Mr. Basketball 2020: California Dreamin’

Brandon Boston Jr. has already been named Southern Section Open Division player of year and has now been named Mr. Basketball State Player of Year for California. Photo: Twitter.com.

In a season that didn’t have a definitive ending for many, the ending couldn’t have turned out better for Sierra Canyon’s Brandon Boston Jr. After moving to Southern California from Georgia, he is named California Mr. Basketball by Cal-Hi Sports for the state’s top-ranked team. He’s actually the first Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year from Sierra Canyon, but will he be followed by several more in upcoming seasons?

For this season’s State Players of the Year in boys basketball among juniors, sophs, frosh and for each CIF division, CLICK HERE.

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When Brandon Boston Jr. matriculated across the country from Norcross, Ga., he never could have imagined all the things he’d experience in his one season at Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. The program was gunning for its third consecutive CIF Open Division state title, and did meet the vast majority of its goals. Who would have ever thought Sierra Canyon would have won its last game, not captured a CIF state title and Boston would be completely satisfied with that?

The COVID-19 Pandemic changed the course of the basketball season the week of March 9, however, and the CIF state championships, set for the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento that upcoming weekend, were cancelled March 12. Regardless of how the event’s marquee game would have played out, it would have been hard to top the way Sierra Canyon ended its season in the SoCal open final versus state No. 2 Etiwanda. The Eagles had Sierra Canyon hanging from a rope, leading the state’s No. 1 team by 11 with just over three minutes remaining, but the Trailblazers had to dig deep and hit big shot after big shot to quickly get back in the game.

Everyone will always remember Ziaire Williams’ elbow jumper to seal the 63-61 win at the buzzer, but Boston’s step-back 3-pointer to tie the game was the biggest of many big shots the Kentucky-bound forward hit during the course of the season. For being the most consistent player and leading scorer on the state’s most talented team, and for hitting many clutch shots during a season in which Sierra Canyon was the No. 1 ranked team in the state for the third consecutive season, today Boston has been named California Mr. Basketball by Cal-Hi Sports.

Boston is from Georgia who just played in Los Angeles, will be in Kentucky next season and who knows for the season after that? Photo: Twitter.com.

“We really wanted to win another ring, but going to state the way we did was really a great ending, we put everything on the line,” Boston said. “Coming out here really worked out; I saw things I’ve never seen before. It’s a real blessing to get this (Mr. Basketball) and really it’s been one of my dreams to get this to close out my high school career.”

For the fifth consecutive season, the honoree comes from a CIF Southern Section school. The past two years it’s gone to Onyeka Okongwu of Chino Hills, who figures to be one of the first names called in the 2020 NBA Draft after one season at USC. The last player from a non-CIFSS school to be the honoree was Ivan Rabb from Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland after he led the Dragons to NorCal’s lone CIF Open title in 2015.

Last year, Cassius Stanley of Sierra Canyon really came on to challenge Okongwu, as the Duke freshman played a big role in helping Sierra Canyon win back-to-back CIF Open crowns. Okongwu’s production was just too much to overcome, and Boston is now the first player from the state power to earn the state’s top individual honor. You have to go back to 2008 to find the last San Fernando Valley product to earn Mr. Basketball when NBA guard Jrue Holiday was knocking down jumpers at Campbell Hall of North Hollywood.

Boston’s one year at Sierra Canyon also will be compared to NBA No. 2 overall draft pick Marvin Bagley, who was the State Junior of the Year for 2017 but the Trailblazers couldn’t get it done in the CIF SoCal Open Division that season and he was edged out for Mr. Basketball by Torrance Bishop Montgomery senior Ethan Thompson. We didn’t know at the time Bagley would end up re-classifying after that season and that 2017 would be his only season at the school.

