Boys BB: More State Players of the Year

State Sophomore of the Year Jamari Phillips (left) scores for Modesto Christian on a drive to the hoop during CIF Open Division state final. At right is State Freshman of the Year Tounde Yessoufou of Santa Maria St. Joseph with backboard that he broke in the background. Photos: Samuel Stringer / Cal-Hi Sports & Joe Bailey / Santa Ynez Valley News.

Here’s where to go to see the Cal-Hi Sports 2022 honorees for seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen and for each CIF division. As mentioned in the Mr. Basketball writeup, Corona Centennial junior guard Jared McCain was a state player of the year according to a different criteria, but for juniors it’s plain and simple and had to be him. The leading sophomore and freshman honors, meanwhile, go out to players from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and CIF Central Section.

For official writeup on the 2022 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 43rd annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Teams. With respect to everyone who got through the Omicron surge of the virus during the season, here is a complete list of our boys basketball individual players of the year for the 2021-22 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 sophomores, D4 and D5.)

SENIORS & CIF D1/OPEN DIVISION
Donovan Dent (Centennial, Corona)

This three-year standout guard and 2022 Mr. Basketball honoree has been the most highly-honored player on California’s best team two years running. Dent started his career on the freshman team and just kept improving year after year. “What I remember about Donny was that he was a competitor, could finish the ball around the rim really well, was crafty/shifty with the ball, and a very good defender,” said former Centennial guard Paris Dawson, an all-state selection who was a junior on varsity when Dent was on the lower level club. The last time the honoree in this division was not named Mr. Basketball was in 2014-15, when Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills was a junior and Ivan Rabb of Bishop O’Dowd was the honoree in D3. Dent is the first honoree for Centennial in any division.

Jared McCain raises trophy after team won CIF Open Division state title. Photo: Nick Koza.

JUNIORS
Jared McCain (Centennial, Corona) 6-2 G

When the Huskies were named state team of the year for the 2021 Spring season, two Centennial players were named to the overall all-state team: junior Donovan Dent and state sophomore of the year Kylan Boswell. After Boswell moved on from Centennial, there were questions about just how dominant Centennial could be without him and the Huskies answered those questions in resounding fashion. They were once again named state team of the year, but this time they had the regional and CIF state finals to factor in and ended up even being more dominant and McCain was a big reason why.

McCain and Dent led Centennial to a 33-1 record and top five FAB 50 national ranking and was named CIF Southern Section Open Division co-Player of the Year along with Dent. Even though McCain was not a Mr. Basketball finalist (this time only went with one for each team), he was seriously considered. In the end, Dent earned the state’s top honor. McCain, realistically, was not too far behind and together the duo made Centennial dominant throughout its playoff run. McCain already did receive a state player of the year nod according to Gatorade, which uses other criteria besides just on-the-court and which is selected before the final games are played.

McCain’s late 3-pointer in the CIF state title game helped the Huskies hold off late-charging Modesto Christian and he finished his junior season with averages of 16.8 ppg (tops on team), 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, and 1.4 spg. Not only did McCain have terrific timing with his big plays, he was also clutch, all while shooting over 41 percent from 3-point range and just under 90 percent from the charity stripe.

Not only did McCain replace a former teammate with flying colors as the top player in his class, fellow Centennial 11th grader Devin Williams also deserves mention for his improvement and contributions to Centennial’s dominance.

McCain is Centennial’s first honoree ever in this class and the second from Riverside County in four years, joining the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley, who earned the honor in 2019 at Temecula Rancho Christian. McCain is also the sixth consecutive choice from the CIF Southern Section.

Last 16 State Juniors of the Year): 2021 Amari Bailey (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 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).

SOPHOMORES
Jamari Phillips (Modesto Christian) 6-3 G

Enjoying a series of outstanding performances late in the season not only helped Modesto Christian reach the CIF Open Division state championship but it also lifted Phillips to the top of the charts for this statewide honor.

Phillips’ primary competition for this honor came from guard Vyctorius Miller from Crean Lutheran of Irvine as last year’s freshman of the year, Isaiah Elohim of Sierra Canyon, had to sit out for a good chunk of the season after transferring from Heritage Christian.

Phillips’ last few games, however, were so good that it probably didn’t matter if Elohim had played the entire season. The ultra-athletic guard who can bomb away at a 40 percent clip from three-point land had 22 points in Modesto Christian’s win over Sheldon of Sacramento for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title, hit for a game-high 20 points in the win over Campolindo of Moraga for the CIF NorCal Open crown and even in the state final loss to Corona Centennial he led all MC scorers with 20 points.

For the season, Jamari posted averages of 23.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He already has put his name onto the state record lists with at least 124 made three-pointers (final total still not reported). If he keeps it up and stays at Modesto Christian, Phillips should move up near the top of the career state three-pointers list. He also already has more than 1,000 career points scored with two more seasons to go.

After the season, Phillips has only enhanced his national reputation. At the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League last week in Orlando, Fla., he averaged 32 ppg. He played on the same team as Sierra Canyon’s Elohim and in one game it was 32 for Phillips and 25 for Elohim.

In the history of the Cal-Hi Sports state player of the year honors for sophomores (dates to 1971), there have only been three from the Sac-Joaquin Section. The only other two besides Phillips for this year have been DeMarcus Nelson of Vallejo for 2002 and Jordan Brown from Woodcreek of Roseville for 2016.

Last 13 State Sophomores of the Year: 2021 Kylan Boswell (Corona Centennial); 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
Tounde Yessoufou (St. Joseph, Santa Maria) 6-5 F

Following this first year forward originally from Benin, what stands out right away is his statistical output on a state-ranked team. The powerful small forward with terrific strength and agility finished the season with averages of 26.4 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.1 spg and 2.9 bpg for a team that was the CIF Central Section open division runner-up.

We saw Yessoufou on the travel ball circuit before he started high school and he was impressive, but seeing him in person more recently it’s evident his statistics are not inflated by lopsided games or inferior competition. He was that impressive and may have saved his best for last, going for 29 points and 13 rebounds in a 63-55 loss to CIFSS power Harvard-Westlake in the SoCal open playoffs. In that game, Yessoufou displayed tremendous finishing ability, good hands and a physical level of play rarely seen in first-year high school players.

St. Joe’s best overall player on a talented team, Yessoufou got statewide attention early in the season for breaking a backboard right off its stanchion, was MVP of the Alaska Airlines Classic and helped St Joe’s finish 27-4 and rank No. 17 in the state.

Yessoufou is the second ever selection from Santa Barbara County, joining Roberto Nelson of Santa Barbara, the honoree in 2006. He’s the first choice from a CIF Central Section program in 20 years, as Dwain Williams was the choice in 2002 from San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno. Yessoufou and Williams are the only Central Section honorees in this class dating back to 1987.

Last 13 State Freshman Players of the Year: 2021 Isaiah Elohim (Northridge Heritage Christian); 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).

Ameere Britton of Elk Grove already has been named the Sacramento Bee’s Metro Player of the Year. Photo: Ronnie Flores / Cal-Hi Sports.

DIVISION II
Ameere Britton (Elk Grove) 6-2 Sr.

There are not many talented seven-footers around the state, and Hacienda Heights Los Altos’ Jazz Gardner put up some big numbers and has a bright future, but no player meant more to his team in this division than this gutty guard who does what it takes to win.

After making third team overall all-state in last year’s abbreviated season, Britton put up similar numbers, but in a lot more than 11 games (Elk Grove went 10-1) and his playoff performances turned out to be the difference. Gardner’s team lost to Foothill of Tustin in the SoCal D2 finals, while the Thundering Herd went on to defeat the SoCal entrant
in the CIF D2 final, as the tough-nosed guard who can run offense or handle the bulk of the scoring load helped clinch the 62-56 victory by making 8-of-10 free throws and scoring 20 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists.

Britton’s state playoff performances and local honors were also a big factor in his selection. Britton had 25 points and six rebounds in the NorCal D2 final win over Ross Branson; 27 points in a 42-40 regional semifinal win over Travis AFB Vanden; 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the quarterfinal win over Danville San Ramon Valley; and 16 points in the opening win over Clovis East.

After averaging 18.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 3.4 apg as a junior, Ameere followed that up with averages of 18.3 ppg,6.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.5 spg and 1.1 bpg for a 28-6 state championship club. Last season, Britton was Delta League Player of the Year and he shared that honor this season with Carmichael Jesuit junior Andrej Stojakovic. For the Sacramento Bee, however, Britton alone was named its Metro Player of the Year. He is the first NorCal, Sac Joaquin Section and greater Sacramento metro choice in this division since Solomon Young of Sac High in 2016.

Last 13 State D2 Players of the Year: 2021 Brenton Knapper (Ontario Colony); 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).

Giovanni Goree’s local honors helped him get a statewide one. Photo: @viewpointhoops / Twitter.com.

DIVISION III
Giovanni Goree (Calabasas Viewpoint) 6-1 Jr.

