This list is different than the statewide Top 25s we recently published, as it only includes the greater Los Angeles metro region. Baron Davis, the former NBA All-Star guard and 1997 Mr. Basketball at Santa Monica Crossroads, inspired these lists on social media as he wanted to hear from various media pundits and other players about their Top 20 all-time players from L.A.
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The reason we put out this list together is because the No. 8 player on the list, Baron Davis, challenged L.A. basketball followers to put out their list of the Top 20 players they’ve ever seen from the region.
It’s part of Davis’ LAUNFD (L.A. Unified) initiative and brand that he’s spearheaded along with former Serra of Gardena and NBA guard Pooh Jeter to spread knowledge and give back to L.A’s communities through positive interaction. LAUNFD was created to inspire L.A.’s next generation of artists and creators with an emphasis on sports, music and culture.
Davis and Jeter want young players to know about the great history of talented players from the greater Los Angeles Metro region, so we came up with the Top 20 L.A. players we’ve seen. For the purposes of Davis’ challenge, our Top 20 includes Orange County and the high desert region of L.A. County including Palmdale and Lancaster, and the vast Inland Empire. It does not include Santa Barbara or San Diego County.
Here’s our LAUNFD L.A. Metro Top 20 Top boys hoops players we’ve seen (listed with senior season):
Ronnie Flores’ Top 20 SoCal Players
He’s Seen (As HS Talents)
1. John Williams (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) ’84
SoCal’s version of LeBron James.
2. Ed O’Bannon (Artesia, Lakewood) ‘90
Complete package of talent, skill and the burning desire to win was a two-time high school All-American.
3. Paul Pierce (Inglewood) ‘95
Always talented, he took off at Pac Shores Tourney his junior year and never looked back and finished his career with a memorable performance in a regional final loss to Dominguez.
4. Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) ‘14
Four state titles in highest classification, he willed Monarchs to final one with skill and IQ.
5. Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills) ‘16
Led his public school to a FAB 50 national title in memorable fashion and just might be the best SoCal point guard since Raymond Lewis 50 years ago (see below).
6. Tyson Chandler (Dominguez, Compton) ‘01
Like Zo, Chandler won a FAB 50 title and he might have been a tad higher but Dominguez blew alot of teams away and he didn’t always play anywhere close to 32 minutes.
7. Tracy Murray (Glendora) ’89
Best shooter we’ve seen in SoCal was underrated in other areas and earned everything that came his way after early injury scare to earn Mr. Basketball honors while scoring 44 ppg as a senior.
8. Baron Davis (Crossroads, Santa Monica) ‘97
Known as the “Godfather” to his playing peers, his impact on the court was just as great as arguably SoCal’s most explosive PG. BD is the reason why this list was made in the first place.
9. Jacque Vaughn (Muir, Pasadena) ’93
The most exciting player we’ve seen the past 30 years was a fine student. Boy, we’d love to see him play again.
10. Harold Miner (Inglewood) ’89
With his zero-gravity dunks, “Baby Jordan” is one of the most influential SoCal players of all-time and he had plenty of memorable moments.
11. Chris Mills (Fairfax, Los Angeles) ’88
One of the state’s smoothest scorers ever, Mills had a NBA-ready game in high school and was L.A. City 4A Player of the Year as a junior over top five national senior teammate Sean Higgins, who barely missed the cut here.
12. Kenny Brunner (Dominguez, Compton) ’97
We won’t forget when he helped the Dons beat Oak Hill Academy as a freshman to put them on the national map. Sported a 123-14 record and was never mentally beat by any guard.
13. Jrue Holiday (Campbell Hall, North Hollywood) ’08
His body control and command of the game were second to none en route to three CIF state titles.
14. Tayshaun Prince (Dominguez, Compton) ’98
Tayshaun was terrific on both ends and we remember some deep range bombs and his terrific block on Westchester’s Tony Bland to seal a big win his senior year.
15. Steve Thompson (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) ‘86
His son, Ethan Thompson (Bishop Montgomery) deserves plenty of credit for winning two CIFSS Open Division crowns, but his father won two CIF D1 state crowns in his two years on the Shaw varsity.
16. James Harden (Artesia, Lakewood) ’07
Taylor King beat him out for Mr. Basketball (career achievement and close call), but Harden was as good an offensive playmaker as anyone to come down pike who stats weren’t indicative of his dominance.
17. Brandon Jennings (Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va.) ’08
Decided to include Jennings on this list because he’s from SoCal and has always resided here. His talent was undeniable, as he quickly made an impact on the Dominguez of Compton varsity and went on to earn National Player of the Year honors at the famous boarding school.
