There’s only a pair of ex-California high school players who’ll be in this year’s NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, but they’ve both been all-stars and were instrumental in the Bucks winning the Eastern Conference title after their No. 1 player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, went down with a knee injury.
Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez of the Bucks are the two Californians. They hail from Campbell Hall (North Hollywood) and San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno).
Brotherly connections also are very important to them. Jrue is the younger brother of NBA players Justin and Aaron Holiday. And if Jrue and the Bucks win the NBA title, he and Justin would become the first brother combination from California to win NBA championships. Justin was a member of the Golden State Warriors’ title squad from 2015. Brook has a twin brother, Robin, who also has been in the NBA for 13 seasons.
At Campbell Hall, Holiday was part of an unbeaten CIF D4 state championship team as a freshman with Justin. As a senior in 2008, he was named Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball by averaging nearly 26 ppg. Jrue then played one season at UCLA before declaring early for the NBA Draft. He was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers and became an All-Star in 2013 while playing for the New Orleans Pelicans. Holiday was traded to the Bucks this past off-season and he has become a great fit alongside Antetokounmpo, Lopez and Khris Middleton. In the team’s last two playoff games vs. the Atlanta Hawks, Jrue went for 25 points and 13 assists and then a near triple-double with 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
At San Joaquin Memorial, Brook Lopez was part of a team that had two other NBA players counting himself, Robin plus Quincy Pondexter. The Panthers were always among the best teams in the state, but never had the guards to compliment the others. Brook and Robin were both all-state and both went to Stanford. After college, Brook played for nine seasons with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets and had several years in which he averaged more than 20 ppg. He’s still the Nets’ all-time leading scorer. In game five vs. the Hawks, Lopez had his postseason career high of 33 points with seven rebounds and four blocks.
The Bucks do not have any other players on their roster from California. Head coach Mike Budenholzer is from Pomona College, but is from Holbrook High in Holbrook, Ariz.
The Suns do not have any players on their roster from California. Center Deandre Ayton played for two years as a freshman and sophomore for Balboa School in San Diego, but that is a prep school and not part of the CIF. He finished up at a different prep school in Arizona.
And unlike the Los Angeles Lakers from last season, which had an almost All-California cast of assistant coaches, there are no assistant coaches this year from either team who can be counted on our alumni lists.