It’s time to launch our winter basketball content on CalHiSports.com and we are doing it with a preseason Top 40 of the best boys teams from all across the state. This group is led by No. 16 San Marcos and includes the rest of these teams down to No. 40 JSerra of San Juan Capistrano, plus a list of 15 more teams that just missed.
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To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.
16. (19) San Marcos 25-2
The Knights finished right behind No. 15 San Joaquin Memorial in last year’s final overall rankings and start 2021-22 right behind them, too. Coach Dante Carey’s club was unranked to begin the spring CIF season, but won its first 25 games with Devin Arlington (6-2, Sr.) as the catalyst. The Yale commit averaged 20.3 ppg, 6.1 apg and 2.8 spg and is a dark horse Mr. Basketball candidate. Max McCall (6-3, Sr.) was an all-Palomar League choice and returns after averaging 7 ppg, 8 rpg, 4 apg and 3 spg. San Marcos also has solid size and experience up front with Jonathan Bauckman (6-8, Sr.), Lucas Gordon (6-8, Sr.) and Jacob Baba (6-5, Sr.). Carey loves his team’s experience and team defensive concepts, but hopes to develop more consistent shooting in the big games. San Marcos hopes to show well at both the Tarkanian Classic (Dec. 17-21) and Torrey Pines Holiday Classic (Dec. 27-30). Its main focus, however, is to win league and get over the hump in the CIF San Diego Section open playoffs after losing in the semifinals last season to Cathedral Catholic of San Diego.
17. (NR) West Ranch (Valencia) 12-1
There is plenty of motivation and excitement surrounding a Wildcats’ team with CIFSS open division aspirations. The motivation comes from a stunning exit in last spring’s CIFSS 2A quarterfinals after an unbeaten regular season and the excitement comes from a return of the team’s core and some talented newcomers. Coach Jeff Bryant has a pair of bookend forwards that are hard to match up with in Andrew Meadow (6-6, Jr.) and James Evans (6-6, So.). Meadow is a throw back in his approach and physically does a lot of the stuff former NBA player Kurt Rambis did during his days at Cupertino, while Evans can punish defenders or step outside and make an impact. In the backcourt, Jaden DePina (6-0, So.) should be improved after gaining valuable experience and Jonathan Fisher (6-2, Sr.) will have a much bigger impact after playing only four games last season. The graduation loss of Corey Cofield is big, but his younger brother Bryce Cofield (6-5, Fr.) brings much of the same athleticism, while Jaqari Miles (6-2, Jr.) is another newcomer who will make this team a dangerous out once the pieces jell. They are another team that will play at both the Tarkanian Classic and The Classic at Damien, and are one of the better teams in the long-running Beverly Hills tournament (Dec. 6-11).
18. (25) Salesian (Richmond) 13-2
The two top teams in NorCal (not including the CIF Central Section) are pretty clear with Campolindo and Modesto Christian, but who comes in at No. 3 is a bit murky. There are some strong contenders, but we like the way coach Bill Mellis’ club finished the spring season with 13 consecutive wins (there wasn’t a post-season in the North Coast Section), the returning backcourt and nice blend of newcomers. Amani Johnson (6-2, So.) is one of the best 10th-graders in the region and should greatly improve his averages (6.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg) on a balanced club, while Austin Johnson (6-4, Sr.) is the senior leader who will distribute the ball in crunch time (5.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.2 apg). Up front, Chris Sanders (6-6, Sr.) and Emerson Jones (6-6, Jr.) carry the load and the wing will be manned by Newark Memorial transfer Tyler Harris (6-5, Jr.). A talented slasher and athlete, Harris is capable of 20-point plus outings and should fit into Salesian’s pressing and running framework. Additional depth is provided by Eric Watson Jr. (6-2, Jr.) and Alvin Loving (6-2, Fr.).
