Preseason Boys BB Ranks (1-15)

San Diego State-bound B.J. Davis (left) is one of the leading players for NorCal No. 1 Modesto Christian. At right is Duke-bound Jared McCain celebrating after SoCal No. 1 Corona Centennial won 2022 CIF Open Division title. Photos: Kris Zweigle / Front Row Preps & Nick Koza.

It’s time to launch our winter basketball content on and we’ll do it with our preseason boys basketball state rankings. It was a normal summer for the first time since 2019, as the long-term effects of COVID-19 begin to take shape and California deals with its “new” normal. That normal includes the impact that Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) has on the boys basketball landscape and yet another wave of hectic off-season player movement. After all the dust has settled, defending CIF Open champ Centennial of Corona opens up the 2022-23 season as the preseason No. 1 for the first time in program history. It ends Chatsworth Sierra Canyon’s string of four consecutive preseason No. 1 nods, as the Trailblazers are not the No. 1 team to begin with from their own league. Can No. 3 Modesto Christian end SoCal dominance in the CIF Open title game?

Note: We hope you enjoy this free post. During the season, all of our writeups, analysis and predictions of what’s coming next will be content for our Gold Club VIPs only. To become a member of our Gold Club so you can check out all of our boys basketball content, including player rankings in each class, and updated state records please CLICK HERE.

For a look at the teams we’ve ranked from No. 16 to No. 40, plus 15 more on the bubble, CLICK HERE.

To see where California teams landed in the preseason FAB 50 National Team Rankings, CLICK HERE.

To see where transfers landed for the 2022-23 school year, CLICK HERE.

To see the list of major tournaments and showcases involving California’s best teams, CLICK HERE.

To see a list of all-time preseason No. 1 teams in our current state Top 20 format (1988-89), CLICK HERE.

CIF boys basketball held a complete post-season in 2021-22 for the first time since 2019, as CIF state championships were not held in 2020 and 2021. COVID-19 had a big impact on boys basketball for three years and even though last season was a complete one, the lingering affects of the pandemic were felt. In hoops, the state’s players didn’t get a normal off-season after the 2020-21 “spring” season was completed on June 19 with the SoCal regional championships.

Josh Giles’ program at Centennial of Corona opted out of the 2021 SoCal regional, and when Etiwanda captured the SoCal open crown, that opened the door for the Huskies to be named 2020-21 Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year after capturing the CIF Southern Section Open Division title. Last season, the Huskies took it one step further, repeating as CIFSS and SoCal open champs in dominant fashion before taking down Modesto Christian in the CIF Open title game, 59-50.

As the two-time defending champs with three returning staters, three quality reserve players ready to step and an excellent freshman class, Centennial’s program has reached another first: preseason state No. 1. Centennial is led by Duke-bound Jared McCain, the returning state junior of the year, and fellow three-year starters Devin Williams (UCLA) and Aaron McBride (LMU). Modesto Christian returns four starters, including returning state sophomore of the year Jamari Phillips, and has added talented newcomers. The Crusaders open at No. 3 as they attempt to become just the second NorCal club to finish No. 1 since the CIF began with an open division in 2012-13. Coming in at No. 2 is Harvard-Westlake, which has won or shared the Mission League title for five consecutive seasons and sees No. 4 Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth join it this season.

COVID-19 was not the main off-season topic of discussion for the first time in three years, as Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) and how it impacts the high school basketball landscape took center stage. And it certainly does affect it. On July 1, 2021, legislation in several states went into effect green lighting Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) freedoms for collegiate student athletes, which forced the NCAA to quickly implement NIL policy for its member schools across all 50 states.

So far, 29 states have passed NIL legislation modeled after California’s “Fair Pay to Play Act.” Currently, the CIF and eight other state associations sanction NIL freedoms for student athletes that fall under their jurisdiction (Alaska, California, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Utah). More will likely follow, considering state law supersedes state association bylaws. As laws were passed, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand NIL would make an impact on the star-driven elite high school basketball circuit. We’ve heard from out-of-state coaches and stakeholders that elite players will seriously consider a move to California, since there are no current NIL hurdles like the ones that exist in some other states. NIL, and the state of the California economy, has caused plenty of movement to and from the Golden State (CLICK HERE for an extensive transfer list).