18. Don McLean (Simi Valley) ’88
This sweet shooting forward was well-known in middle school and nearly as cocky as he was talented.
19. Ernest Killum (Lynwood) ’90
The D1 State Player of the Year his senior year, EK’s teammates not only followed him, they admired him and the Wood community was devastated when he passed in 1992 while at Oregon St.
20. John Staggers (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) ’88
We decided to make a somewhat controversial final pick, as it was hard to leave off Schea Cotton (who missed too many games to make the cut) and Derrick Martin, yet another member of the famed ’88 class who led the state in scoring. Long-time Crenshaw coach Willie West called Staggers the most talented offensive player he ever coached, including Marques Johnson, who we did not see in high school.
Just Missed List
Hassan Adams (Westchester, Los Angeles) ’02; Gilbert Arenas (Grant, Van Nuys) ’99; Stacy Augmon (Muir, Pasadena) ’86; Corey Benjamin (Fontana) ’96; Stais Boseman (Morningside, Inglewood) ’93; Sam Crawford (Westchester, Los Angeles) ’89; Schea Cotton (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) ’97; Demar DeRozan (Compton) ’08; LeRon Ellis (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) ’87; Jordan Farmar (Taft, Woodland Hills) ’04; Chris Ford (Fremont, Los Angeles) ’91; Jelani Gardner (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) ’94; Sean Higgins (Fairfax, Los Angeles) ’87; Casey Jacobsen (Glendora) ’99; Jason Kapono (Artesia, Lakewood) ’99; Taylor King (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) ’07; Kawhi Leonard (King, Riverside) ’09; Tom Lewis (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) ’85; Derrick Martin (St. Anthony, Long Beach) ’88; Charles O’Bannon (Artesia, Lakewood) ’93; Onyeka Okongwu (Chino Hills) ’19; Cherokee Parks (Marina, Huntington Beach) ’91; Chris Sandle (Poly, Long Beach) ’84; Renardo Sidney (Fairfax, Los Angeles) ’09; Scott Williams (Wilson, Hacienda Heights) ’86.
SoCal Favorite Fives
Dunkers: 1. Joey Johnson (Banning, Wilmington) ’85 2. DeRozan 3. Cassius Stanley (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) ’19 4. Benjamin 5. Dion Brown Crenshaw, Los Angeles) ’86.
Most Exciting: 1. Vaughn 2. Cotton 3. Crawford 4. Wesley Stokes (Poly, Long Beach) ’00 5. Olujimi Mann (Valley, Santa Ana) ’96.
Inner City Specials: 1. Cliff Allen (Carson) ’86 2. James “Gumby” Gray (Westchester, Los Angeles) ’92 3. Vince “Chico” Langston (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) ’89 4. Fabian Nixon (Poly, Long Beach) ’92 5. Tito Maddux (Compton) ’99.
Underrated: 1. Sidney Wicks (Hamilton, Los Angeles) ’67 2. Lucious Harris (Cleveland, Reseda) ’89 3. Mike Brown (Westchester, Los Angeles) ’88 4. Kris Johnson (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) ’94 5. Dwain Bradberry (Manual Arts, Los Angeles) ’91.
Biggest Mysteries: 1. Jason Works (Dorsey, Los Angeles) ’78 2. George Trapp (Monrovia) ’67 3. Milton Banks (Garey, Pomona) ’76 4. Larry “Bone Collector” Williams (Blair, Pasadena) 5. Bob Rule (Poly, Riverside) ’63.
Best Defenders: 1. Boseman 2. Fantasia Johnson (North Hollywood) ’94 3. Brunner 4. Jeff “Mad Dogg” McClendon (Eastside, Lancaster) ’15 5. Robert Mandingo (Dominguez, Compton) ’09.
Wish To Watch: 1. Raymond Lewis (Verbum Dei, Los Angeles) ’71 2. Sam Robinson (Jefferson, Los Angeles) ’66 3. Curtis Rowe (Fremont, Los Angeles) ’67 4. Leon Wood (St. Monica’s, Santa Monica) ’79 5. Jumpin’ Joe Caldwell (Fremont, Los Angeles) ’60.
Want To Watch Again: 1. Vaughn 2. Miner 3. James Moses (Serra, Gardena) ’88 4. Dana Jones (North Hollywood) ’90 5. Kevin Beal (Manual Arts, Los Angeles) ’91.
Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores