the internet, and delivered not just by individual stats but by WINNING at a public school three minutes from Mexico and a roster of nine players, four which were freshmen.”

Williams, who also has a 3.5 GPA, was among the state scoring leaders with 29.9 ppg. He also had averages of 4.7 assists and 6.7 rebounds and led San Ysidro to its first CIF San Diego Section title (in Division 3) and to its first-ever state playoff win. (There’s more on his divisional exploits in a separate CIF Division IV State Player of the Year selection that is written up below.)

The only two previous state freshmen of the year from San Diego have been Jeremy Tyler of San Diego High in 2007 and JayDee Luster of San Diego Hoover in 2004. In 2005, San Diego also nabbed the State Sophomore of the Year choice in Tyrone Shelley, who was coached by Tucker at Crawford.

Shelley also previously held the CIF San Diego Section record for single-game scoring with 76 points for a game in 2006. Williams was let loose in an attempt to break that record in a December game at the Imperial tourney in a game against Kearny and he got it with a 77-point barrage. That also broke the record for single game scoring in California for a freshman (all of that info from our own state record book).

Williams got his season going quickly with 41 points and then 50 in wins over El Cajon Valley and Mission Bay. His top outing, though, may have been 35 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a lopsided loss to nationally ranked Rancho Christian of Temecula. He finished with 956 points and would have had more than 1,000 if not missing two games with the flu. That’s still the fifth-highest total in section history.

Last 11 State Freshman Players of the Year: 2019 Aidan Mahaney (Moraga Campolindo); 2018 Malik Thomas (La Verne Damien); 2017 Kyree Walker (Hayward Moreau Catholic); 2016 Onyeka Okongwu (Chino Hills); 2015 Jordan Brown (Roseville Woodcreek); 2014 Cody Riley (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2013 Trevor Stanback (West Hills Chaminade); 2012 Marcus LoVett Jr. (Burbank Providence); 2011 Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Los Angeles Loyola); 2010 Roschon Prince (Long Beach Poly); 2009 Gabe York (Orange Lutheran).

Andre Henry will play next at UC Irvine. Photo: prephoops.com.

DIVISION II
Andre Henry (St. Francis, La Canada) 6-1 Sr.

All you need to know about Henry is what he did in the last 17 seconds of his team’s game against Oxnard in the CIF SoCal D2 regional semifinals. The Golden Knights trailed by one point and against a team that had won 32 games, but Andre got the ball and delivered with a game-winning layup in the final seconds. St. Francis went on to defeat Roosevelt of Eastvale in the SoCal title game before the season was halted, which also prevented the Golden Knights from meeting Weston Ranch of Stockton for the state crown.

Henry delivered for St. Francis all season. Sure, the Golden Knights got helped out by being in D2 for the regionals and not in D1 where they didn’t have to worry about the Santa Clarita Christian team they lost to in the CIFSS D2-AA final. Still, Henry stood out in every game and took advantage of that last opportunity.

Already named as the Pasadena Star-News Player of the Year, Henry knocked down 24.7 points per game, but was a guard who could do it all. His other per game averages were 11.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 4.2 blocks. As a junior, Andre showed what was to come with 19.3 points and 11.9 rebounds per outing.

Colleges certainly noticed that kind of production from a player competing in the Mission League, one of SoCal’s toughest leagues. Henry, who also had a 4.0 GPA, eventually signed with UC Irvine.

St. Francis High or nearby La Canada (which has been led for many years by legendary head coach Tom Hofmann) has never had a state player of the year in any division previously. We’re pleased that such a fine example of academics and athletics is the first.

Last 12 State D2 Players of the Year: 2019 Jaime Jaquez (Camarillo); 2018 Shareef O’Neal (Santa Monica Crossroads); 2017 Kezie Okpala (Anaheim Esperanza); 2016 Solomon Young (Sacramento); 2015 T.J. Leaf (El Cajon Foothills Christian); 2014 Daniel Hamilton (Bellflower St. John Bosco); 2013 Aaron Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 2012 Aaron Gordon (San Jose Archbishop Mitty); 2011 Angelo Chol (San Diego Hoover); 2010 Tyler Johnson (Mountain View St. Francis); 2009 Brendan Lane (Rocklin); 2008 DeMar DeRozan (Compton).

Austin Patterson has been called “the Red Mamba” for obvious reasons. Photo: FrontRowPreps.com.

DIVISION III
Austin Patterson (Sonora) 6-3 Sr.

We move on into a CIF division in which the top teams were balanced in their scoring or that had more than one player considered. Instead of breaking ties, we looked more for individuals with major accomplishments and landed on Patterson for D3. His team actually won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D4 title, but was moved up to D3 for the regionals. The Wildcats lost to Sequoia of Redwood City in a game Patterson scored 22, but the entirety of his season is what proved to be most impressive.

In that section final, Patterson led Sonora to its second straight section title with 31 points in a 70-57 win over Liberty Ranch of Galt, which was led by Jalen Patterson, the No. 2 all-time career scoring leader in section history. Austin also had a school record of 48 points earlier in the season in a win vs. section D2 finalist Central Catholic of Modesto. Plus, it was hard not to notice 25 points in a 76-70 loss to Clovis West of Fresno.

The key for Patterson getting this honor is earlier being named the overall Player of the Year by the Modesto Bee. That was over some players with D1 scholarships (mostly from D1 Modesto Christian) and over all players from D1 and D2 schools. For the season, Austin also put up impressive numbers of 23.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.7 steals per game. His team wound up 28-4.