19. (7) St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 23-4
Had power forward Jeremiah Nyarko not been a late transfer to No. 1 Sierra Canyon (where he’ll fight to earn meaningful minutes), the Braves might have begun closer to the Top 12. They’ll now have a more perimeter-oriented makeup and will be one of those teams much better in February than they’ll start out at. Forward Christian Estrada (6-6, Sr.) will have to take on a bigger load and more responsibilities for the defending SoCal Div. I-AA champs and that may not be a bad thing because he’s one of the hardest working players in the state. Marco Kenz (6-6, Sr.) is another veteran while increased responsibilities will be expected of Ray King (5-9, Jr.) and D.J. Holt (6-0, So.). The key to Bosco’s success will be blending in the talented newcomers to a host of reserves looking for quality playing time. Jack Turner (6-4, So.) is a talented scorer and coming into the season the most talented freshman in the state is Elzie Harrington (6-4, Fr.). He’s gifted both on and off the ball, but must show consistency in his defensive intensity. Not too far behind him is Kade Bonam (6-7, Fr.), who plays a Draymond Green-type role as a facilitator and play-maker. Coach Matt Dunn team did lose some key components, but so did other teams in the Trinity League so there is no reason it doesn’t feel confident a league crown is within reach.
20. (NR) Sheldon (Sacramento) 4-6
After reaching the NorCal regional final in the top division six times in nine seasons between 2012 and 2020, the Huskies are back as a major regional contender after a shortened season in which the Sac Joaquin Section did not host playoffs. Coach Joey Rollings has good depth and a go-to player in Rashaud Bradley (6-4, Sr.). This slashing wing plays both ends of the floor, is a good rebounder and can score from mid-range. Helping him rebound and do the dirty work up front are Marcelius Franklin (6-6, Sr.) and Donovan Morgan (6-4, Sr.). Sheldon is at its best when its perimeter players can get after it defensively and not worry about fouls and this year the Huskies have a nice quartet of interchangeable parts. The group consists of Josiah Johnson (5-10, Jr.), Devin Haynes (5-9, Sr.), Tyrece Daniels (5-10, Sr.) and Troy Crighton (5-11, Sr.). Sheldon starts off its season with two monster games at The BattleZone in SoCal with host and No. 2 Centennial (Nov. 19) and No. 30 Fairfax (Nov. 20) before playing in the Gridley Invitational (Dec. 9-11) and the Tarkanian Classic (Dec. 17-21).
The Next 20
21. (9) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 17-1
The Monarchs graduated a strong senior class, but we still like them as the slight favorites in the CIF Central Coast Section and the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) over bubble club Valley Christian. No. 20 Sheldon has more depth and Mitty is a younger club, but with a player like Derek Sangster (6-6, Jr.) it has plenty of potential to move into the Top 20. The defending CCS open champs also have a veteran guard in Aidan Burke (6-3, Sr.) and some talented newcomers led by transfer Jaiden Paran (6-0, Jr.).
22. (NR) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 8-9
After a forgettable CIF spring season and finishing just outside the final Top 40 in 2019-20, head coach Doug Mitchell’s program has the horses to return to statewide prominence. Xavier Edmonds (6-8, Jr.) was named to the all-CIFSS D1 team and continues to improve his all-around game. He is complimented inside by Will Brenner (6-8, So.). Will Smith III (6-3, Jr.) is a physical guard who can defend while Christian Jones (6-3, Jr.) is an athletic wing who could have a breakout campaign. Kelcy Phipps is a good outside shooter and the senior leadership is provided by Jalen “Butter” Vazquez (6-2, Sr.), a four-year contributor who has played in a ton of big games. If this team comes together and makes a deep playoff run, next year could mark a return to the level the program was at in 2016-17 when it captured the CIF open crown.
23. (31) Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro) 13-3
The Huskies are coming off a strong season in which they captured the CIFSS Div. 2AA crown (over No. 29 Los Altos) and could easily crack the Top 20 after beginning outside last spring season’s Top 25 primer. A great reason to like this team’s chances to move up is the play of four-year standout and returning divisional player of the year Benny Gealer (6-1, Sr.). Another all-state underclass choice back in the fold is all-section forward Kenny Manzi (6-8, Jr.), while veteran coach Harvey Kitani (886-285) expects a big year from all-leaguer J.V. Brown (6-3, Jr.). This team only lost to three Trinity League clubs in the spring, so in order for it to challenge for a CIFSS open spot it must develop depth and create open shots for Gealer and the solid crop of shooters.
24. (NR) Fountain Valley 14-3
The Barons had aspirations of winning a CIFSS Div. 2AA title last season, but it came crashing down in a 48-47 loss to eventual champ and No. 23 Rolling Hills Prep in the quarterfinals. This year coach D’Cean Bryant has a team with open division aspirations if it can survive an upgraded schedule. UC San Diego-bound Roddie Anderson (6-1, Sr.) is the catalyst and is one of the best overall players in Orange County. Aden Casarez (6-2, Sr.) is another guard with experience, while J.J. Gray (6-5, Jr.) and Wilfredo Garcia (6-5, Jr.) will be counted on to crash the boards and score timely buckets. This team’s fortunes likely will be determined on the development of talented sophomore Carter Bryant (6-7, So.), the coach’s son, and the contributions of jumping jack Jeremiah Whitmore (6-5, Jr.).
25. St. Anthony (Long Beach) 10-4
This team displayed considerable talent and potential in summer and fall leagues and will be a tough out come Del Rey League play when it faces the likes of No. 12 St. Bernard and No. 22 Bishop Montgomery. Elijah Price (6-8, Sr.) is one of the best players in the CIFSS and it’s perplexing why more colleges haven’t offered this talented forward. Jayden Bush (6-0, Sr.) has loads of experience and gets after it defensively, as does all of first year coach Alan Mitchell’s perimeter players. Jayden Walker (6-4, Sr.) is another talented player in the fold on a team where Mitchell is not afraid to go to his bench to maximize defensive effort.
26. (NR) Dublin 11-3
Coach Tom Costello has a solid nucleus and his club rates as the favorites in the CIF North Coast Section D1 race (state No. 4 Campolindo is in D2). The Gaels have a prime-time backcourt with Courtney Anderson (6-4, Jr.) and Donovan Cooks (6-1, Jr.). Anderson, in particular, is looking to have a big year after entering the high school ranks with much fanfare. Thomas Labat (6-7, Sr.) is the key cog inside and his production will be huge in Dublin’s showcase and tournament affairs. Costello’s club also gets a boost from Jalen Stokes (6-4, Fr.) and two talented transfers in Camelo Clarke-Tarver (6-2, Sr.) and Mehki Thomas (6-3, Sr.).
27. Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 14-5
This proud program looks to make another run at the CIFSS Div. 2AA crown after losing to No. 29 Los Altos in the semifinals last season. The Jackrabbits played a vast majority of the season without 2020-21 Hot 100 No. 1 prospect Peyton Watson (now at UCLA) and that experience for the returning underclassmen will pay off this season. His younger brother Christian Watson (6-3, Sr.) is a crafty ball-handler and scorer, while Gabriel Cummings (6-3, Sr.) can knock down the big shot. Marcel Hayes (6-2, Sr.) is another talented player with experience. Watson should make all-state and one who is likely to in the future is Jovani Ruff (6-4, Fr.). He’s talented enough to put up double-digit scoring for a program that has won 20 CIFSS titles.
28. (28) Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 16-6
The Eagles start off right where they left off in the CIF spring season and have the talent to move up. They do have to replace three starters off a team that captured the SoCal Div. II-AA regional title, but have a nice mix of veteran guards and young big men with potential. Rockwell Reynolds (6-8, Jr.) and Kyle Evans (6-9, Sr.) give coach Justin Bell the size to compete for the rugged Trinity League title. If South Sudan native Dut Lual (7-0, Jr.) can offer rim protection this team will be a load to handle come playoff time. Jake Heberle (6-4, Sr.) and Jack McClosky (6-4, Sr.) are playoff war veterans and newcomer Cameron Mercadel (6-0, So.) has loads of potential for a team that has good chemistry playing together.
29. (34) Los Altos (Hacienda Heights) 17-3
The Conquerors would have started above Long Beach Poly (a team they beat in the CIFSS Div. 2AA playoffs last season) had talented sophomore Seven Bahati not left for Donda Academy in the San Fernando Valley after the school year began. He’s a talented scorer and was this team’s most athletic player, so Los Altos is going to have to find another way to keep defenses honest against Jazz Gardner (7-0, Jr.). “Big” draws a lot of defensive attention and is capable of 20 and 15 nightly, so role players are going to have to knock down timely outside shots. The Conquerors also have to take care of the ball and get it inside, so the play of newcomers C.J. Bellamy (5-9, Sr.) and Jai Gardner (6-0, Fr.), Jazz’s younger brother, will be key.
30. (NR) Fairfax (Los Angeles) 8-4
The retirement of long-time L.A. Westchester coach Ed Azzam signals a changing of the guard in the L.A. City Section ranks, as no team from the proud section begins in the overall state Top 20 for the first time since we introduced the format in 1988-89. Coach Reggie Morris Jr.’s father won two city crowns at L.A. Manual Arts (1977, 1981) and with New Jersey transfer Tyler Bey (6-8, Jr.) and a cast of quality young guards, the younger Morris has a team that rates as the slight L.A. City open favorite going in. Jaden Hubbard (6-1, So.) and David Mack (5-10, So.) are competitive and should improve greatly as the season wears on for a young team that has nowhere to go but up.
31. (NR) Fairmont Prep (Anaheim) 12-4
This club captured the San Joaquin League with a perfect 8-0 record over No. 38 Capo Valley Christian and bubble club Pacifica Christian of Newport Beach before running into a hot Bishop Montgomery team in the opening round of the CIFSS D1 playoffs. Coach Joedy Gardner has a team capable of making a deep playoff run led by Chol Deng (6-6, Sr.). He averaged 17.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, and 2.4 spg and was an all-CIFSS D1 choice. Collins Acheampong (6-8, Jr.) is the team’s best rebounder (8.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) while Myles Che (6-2, Sr.) and Kristian Jemerson (6-4, Sr.) were both double-digit scorers. This club only lost to No. 2 Centennial by three points and to No. 8 Mater Dei by 10 points and will likely close the gap between it and the best teams in the CIFSS.
32. (NR) Rancho Christian (Temecula) 7-4
Seeing Evan Mobley dominate early in his NBA rookie season for the Cleveland Cavs, it’s easy to forget he was finishing up his senior season when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Even though the Eagles didn’t win section or state crowns with the Mobley brothers, coach Ray Barefield feels he has a team that could return to the CIFSS upper echelon if transfer big man Martin Gumwell (6-11, Jr.) continues to develop. Rodney Brown (6-5, Jr.) is as talented a guard Barefield has ever coached, while Isaiah Williams (6-2, Sr.) and Barac Thon (6-7, Sr.) will be key to how fast this team can move up in the rankings.
33. (NR) Vanden (Travis AFB) 10-3
The Vikings rate as the favorites to capture the CIF Sac Joaquin D3 crown, as coach Michael Holloway has the luxury of two all-state underclass picks returning. Takai Emerson-Hardy (6-7, Sr.) is one of the best forwards in the state and Tyler Thompson (6-4, So.) had a breakout freshman year. The roster is still young overall (only five seniors) so the backcourt play will be key. Sterling McClanahan (6-3, Jr.) will be counted on to create for an athletic roster that has six players 6-foot-5 and taller.
34. (3) Torrey Pines (San Diego) 30-1
It was a magical CIF spring season for the Falcons, who came up one game short of becoming the first San Diego Section team to earn Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year honors in the modern era of the CIF. Veteran coach John Olive’s club won’t approach that level this season, but it will still be ultra-competitive and a major contender for a berth in the section open playoffs. Boston University-bound Otto Landrum (6-9, Sr.) leads the way while Logan Huston (6-2, Sr.) is primed for a big senior campaign. It will be the increased production of role players such as Anthony Scott (6-4, Sr.), J.J. Bartelloni (6-4, Jr.) and Alex Cabulio (6-2, Jr.) that determines how far this team can go.
35. (NR) Taft (Woodland Hills) 3-8
Veteran coach Derrick Taylor (466-137) has a club that can challenge No. 30 Fairfax for the L.A. City Section open crown. Returning all-L.A. City player Isaiah Lewis (6-2, Sr.) may not match last season’s scoring output (18.6 ppg), but that’s only because there is an influx of talent. A.J. Johnson (6-4 Jr.) is a highly-regarded point guard who has yet to make a splash on the high school level, and Keyon Kensie (6-7, Jr.) somewhat falls into the same category though both are major college prospects. Nick Ramos (6-6, Jr.) is a highly-regarded player from New Jersey and Derrick Hill (6-3, So.) spent his freshman season at L.A. Fairfax.
36. Colony (Ontario) 19-2
CoHi must replace the talent and production of D2 State Player of the Year Brenton Knapper (Santa Clara), but a good core should keep coach Jerry DeFabiis’ program in the hunt for a CIFSS D1 title. Kollen Murphy (6-2, Jr.) is a cat quick guard and Jaidyn Simpson (6-3, Jr.) is a solid wing scorer. Up front, Jaden Hendley (6-5, Sr.) and Denzel Hines (6-6, Jr.) must produce when the team faces some of the bigger teams on its schedule.
37. (NR) Inderkum (Sacramento) 7-2
This team didn’t get much of a CIF spring season but on paper it’s one of the most talent-laden teams in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. The Tigers are led by a pair of book-end forwards in Derrick Claxton (6-5, Sr.) and Logan Steuben (6-7, Jr.). The Tigers will have their work cut out for them to earn a berth in the section D1 title game, as Modesto Christian, Sheldon and Jesuit (unbeaten in 2020-21) all will be quality teams in 2021-22.
38. (NR) Capistrano Valley Christian (San Juan Capistrano) 12-7
This team already had a good group of guards that was made even better when Makaih Williams (6-1, Sr.) transferred over from No. 25 St. Anthony. Mac West (6-4, Sr.) is another who can play ball after high school, but the one who can take coach Chris Childress’ team to the next level is Pepperdine commit Ariik Mawien (6-4, Jr.). The lefty is explosive and wiry strong and makes them a contender to knock off No. 31 Fairmont Prep in the San Joaquin League.
39. (17) Jesuit (Carmichael) 16-0
Point guard supreme Isa Silva is now dishing and driving at Stanford, but head coach Tim Kelly still has a pretty solid group of players that will give Sheldon a run in the competitive Delta League of the Sac-Joaquin Section. All-state returnee Andrej Stojakovic (6-7, Jr.) knocked down 17.4 ppg (7.2 rpg) and is one of the top players in NorCal. It’s hard to describe the son of former NBA star Peja Stojakovic as emerging, but Andrej did just that in the spring. Also back is guard Jayden Teat (6-2, Sr.), who can score (11.6 ppg) and can pick up the slack for Silva being gone (2.8 apg). Leading rebounder Kai Wallin (6-5, Sr.) also returns (7.6 rpg, 7.8 ppg), but he’ll be out late due to football commitments. Kai recently had five sacks in one game.
40. (NR) JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 14-13
Here’s a team that recently showed what it might be capable of in the Trinity League this season by defeating Mission Bay of San Diego, 64-49, to win the Gold Division at the Border League Championship in Las Vegas. The Lions won the major fall league event behind the combo skills of twins Dane (6-6, Sr.) and Austin Persek (6-7, Sr.). They can do the dirty work inside and can knock down threes. Guard Robert Diaz (6-0, Sr.) provides leadership and scoring punch from the perimeter.
15 Teams That Just Missed:
(14) Archbishop Riordan (San Francisco) 14-4
(20) Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 11-4
(37) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 9-4
(NR) Crossroads (Santa Monica) 10-2
(32) Folsom 11-2
(NR) Hillcrest (Riverside) 15-2
(NR) Lincoln (Stockton) 7-1
(NR) Mission Bay (San Diego) 17-10
(NR) Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 6-2
(NR) Oak Park 15-5
(NR) Pacifica Christian (Newport Beach) 7-9
(NR) Poly (Riverside) 10-2
(NR) San Ysidro 23-7
(NR) Saugus 7-4
(NR) Valley Christian (San Jose) 5-8
To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.