Seven-footer Evan Mobley of Rancho Christian, last year’s State Junior of the Year, was a big man the likes we haven’t seen in the Golden State in two decades, including his good friend and travel ball teammate Okongwu. Okongwu earned his way to the top of the state’s heap with fundamental post skill, impeccable timing on the defensive end, and disciplined offense while leading his program to three CIF state titles in four years. Mobley is bigger, even more agile and just can do things physically that Okongwu can’t. It wouldn’t surprise us if he dominates at USC next year with Okongwu moving on to the NBA, but we were waiting for that dominant run or stretch in the playoffs this year and it just didn’t come. Rancho Christian finished 22-8 and in the season-ending loss to state No. 2 Etiwanda, Mobley had four shot attempts in the first half and finished with seven points. The big man had spectacular moments, but not enough to overcome Boston’s consistency for the state’s best team and his performance against that same Etiwanda group.

Rancho Christian did hand Sierra Canyon its only in-state loss of the season, but the smooth and talented forward who shined at the 2018 Pangos All-American Camp in SoCal had 30 points in the avenging 78-62 win over the Eagles. When Rancho Christian handed Sierra Canyon that loss it was the first game of the season for Williams and he had a terrific outing with 28 points. When an already deep and talented team added a talent like Williams to its lineup, it changed the rotation and allotted minutes, but Boston was the one constant in the lineup with his ability to change ends, his underrated play-making and, of course, ability to hit big shots.

“Coach wanted to go to that lineup to see how we could work with him in the lineup,” Boston said. “We adjusted real well.”

“Brandon is a natural scorer who makes putting the ball in the basket look easy,” Sierra Canyon head coach Andre Chevalier said. “He has a knack for getting offensive rebounds and is an underrated passer.”

Sierra Canyon senior B.J. Boston and freshman Bronny James greet each other toward the end of the state No. 1 team’s win over Mater Dei in the CIF Southern Section Open Division final. Photo: Scott Kurtz / @kurtzphoto.

On the year, Boston led Sierra Canyon with 20.8 ppg and in minutes played, while adding 7.0 rpg, 2.6 apg and 2.1 spg for a 30-4 team. In 14 less games, Williams averaged 15 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, and 2.4 spg. Williams, who is still undecided for college, sat out 14 games after transferring over from Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks and Boston carried the team offensively as it started out 14-0. Who knows what would have transpired, as far as individual honors go, had Williams not missed those games because of the sit-out period. Boston, however, did carry the load offensively for Chevalier’s squad the first 14 games.

Williams had 17 points in that dramatic Etiwanda win and Boston finished with 26 points. Did Boston know anything about the history with Etiwanda in the regional playoffs or sense any added pressure from it down the stretch by Eagles’ players? The momentum was clear, but as a newcomer to the California playoff scene and a natural competitor, Boston had only one thing on his mind as his team trailed by 11 with 3:03 to play. Boston knew what had to be done and how he wanted to do it if he and his team was going to pull off the dramatic comeback.

“I was just focused on getting the win; I wasn’t thinking about what happened in previous games or what Etiwanda was thinking,” Boston said.

“He is at his best when the game is on the line; all year long he made big shot after big shot,” Chevalier said.

“I was going to pull it and I heard coach say ‘shoot it’ and I knew when it went in, that we were going to win,” Boston said. “I think we went out in a really great way; that was really crazy and exciting.”

And now that the season is over, Boston has another thing to be really excited about and to remember his lone season in California.

MR. BASKETBALL STATE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
ALL-TIME LIST

Note: All selections by Cal-Hi Sports; All-time list before 1978 compiled by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis, based on research.

Last year’s Mr. Basketball celebrates with teammates at Chino Hillsafter they won second straight CIF D1 state title. Photo: Willie Eashman.