According to the Modesto Bee, Patterson has offers from Montana State, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara. He added he may enroll as a post-grad at a prep school next season and then head to college for 2021.

The last Sac-Joaquin Section player to be tops in D3 for the state was Jaelen Ragsdale of Weston Ranch (Stockton) for 2016. We also previously honored Chase Tapley of Sacramento High for 2009.

Last 13 State D3 Players of the Year: 2019 Ryan Langborg (La Jolla Country Day); 2018 Kevin Kremer (Chico Pleasant Valley); 2017 Jules Bernard (Los Angeles Windward); 2016 Jaelen Ragsdale (Stockton Weston Ranch); 2015 Ivan Rabb (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2014 Ivan Rabb (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2013 Isaac Hamilton (Bellflower St. John Bosco); 2012 Marqueze Coleman (Mission Hills Alemany); 2011 Brandon Ashley (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 2010 Deonta Burton (Compton Centennial); 2009 Chase Tapley (Sacramento); 2008 Klay Thompson (Rancho SM Santa Margarita); 2007 James Harden (Lakewood Artesia).

DIVISION IV
Mikey Williams (San Ysidro) 6-3 Fr.

Yes, other players were considered for D4, but the two state finalists were very balanced squads and frankly the next best candidate for D4 was Wayne McKinney of Coronado, a junior who averaged 28.4 ppg and who also joined Williams on the all-San Diego Section first team. Plus, in D4, due to competitive equity reasons, there are hardly any players with D1 college offers. McKinney has been getting those, too, including one recently from Loyola Marymount. San Ysidro and Williams’ team beat Coronado in the San Diego D3 final before both teams were placed in D4 for the SoCal regionals.

In his march to his 29.9 per game scoring mark, our State Freshman of the Year had top outings of 39 points vs. St. Mary’s of Phoenix (Ariz.) and 31 vs. Foothills Christian of El Cajon. Head coach Terance Tucker also said that Williams had five first-place votes to be San Diego Section Player of the Year with the winner (Chibuzo Agbo of D1 St. Augustine) getting seven.

Williams is the first from San Diego to be the D4 State Player of the Year since NBA player Jared Dudley of Horizon Christian in 2003. Dudley’s teammate from the previous season, Nate Carter, was named in 2002 and there also were two from San Diego Lincoln — Mark Sanford ad Berry Randle — chosen for 1994 and 1992.

Last 12 State D4 Players of the Year: 2019 Ben Knight (San Francisco Mission); 2018 Ryan Turell (Valley Village Valley Torah); 2017 Matt Bradley (San Bernardino); 2016 Colin Slater IV (Reedley Immanuel); 2015 Tyler Dorsey (Sierra Madre Maranatha); 2014 Justin Bibbins (Torrance Bishop Montgomery); 2013 Jabari Bird (Richmond Salesian); 2012 Grant Jerrett (La Verne Lutheran); 2011 Wesley Saunders (Los Angeles Windward); 2010 Allen Crabbe (Los Angeles Price); 2009 Justin Cobbs (Torrance Bishop Montgomery); 2008 Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood Campbell Hall).

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

DIVISION V
Grant Tull (Gridley) 6-5 Jr. G

The deeper you go in these competitive equity divisions it can be harder and harder to find player of the year type candidates. We’ve known about Tull since a promising sophomore season in 2019 and it’s not a stretch to say he was the best player in the state this season north of Sacramento with averages of 25.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.6 blocks.

Tull was not on one of the two CIF state finalists in D5, but he had a game-high 22 points in a loss to NorCal winner San Domenico of San Anselmo in the regional semifinals. Grant also fired in a game-high 25 points when the Bulldogs fell to NorCal D5 top seed Pierce of Arbuckle in the CIF Northern Section D4 final. In addition, Tull had a season-high 37 points twice, hit for 27 in a loss to NorCal D2 regional champ Weston Ranch of Stockton and he had a 30-point, 10-assist double-double vs. Orland.

This year’s All-Northern Section team was actually announced on the same day this honor was finalized for Tull and he was listed on first team (regardless of division). He’s also been seen at some of the top grassroots camps over the last two years and has made an impression as a 6-foot-5 player who can play on the perimeter.

Tull is just the second-player ever from Gridley High to earn a state player of the year selection. The first was a legendary name in Northern Section basketball history — Alex Austin — in 1985 for D4. The last D5 player of the year from the section was Joel Bertoli of McCloud in 1986.

From a family angle, Grant has a twin sister, Kennedy, who has been a standout for Gridley’s girls team. His older sister, Maddyson, was the leading scorer on this year’s girls team.

Last 11 State D5 Players of the Year: 2019 Edward Turner (Bakersfield Foothill); 2018 Jordan Starr (Canyon Country Santa Clarita Christian); 2017 Jimmy Beltz (Lodi Elliot Christian); 2016 Jade’ Smith (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2015 Cody Riley (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2014 Temidayo Yussuf (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2013 Mamadou Ndiaye (Huntington Beach Brethren Christian); 2012 Brandon Randolph (Playa del Rey St. Bernard); 2011 Brendan Keane (Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame); 2010 Troy Leaf (El Cajon Foothills Christian); 2009 Darius Morris (Los Angeles Windward) .

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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