The financial freedom to be compensated as a result of the new revenue streams NIL provides for student-athletes has changed amateur sports forever. McCain, as well as recent Memphis commit Mikey Williams (who transferred back to San Ysidro for his senior season after playing out of state for two seasons), have legitimate endorsement deals in place. Everyone by now also probably has seen those commercials with Sierra Canyon’s Bronny James with his famous dad, LeBron. We see on social media and hear about tons of other NIL deals, but not many high school players are making serious money. McCain and Williams are and parents and stake-holders in high school basketball are playing close attention.

Devin Williams fights for space for Corona Centennial during CIF Open Division state final vs Modesto Christian. Photo: Samuel Stringer / Cal-Hi Sports.

Seventeen programs, including the Huskies this season, have had the talent, tradition and sustained success to begin preseason No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports since we started our weekly rankings 43 years ago via mailed newsletter: Artesia of Lakewood, Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, Chino Hills, L.A. Crenshaw (four times), Dominguez of Compton (three times), L.A. Fairfax (twice), Inglewood, Long Beach Poly (three times), L.A. Manual Arts, Mater Dei of Santa Ana (11 times), Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (four times). St. Joseph of Alameda (twice), St. Monica of Santa Monica, St. Bernard of Playa del Rey (twice) and L.A. Westchester (five times).

If you don’t count the Ball Brothers-led Chino Hills club of 2015-16, this Centennial team is the first-team ever from the vast Inland Empire (which consists of Riverside and San Bernardino counties) to open as preseason No. 1. As we first predicted in football over 20 years ago, the talent shift from inner-city L.A. to the I.E. in basketball has reached a crescendo. First it was Centennial’s football program that reached the pinnacle in 2008 and now the Huskies’ basketball program is there. Long gone are the days when the L.A. City had three different programs in four years between 1988-91 open as preseason state No. 1. As Centennial guns for its second consecutive CIF Open Division crown and third consecutive state team of the year honor, for the second consecutive year no team from the L.A. City Section ranks cracks the Top 25, after having at least one in each season going back to 1979-80 prior to 2021-22.

Last year, L.A. Fairfax began at No. 30 as the section’s highest rated team and went on to capture the L.A. City Section open crown. Reggie Morris Jr.’s club, however, did not crack the state final Top 40 and Morris has since left to Redondo Union, a program he led to a CIF D2 state crown in 2012-13. The CIF Open Division began the same year Redondo Union won the state title and in that time, the only non-CIFSS team to capture the CIF Open Division crown was the Ivan Rabb-led Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland club in 2014-15. That season, O’Dowd became the second NorCal program to ever start a season as state No. 1 following Alameda St. Joseph in 1991-92 and 1997-98. After reaching the 2013-14 D1 state final, Centennial started at No. 12 in the preseason 2014-15 FAB 50 and No. 2 in the state behind FAB 50 No. 7 O’Dowd, but lost in the SoCal D1 final to Chino Hills.

Centennial’s program has now taken the next step and risen to heights only a few of the state’s programs have since the advent of the CIF state tournament in 1981-82. The Huskies, too, are no stranger to player movement, as Mike Price moves over from Sierra Canyon. Last season, it was a razor thin call to begin Sierra Canyon No. 1 in the state for the fourth consecutive season over the Huskies. Had Kylan Boswell not transferred to AZ Compass Prep in the off-season, the Huskies would have been preseason No. 1 last year. Centennial showed it could overcome that loss with flying colors, so this season the graduation loss of Mr. Basketball Donovan Dent (New Mexico) should be a blow absorbed fairly well.

The CIF is scheduled to crown its 2022-23 state champions on March 10-11, 2023 at Golden One Center in Sacramento.