2020 – Brandon Boston Jr.,
Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, 6-8
2019 – Onyeka Okongwu, Chino Hills, 6-9
2018 – Onyeka Okongwu, Chino Hills, 6-9 Jr.
2017 – Ethan Thompson,
Torrance Bishop Montgomery, 6-4
2016 – Lonzo Ball, Chino Hills, 6-6
2015 – Ivan Rabb, Oakland Bishop O’Dowd, 6-10
2014 – Stanley Johnson, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-6
2013 – Aaron Gordon, San Jose Archbishop Mitty, 6-8
2012 – Aaron Gordon,
San Jose Archbishop Mitty, 6-8 Jr.
2011 – Ryan Anderson, Long Beach Poly, 6-8
2010 – Allen Crabbe, Los Angeles Price, 6-6
2009 – Kawhi Leonard,
Riverside Martin Luther King, 6-7
2008 – Jrue Holiday,
North Hollywood Campbell Hall, 6-3
2007 – Taylor King, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-8
2006 – Chase Budinger, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon, 6-8
2005 – Amir Johnson, L.A. Westchester, 6-10
2004 – DeMarcus Nelson, Sacramento Sheldon, 6-3
2003 – Trevor Ariza, L.A. Westchester, 6-8
2002 – Hassan Adams, L.A. Westchester, 6-4
2001 – Tyson Chandler, Compton Dominguez, 7-1
2000 – Tyson Chandler, Compton Dominguez, 7-0 Jr.
1999 – Casey Jacobsen, Glendora, 6-6
1998 – Tayshaun Prince, Compton Dominguez, 6-8
1997 – Baron Davis, Santa Monica Crossroads, 6-2
1996 – Corey Benjamin, Fontana, 6-6
1995 – Paul Pierce, Inglewood, 6-7
1994 – Jelani Gardner, Bellflower St. John Bosco, 6-6
1993 – Charles O’Bannon, Lakewood Artesia, 6-7
1992 – Jason Kidd, Alameda St. Joseph, 6-4
1991 – Jason Kidd, Alameda St. Joseph, 6-4 Jr.
1990 – Ed O’Bannon, Lakewood Artesia, 6-9
1989 – Tracy Murray, Glendora, 6-8
1988 – Chris Mills, L.A. Fairfax, 6-7
1987 – LeRon Ellis, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-11
1986 – Scott Williams, Hacienda Heights Wilson, 6-10
1985 – Tom Lewis, Santa Ana Mater Dei, 6-7
1984 – John Williams, L.A. Crenshaw, 6-8
1983 – John Williams, L.A. Crenshaw, 6-7 Jr.
1982 – Tony Jackson, Oakland Bishop O’Dowd, 6-4
1981 – Dwayne Polee, L.A. Manual Arts, 6-5
1980 – Ralph Jackson, Inglewood, 6-3
1979 – Darren Daye, Granada Hills Kennedy, 6-7
1978 – Greg Goorjian, Crescenta Valley, 6-2
1977 – Cliff Robinson, Oakland Castlemont, 6-7
1976 – Rich Branning, Huntington Beach Marina, 6-2
1975 – Bill Cartwright, Elk Grove, 7-1
1974 – Bill Cartwright, Elk Grove, 7-0 Jr.
1973 – Marques Johnson, L.A. Crenshaw, 6-5
1972 – Cliff Pondexter, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, 6-7 Jr.
1971 – Roscoe Pondexter, Fresno San Joaquin Memorial, 6-6
1970 – Bill Walton, La Mesa Helix, 6-10
1969 – Keith Wilkes, Ventura, 6-5 Jr.
1968 – Paul Westphal, Redondo Beach Aviation, 6-2
1967 – Curtis Rowe, L.A. Fremont, 6-6
1966 – Dennis Awtrey, San Jose Blackford, 6-9
1965 – Bob Portman, S.F. St. Ignatius, 6-5
1964 – Russ Critchfield, Salinas, 5-10
1963 – Edgar Lacey, L.A. Jefferson, 6-6
1962 – Joe Ellis, Oakland McClymonds, 6-5
1961 – Gail Goodrich, L.A. Poly, 5-11
1960 – Paul Silas, Oakland McClymonds, 6-6
1959 – Steve Gray, S.F. Washington, 6-4
1958 – Billy McGill, L.A. Jefferson, 6-9
1957 – Tom Meschery, S.F. Lowell, 6-5
1956 – Fred LaCour, S.F. St. Ignatius, 6-4
1955 – Fred LaCour, S.F. St. Ignatius, 6-4 Jr.
1954 – Willie Davis, Alameda, 5-11
1953 – Bill Bond, Long Beach St. Anthony, 6-1
1952 – Willie Naulls, San Pedro, 6-5
1951 – Ken Sears, Watsonville, 6-7
1950 – Don Bragg, S.F. Galileo, 6-3

Note: List extends back to 1905 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book and Almanac.

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


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