Boys BB: More State Players of the Year

Two of the 2021 state players of the year in boys hoops are Isaiah Elohim from Heritage Christian of Northridge (freshmen) & Sheldon Grant from Aquinas of San Bernardino (D3). Photos: BallisLife.com & @AquinasAthSB / Twitter.com.


Here’s where to go to see the Cal-Hi Sports 2021 honorees for seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen and for each CIF division. State Team of the Year Corona Centennial has added a state player honor. With our Mr. Basketball being a junior, we also had to choose a senior of the year separately, and similar to some of the divisional choices, that selection process wasn’t easy.

For official writeup on the 2021 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 42nd annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams. With respect to there not being CIF state finals this year, or playoffs in many NorCal sections, 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 2020-21 season:

(Note: For this year, we have again considered the Open Division and Division I to be a single category. Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis did the writeups for D3, D4 and D5.)

Jahmai Mashack has been making big plays at the end of big games for four years at Etiwanda. Photo: Mark Tennis.


SENIORS: Jahmai Mashack (Etiwanda)

With our Mr. Basketball being a junior, this is one of those years in which the senior pick is not a formality and must be broken down like any other honor. It turned out, this was one of our most difficult choices ever, especially considering the two finalists are from the same Baseline League.

USC-bound Malik Thomas of La Verne Damien was our junior honoree last season and has been a four-time all-league performer. This season, however, he shared Baseline League Player of the Year honors with Mashack, so we had to dig a bit deeper. Etiwanda and Damien met twice in league play, with Thomas (who averaged 21.8 ppg as a senior) scoring 26 in the first game and 34 in the rematch (including 13 in the fourth quarter), but the Eagles won both games. Mashack, bound for Tennessee, was instrumental in both victories with his all around play, including some crucial rebounds, defensive plays and setting up teammate Darvelle Wyatt for the game-winning 3-pointer in the second game. Mashack had 8 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, six blocks and two steals in the 64-60 season-opening win. He also had 10 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in the second win over the Spartans.

While both are deserving, we also can’t overlook how the season ended for each and how Mashack stepped up his game in the post-season when the rotation tightened and the competition stiffened. Mashack had 17 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and four steals vs. Ribet Academy and 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists vs. St. John Bosco in CIFSS pool play wins. In a close loss to then state No. 1 Sierra Canyon, Mashack went for 19 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and four steals, and then had 20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and three steals in the big avenging win over the Trailblazers in the regional playoffs.

One game after Thomas’ career ended in a loss to Torrey Pines in which he scored 10 points, Mashack led the upset on the Falcons’ home floor with 21 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, four assists and two steals. For the season, Mashack averaged 16.3 ppg, 10 rpg, 5.6 apg, 2.8 bpg, and 2.5 spg for the SoCal open champions.

Mashack is the first Etiwanda player to win player of the year honors in any class. The last Senior of the Year when Mr. Basketball was a junior was in 2018 when guard James Akinjo of Richmond Salesian was honored. Before that it was Katin Reinhardt of Santa Ana Mater Dei in 2012 when San Jose Mitty junior Aaron Gordon was Mr. Basketball. The previous one before that was DeShawn Stevenson from Washington of Easton in 2000 when Compton Dominguez junior Tyson Chandler was Mr. Basketball.

JUNIORS & CIF D1/OPEN DIVISION
Amari Bailey (Sierra Canyon, Chatsworth) 6-5 G

He’s the Mr. Basketball Player of the Year for California and therefore tops all juniors, in addition to all players off teams in the CIF Open Division and Division I. Bailey, the son of former Indianapolis Colts’ wide receiver Aaron Bailey, was the sophomore choice last year when he averaged 10.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game while playing the second most minutes on a team with senior Mr. Basketball finalists Brandon Boston Jr. and Ziaire Williams, two future NBA players.

As a freshman when he averaged seven points, three assists and two steals, Aidan Mahaney (Moraga Campolindo) edged him for top honors, mainly because he had such a bigger role on a CIF state championship team. Amari showed glimpses of what he is today, another possible NBA player of out the San Fernando Valley school. 2018-19 teammates K.J. Martin and Cassius Stanley are already in the NBA and Scotty Pippen Jr. and Christian Koloko have a chance. If you throw in Bronny James down the line, there one day could be seven Sierra Canyon teammates of Bailey that have NBA experience. Even if it ends up being six (not including himself), that would be incredible.

Last 15 State Juniors of the Year): 2020 Malik Thomas (La Verne Damien); 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).

Kylan Boswell has seen his college recruiting options skyrocket in the last two months. Photo: Twitter.com.