This physically strong point guard who can fill it up in a hurry gets the nod over another talented junior, Oakland’s Money Williams, a talented senior from San Francisco Lincoln (Jordan Aquino) and a talented sophomore from the team that knocked off the Patriots in the SoCal D3 final. Yes, Venice did defeat Viewpoint and Tyler Hunt played a big role in that game (22 points, 10 rebounds), but Goree’s overall season cannot be overlooked. He was one of the CIF Southern Section’s top scorers (23.5 ppg), and also contributed 4.5 rpg and 6 apg for a team that came in second place in the Gold Coast League behind state power Sierra Canyon.

In fact, Goree’s play was impressive enough for him to earn Gold Coast League MVP honors for a 21-7 team that finished ranked No. 3 in the division. Known for his pull up jumpers and strong drives to the basket, Goree went for 34 points in Viewpoint’s win over Campbell Hall of North Hollywood. He also had 22 points when Viewpoint needed his scoring down the stretch in its 64-59 first round regional playoff victory over San Dieguito Academy of Encinitas. In the next two games when his scoring was needed as much, the junior guard had seven assists in each game before scoring 19 points in the season-ending loss to the Gondoliers. Pleasant Valley of Chico later won the CIF D3 state title, but had a balanced team with several all-state nominees.

Goree was named to the all-CIFSS D3AA team (player of the year Shedale Knight of Rancho Cucamonga would be D2 for statewide honors) and named the L.A. Daily News Offensive Player of the Year. Goree is the first honoree from the CIFSS in this division since another product of a Gold Coast League program: Jules Bernard of L.A. Windward in 2017. Alex Stephenson from North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake was the last San Fernando Valley player to be honored in this division in 2005-06.

Last 15 State D3 Players of the Year: 2021 Sheldon Grant (San Bernardino Aquinas); 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).

Johny Dan averaged more than 27 ppg for team that reached regional final. Photo: vths.org.

DIVISION IV
Johny Dan (Valley Torah, Valley Village) 5-11 Jr.

It’s been four years since Valley Torah had the state player of the year in this division in Ryan Turell. If you don’t know much about Jewish basketball, Turell is something of a legend. He’s gone on to become the best player ever at Yeshiva University in New York and is currently working toward becoming the first Orthodox-practicing Jew to make it in the NBA.

Magic has struck the Wolfpack again with Johny Dan. He arrived as a freshman two years after Turell graduated and now as a junior has matched Turell in being the D4 state player of the year.

Dan, who played with older brother Benji on this year’s team, averaged 27.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Valley Torah gained a Cinderella label in the CIF SoCal D4 regional playoffs as a No. 16 seed when it opened with a 66-52 victory over top seed and well-known large school Westchester of Los Angeles. The Wolfpack gained a spot in the regional final (matching an appearance from the 2021 spring season by Shalhevet of Los Angeles) with a 72-59 victory vs Millikan of Long Beach in which Dan had 24 points and 10 rebounds. They lost in the regional final, 68-54, to eventual D4 state champion Scripps Ranch of San Diego.

Usually, when a team loses in the CIF regional playoffs, its season is over. For Valley Torah, however, it received an invitation to the Red Sarachek tourney at Yeshiva University, which invites the 24 best Jewish high school teams in the nation. With Turell flying out from L.A. to join them as a quasi-assistant coach, Dan led the Wolfpack to the title, which came after a victory over Ida Crown Jewish Academy of Chicago.

Johny doesn’t have the size of Turell, but still has one more year to make his mark at the high school level.

Last 14 State D4 Players of the Year: 2021 Wayne McKinney (Coronado); 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).

Brandon Lum led the way with 25 points when Stuart Hall topped Chaffey in the D5 state final. Photo: Mark Tennis.

DIVISION V
Brandon Lum
(Stuart Hall, San Francisco) 6-0 Sr.

It’s a sweep of the honors in D5 for the Knights as Lum has gained the player of the year choice after head coach Charles Johnson was named last week as the D5 coach of the year.

This is the first time the Knights have had a divisional state player of the year, but there have been many historically in D5 from the CIF North Coast Section, including years before competitive equity seeding when St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda won several CIF D5 state titles and when State Player of the Year Darnell Robinson was dominating at Emery of Emeryville (three-time winner).

Lum clearly was the ringleader of the CIF D5 state champions. He tossed in a game-high 25 points and had two blocks and two assists in Stuart Hall’s 56-45 victory over Chaffey of Ontario in the state final. He led with 21 points in a regional final 44-37 win vs Priory of Portola Valley and he had 29 points in the quarterfinals against Ripon Christian.

Last 13 State D5 Players of the Year: 2021 Wayne Hampton (San Diego Hoover); 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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