We broke down the state’s top teams last week heading into this much different spring season and this week we take a look at the top players from around California, including an early season or preseason all-state team. We also break down how the impacted season might impact post-season honors, such as all-state and Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year.
FOR THE BOYS BASKETBALL PRESEASON PRIMER ABOUT TOP TEAMS,
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The state basketball season has officially been underway since March 16, but a majority of the state hasn’t played sanctioned games yet. Before too many games get played, we wanted to take an inside look at the state’s top boys basketball players. Similar to the teams, we’re doing this under the assumption each section will eventually play games. As of now, the Los Angeles Unified School District, which makes up the teams of the L.A. City Section, has made no decision on indoor basketball. We are still going to include L.A. City teams & players in these types of rankings until it is known for sure that they are not playing.
Last Tuesday night, preseason state No. 5 Windward (Los Angeles) traveled to No. 7 St. John Bosco (Bellflower) and it was the hosts that came away with a convincing 58-41 victory over the Wildcats. Bosco has a well-balanced lineup and was led to victory by LMU-bound guard Lemaj Lewis, who had 13 points, including 11 in the fourth period. Senior Scotty Washington added 12 and junior Jeremiah Nyarko, arguably the team’s most talented player, added 11. Windward got off on the wrong foot when talented junior big man Kijani Wright got into foul trouble early. He finished with nine points.
On Friday night of this weekend, No. 2 Mater Dei of Santa Ana opened its season with a 73-60 win over Marina of Huntington Beach and then the next day won again by a much easier score of 78-30 over Sonora of La Habra. On Saturday morning, in another matchup of top 20 state-ranked teams, Heritage Christian of Northridge topped Harvard-Westlake of Studio City, 72-61, as Justin Rochelin scored a game-high 20 points. Wolverine fans then turned their attention to see former player Johnny Juzang play for UCLA in the Final Four.
2020-21 PRESEASON CAL-HI SPORTS
BOYS BASKETBALL ALL-STATE ELITE TEAM
(Based on high school performance and honors; Also a factor in our selections is some sections cancelling playoffs and the fact there will be no regional/state playoffs; performances in those games usually affect our final selections right up to the CIF Open title game and without those additional games players from perhaps weaker teams with more local honors or impressive stats will make this year’s all-state team rather than the second or third player from a state championship team. There are only two teams with more than one player: preseason state No. 1 Sierra Canyon and No. 2 Mater Dei.)
FIRST TEAM OVERALL
G- Amari Bailey (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth)
C – Wilhelm Breidenbach (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-9 Sr.
F – Jahmai Mashack (Etiwanda) 6-4 Sr.
G – Mikey Mitchell (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose) 6-3 Sr.
F – Tyler Powell (Ribet Academy, Los Angeles)
F – Marsalis Roberson (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland) 6-4 Sr.
G – Isa Silva (Jesuit, Carmichael) 6-4 Sr.
G – Malik Thomas (Damien, La Verne) 6-4 Sr.
G – K.J. Simpson (Chaminade, West Hills) 6-3 Sr.
F – Peyton Watson (Long Beach Poly) 6-8 Sr.
SECOND TEAM OVERALL
G – Cole Anderson (Clovis West, Fresno) 6-3 Sr.
F – Corey Cofield (West Ranch, Valencia) 6-5 Sr.
F – Harry Hornery (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 6-8 Sr.
G – Chris Howell (Torrey Pines, San Diego) 6-5 Sr.
G – Brenton Knapper (Colony, Ontario) 5-11 Sr.
G – Houston Mallette (Pacifica Christian, Newport Beach) 6-3 Sr.
G – Wayne McKinney (Coronado) 6-1 Sr.
F – Robert Vaihola (Riordan, San Francisco) 6-7 Sr.
G – Chance Westry (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) 6-4 Jr.
F – Kijani Wright (Windward, Los Angeles) 6-9 Jr.
THIRD TEAM OVERALL
G – David Elliott (Birmingham, Van Nuys) 6-4 Sr.
F – Tyree Gill (Burbank, Sacramento) 6-3 Sr.
F – Jeremiah Nyarko (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 6-8 Jr.
G – Corey Yerger (Grant, Sacramento) 6-0 Sr.
G – Joseph Hunter (San Joaquin Memorial, Fresno) 6-4 Jr.
G – Donovan Dent (Centennial, Corona) 6-2 Jr.
C – Ryan Kiachian (Bellarmine, San Jose) 6-9 Sr.
G – Aiden Mahaney (Campolindo, Moraga) 6-2 Jr.
G – Melo Sanchez (Mater Dei, Chula Vista) 6-4 Sr.
G – T.J. Wainwright (Westchester, Los Angeles) 6-3 Sr.
Cal-Hi Sports Breakdowns:
When we publish the actual team at the conclusion of the season, it will be our 42nd annual all-state team. Gold club members can view every single one of them under the “All-State” Tab on our homepage.
Not knowing exactly what would transpire this season, some of the state’s elite players chose to play in the Grind Session, a league for quasi-travel clubs and independent programs, and the CIF recently said there will be no penalties for those who play this CIF season. The above team was chosen assuming every eligible player will choose to participate for their respective CIF team. Cal-Hi Sports spoke to Francisco Silva, the father of Isa Silva, and he confirmed the 6-foot-4 Stanford-bound point guard will play for Jesuit of Carmichael after playing eight early games for Prolific Prep of Napa (a non-CIF program which does play some games on the Grind Session).
Two elite players who won’t be all-state are Obinna Anyanwu and Reese Dixon-Waters. Anyanwu played last season at Cathedral Catholic of San Diego, but ran into legal troubles and the status of his high school availability remains uncertain. Dixon-Waters was a first team all-state underclass choice last season at St. Bernard of Playa del Rey and actually left early and enrolled at USC, which advanced to the NCAA Elite 8. It’s the same situation that occurred for Johnny Juzang, the hero of UCLA’s Final Four run when he left Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood for Kentucky a year early instead of playing his senior year in 2019-20. Dixon-Waters will still be a college freshman next season, too, as the NCAA has granted all players a free year of eligibility because of COVID-19.
Even without Juzang, California’s Hot 100 for 2020 is shaping up as one of the greatest classes ever, as only three underclassmen made last year’s overall All-State Elite team: Roberson, Thomas and Watson. Even with Silva and if Dixon-Waters had stayed, this class doesn’t measure up to 2020 and this year’s all-state team will feature a host of new players.
This year’s group of 30 honorees, and other prospects in the Hot 100, won’t have the scholarship options of past classes because of the eligibility exceptions and the amount of players in the NCAA’s transfer portal. College coaches not being able to evaluate players in a live setting for over a calendar year (they won’t be able to be out at sanctioned high school games this spring) won’t help this group, either. Regardless, we know quality players will emerge in 2020-21 and we’d bet someone down the line will make a big splash in the NCAA or NBA who nobody expected to.
Mr. Basketball Preseason Tracker
The Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball has been chosen at the end of the season each year since 1978-79 and retroactively even further than that. It is based on high school accomplishment, not college recruiting or our annual Hot 100 list. Just last year, the honoree was Sierra Canyon’s B.J. Boston but the No. 1 player in the Hot 100 was Evan Mobley of Rancho Christian, who will be taken as a top three pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Jalen Green of Prolific Prep and San Joaquin Memorial also has been at the top or near the top of the 2020 Hot 100 going back and forth with Mobley. He is a candidate for top overall pick of the next NBA Draft with freshman Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga quickly moving up the charts. To view all of our previous Hot 100s, please use the dropdown under the “Rankings” tab on our homepage.
2020-21 Top Mr. Basketball Candidates
1. Peyton Watson (Long Beach Poly); 2. Malik Thomas (La Verne Damien); 3. Marsalis Roberson (Oakland Bishop O’Dowd); 4. Amari Bailey (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon) Jr.; 5. Mikey Mitchell (San Jose Mitty); 6. Isa Silva (Carmichael Jesuit); 7. Jahmai Mashack (Etiwanda); 8. Wilhelm Breidenbach (Santa Ana Mater Dei); 9. K.J. Simpson (West Hills Chaminade); 10. Tyler Powell (L.A. Ribet Academy).
Cal-Hi Sports Quick Breakdown
Usually the eventual honoree comes off a winning team. Once in a while, a player’s individual talent is too much to ignore and that could be the case with Watson. Right now, he’s the best long-term prospect in the state and the only CIF player selected for the 2021 McDonald’s All-American team (which is not being played this year for the second consecutive season). Poly didn’t have its usual season with 20 plus wins and a deep playoff run in 2020-21, so it will be interesting to see how team success will affect his candidacy against Thomas, last year’s state junior player of the year, and the rest of the field.
This group includes most of the state’s top senior college prospects, and not any potential record-breakers in terms of career marks such as we had with Jarod Lucas of Hacienda Heights Los Altos in 2019. He was first team all-state after becoming SoCal’s all-time scoring leader (3,356) and recently helped Oregon State on its magical run to the NCAA Elite 8.
Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100 Update
We haven’t updated our annual Hot 100 player rankings since June of 2020 and it’s because there hasn’t been much live evaluation of players since the cancellation of the 2019-20 CIF season at the point of the regional finals.
College coaches haven’t had a live period since that time frame, too, and won’t for over a year. We have been able to attend some dead period events since October in states hosting them (mainly Utah and Arizona), but have been cautious and selective about what we attend in order to stay as reasonably safe as possible from COVID-19.
We do have enough new evaluation updates for our 2021 Hot 100 as a “preseason” look, but we decided to just publish a final edition by June in all classes, which will be the final for the 2020-21 school year. There likely wouldn’t be much changes between now and June and we’d rather just do our homework in an attempt to get the final Hot 100 right instead of doing it twice and making changes to the order just to make them.
Unfortunately from an evaluation standpoint, there is just no way to make up for the lost time because of the pandemic and it will affect the 2021 class more than any other group. That final 2020-21 update will include the 2024 class Top 25 introduction, which we usually introduce in the fall of the incoming ninth-grade year.
We haven’t made the usual in-roads on the freshman class because of the lack of events, but we’ll have a good read on them by the end of this impacted season and there will be a State Freshman of the Year. Two freshmen to keep an eye on so far are 6-foot-4 guards Isaiah Elohim of preseason No. 17 Heritage Christian of Northridge and Ben Roseborough of Sacramento. In Elohim’s debut outing on March 25, he sizzled with 27 points as his team beat Simi Valley, 75-43.
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