SOPHOMORES
Kylan Boswell (Centennial, Corona) 6-0 G

The sophomore class is quite strong, despite the fact last year’s freshman honoree and one of the most well-known players in the country, Mikey Williams of San Ysidro, moved to North Carolina.

The state team of the year included four sophomores in its starting lineup and Boswell is the most highly acclaimed and is receiving the most post-season honors of the lot. The transfer from Colony of Ontario, and Illinois native, made the most of his first season under state coach of the year Josh Giles, complimenting returning guards Donovan Dent and Jared McCain to form the state’s most potent backcourt.

Boswell is strong defensively and has a propensity to knock down clutch shots. After missing Centennial’s opening round playoff game vs. Harvard-Westlake, a loss, he showed his value in leading the Huskies to three consecutive victories and the coveted CIFSS open crown. Boswell had 13 points vs. Damien, 11 points vs. Mater Dei and 24 points and six big 3-pointers in the title game win over Sierra Canyon.

For the season, Boswell averaged nearly 15 points and five assists on a balanced scoring team with many contributors. Teammate Dent was named co-CIFSS open division player of the year with Mr. Basketball Amari Bailey while Boswell joined McCain on the all-section team. Boswell also was named to the 10-man L.A. Times All-Star Team. The state’s most highly-acclaimed sophomore nationally, Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland’s Jalen Lewis, averaged 13 ppg and 6 rpg in eight games while his senior teammate Jarin Edwards was named league MVP.

Boswell has seen his recruitment soar since the end of the high school season and will be a Power 5 recruit. Boswell’s is Centennial’s first honoree in this class and the first ever choice from Riverside County.

Last 12 State Sophomores of the Year: 2020 Amari Bailey (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 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
Isaiah Elohim (Heritage Christian, Northridge) 6-4 G

This year’s honoree doesn’t have the big reputation that Mikey Williams or even O’Dowd’s Jalen Lewis came in with one year ago, but trust us when he tell you he has serious game and is every bit the prospect that duo is at the same stage.

Elohim also put up big numbers against quality competition and his team was in serious contention for a spot in the coveted CIFSS Open Division playoffs. The big shooting guard is explosive to the rack, has a good shooting stroke and plays with poise beyond his years. On a team with four other starters who will play college basketball, including Arizona State-bound Justin Rochelin, it was Elohim that made first team all-CIFSS Division I.

The one other freshman on par with Elohim talent-wise is Zion Sensley of state No. 14 Riordan (San Francisco). He was the team’s fourth-leading scorer (10.7 ppg) and would likely be third on the team’s all-state pecking order. Elohim is No. 1 in that department for a team that finished 20-8 and ranked No. 27 in the state after spending most of the season in the state Top 20.

We don’t give credence to many national player rankings because we do our own Hot 100s for California, but Elohim is considered a Top 5 national recruit early in the process. The last freshman honoree from the San Fernando Valley was in 2014 when Cody Riley of Sierra Canyon earned top honors after coming in as one of the most highly-regarded incoming freshmen in state history. He currently still has another season of eligibility at UCLA.

Last 12 State Freshman Players of the Year: 2020 Mikey Williams (San Ysidro); 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).

Brenton Knapper started as a sophomore for Colony in 2019 when it played in CIF D2 state championship. Photo: @CoHi_Hoops / Twitter.com.


DIVISION II
Brenton Knapper (Colony, Ontario) 6-1 Sr.

In recent seasons, there have been some real college gems to emerge in this division, including UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez (2019) and Kezie Okpala of the Miami Heat (2017), and Santa Clara coach Randy Bennett might have one on his hands in this do-it-all-guard.

Knapper is a terrific scorer, leaper and defender who leads by example. This season, he led Colony to a 19-2 mark by averaging 19.7 ppg, 3.7 rbg, 3.1 apg, and 2.1 spg before it was upset by Los Altos of Hacienda Heights. The fact that the Titans were probably the best team that didn’t make the SoCal regional playoffs doesn’t diminish from Knapper’s fantastic individual season.

The most impressive stat to Colony head coach Jerry DeFabiis was his star guard averaged only .7 turnovers per game despite being the focal point of every defense the Titans faced. Named the most outstanding player in the Palomares League, Knapper is also one of the best players ever to come through that Inland Empire-based league. He was selected to the all-CIFSS team for the third consecutive season, this year in Division 2AA. The last two D2 players of the year from the Inland Empire were not too shabby and long-time NBA players: Tracy Murray of Glendora (1989) and Reggie Miller of Riverside Poly (1983).

Last 13 State D2 Players of the Year: 2020 Andre Henry (St. Francis, La Canada); 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).

DIVISION III
Sheldon Grant (Aquinas, San Bernardino) 6-3 Sr.

Serving as the floor general and top scoring option for a team that went 23-1 and won CIFSS and CIF SoCal regional titles, Grant was the logical honoree for this category. He hit the winning shot with 0.04 seconds left and had 16 points in a 40-39 win by the Falcons over M.L. King of Riverside in the CIFSS D3AA championship. He also scored 21 points when Aquinas topped La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad, 55-43, in the CIF SoCal D3-AA regional final.

“He’s that guy willing to put the team on his shoulders and take us where we need to go,” head coach David Johnson told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

As a junior at Aquinas, Grant was more known for averaging 9.7 assists per game, one of the highest reported totals in the nation. He also knocked in 19.0 points per game. This year, Sheldon upped his scoring mark to 20.9 ppg while still handing out 5.6 assists. Some of Grant’s other top games this season were 36 points vs. Lakewood and 12 assists vs. Loma Linda Academy.

Grant is also one of those floor leaders who has shown a great work ethic away from court, which was shown with a 4.0 GPA. He also is a three-time all-league choice.

There has only been one other D3 State Player of the Year from the Inland Empire, and that was Evric Gray of Bloomington in 1988.

Last 14 State D3 Players of the Year: 2020 Austin Patterson (Sonora); 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).

Wayne McKinney moved to the San Diego area in 2019 from Oregon and averaged 28.4 and 22.9 ppg at Coronado. Photo: Kel Casey / coronadonewsca.com.


DIVISION IV
Wayne McKinney (Coronado) 6-1 Sr.

This selection may raise some eyebrows, but not for what Wayne has done on the court in the last two seasons since arriving at Coronado from Lake Oswego, Oregon. He’s comes from a team and school that has been in the news across the state and nation for a tortilla-throwing incident following the last game, a three-point overtime victory over Orange Glen of Escondido in the CIF SoCal D4-A championship game.

Just last week, the CIF vacated that regional championship and put the Coronado athletic department on probation. Head coach J.D. Laaperi also was fired.

“In this instance, there is no doubt the act of throwing tortillas at a predominately Latino team is unacceptable and warrants sanctions,” the CIF said in part.

McKinney, as the team captain, apologized to the Orange Glen team at a school board meeting. He also was never reported to have been part of the incident.

Choosing him as D4 State Player of the Year shouldn’t be seen as a disagreement to the CIF’s penalties. It’s just that McKinney was judged on his own merits and it was more than enough.

McKinney, who has signed with the University of San Diego and was described as the Torreros’ highest-ranked prospect ever, followed up a junior season in which he averaged 28.4 ppg with 7.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists with another spectacular senior season. He had 25 points in the Islanders’ 51-48 win over Orange Glen (the same team faced the following week) for the San Diego Section D3 title (a title not vacated). He also averaged 22.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

One outing of McKinney’s that especially stood out was 42 points in a 86-68 loss to eventual state No. 3 Torrey Pines of San Diego. He also had 44 points in a win vs. San Diego High.

Mikey Williams, the freshman from San Ysidro who later moved out of the state, was the D4 State POY just last year. The only other one from San Diego has been Jared Dudley from Horizon in 2003.

Last 13 State D4 Players of the Year: 2020 Mikey Williams (San Ysidro); 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).

DIVISION V
Wayne Hampton (Hoover, San Diego) 6-2 Sr.

Competitive equity playoff seeding may have put Hoover into D5, but that’s where the Cardinals played and in that group it is their talented senior guard who gets a statewide honor.

It also wasn’t easy to determine the winner for D5 since the top teams in the final D5 state rankings, including SoCal D5-AA champ Sage Creek (Carlsbad) and SoCal D5-A champ Kingsburg, had balanced scoring attacks. It also should be mentioned that last year’s honoree, Gridley’s Grant Tull, was only able to play five games.

The one game that stood out most for Hampton was when he hit for 29 points and handed out 10 assists in a 95-92 loss to eventual SoCal D4-AA champ Santa Ynez. He had 41 points in a 78-75 loss to San Diego High (played in D1 section playoffs) and a season-high 14 assists in a win over Calexico. In a loss to Sage Creek in section playoffs, Hampton had 15 points. He hit for 22 points with three assists and four steals in a 64-60 loss to Kingsburg. For the season, Hampton averaged 19.7 points, 6.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game.

In landing the D5 honor, Hampton became the first from San Diego to get it since Troy Leaf from Foothills Christian of El Cajon in 2010. Among the other three on the all-time list from San Diego is Tony Clark of El Cajon Christian in 1990. He’s now the executive director of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association.

Last 12 State D5 Players of the Year: 2020 Grant Tull (Gridley); 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) .

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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