(This is the 43rd consecutive season that will provide state rankings; Last year’s final rating in parentheses with 2021-22 won-loss record)
(Cal-Hi Sports co-founder and editor Mark Tennis contributed to these rankings)

1. (1) Centennial (Corona) 33-1*

As news came out that Duncanville (Texas) was going to be stripped of its University Interscholastic League (UIL) state title last season for the use of an ineligible player, we immediately thought about the Huskies. After all, Centennial only lost one game by five points (75-70) in Texas to that team that finished No. 1 in the FAB 50 National Rankings and was named mythical national champions. Centennial also was the only team in the FAB 50 top five to lose one game. The FAB 50, and our state rankings, however, focus on on-the-court results so there was no change.

It hasn’t been all roses for Centennial in recent months. One of the program’s best players ever, Jalen Hill, (shown in the middle next to head coach Josh Giles), died during the summer at just 22 years old. Photo:

Regardless, Centennial head coach Josh Giles comes off as a no nonsense coach who’s only worried about what his program is doing and what he can control. On the court, Centennial completely dominated its foes in the CIFSS and CIF open regional playoffs en route to the program’s first CIF state crown and second consecutive Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year honor. We peg the Huskies as the early favorite to win a second consecutive CIF open crown (they opted out of the regional tournament in 2020-21) and now for the first time ever in program history the Huskies open as preseason No. 1.

Centennial almost began at No. 1 last season, proving the transfer loss of Kylan Boswell (who is now at the University of Arizona) could be overcome without much problems. That’s a factor in this year being more of a slam dunk choice even with Mr. Basketball Donovan Dent moving on to New Mexico. With three returning starters and a quality bench, this choice was easy considering Giles’ boys defeated No. 2 Harvard-Westlake in the CIFSS open title game, 68-48.

Jared McCain (6-2, Sr.) is the preseason front-runner for Mr. Basketball honors after leading the team in scoring (16.8 ppg) while adding 4.8 rpg, 2.1 apg and 1.4 spg. Even more than his numbers, McCain’s competitive nature and clutch play (41 percent from 3-point, 90 percent from foul line) makes the difference in big games. UCLA-bound Devin Williams (6-10, Sr.) also is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the state and is undervalued nationally. As a junior, he averaged 11.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 1.5 bpg while shooting 60 percent from the field, including 44 percent from 3-point range. LMU-bound Aaron McBride is another 3-year starter who does plenty of the dirty work and he’s starting to get credit for it, earning event MVP honors at the Section 7 NCAA June live scholastic event. Eric Freeny (6-4, Jr.) is a physical guard who can play more of an inside role if Giles wants to go with a quicker lineup, while Santana Huff (6-2, Jr.) will be a valuable contributor for the second consecutive season. Sierra Canyon transfer guard Mike Price (6-2, Sr.) has plenty of ability, and there is little pressure for him to score big even though he is more than capable. There is a talented group of freshmen as well to push the regulars in practice to get them ready to play another national schedule.

The Huskies get their rematch with Duncanville at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest on November 26 and take on NorCal No. 1 and state No. 3 Modesto Christian on Dec. 3 at The Proving Grounds in Sacramento in a rematch of last year’s CIF open title game. Centennial also faces Nevada power Bishop Gorman at Hoophall West (Dec. 10) and takes on No. 5 Notre Dame on Jan. 7. The Huskies will venture to the City of Palms Tournament in Florida for the first time before Christmas and will play in the John Wall Invitational right after the holiday. The reason Centennial will fare well despite the loaded schedule and target on its back is because it is unselfish, takes good shots, plays with incredible pace and doesn’t worry about who gets the individual credit.

2. (3) Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 25-4

Two years ago, the Wolverines started No. 10 and last year began at No. 3 and played right to the level expected of them: right behind Centennial and Sierra Canyon in the race for the CIF open crown. Head coach Dave Rebibo’s club actually beat Sierra Canyon to advance to the CIFSS open title game, where it was no match for No. 1 Centennial. Harvard-Westlake then lost the return match to the Trailblazers in the SoCal open regional playoffs, so there is work to do even though this team comes in right behind Centennial.

Brady Dunlap of Harvard-Westlake battles it out against Sierra Canyon last season. The two teams could do that once in league, once in the league tourney, once in the section playoffs and once in the regional playoffs. Photo: Nick Koza.

Centennial gets many kudos for being relaxed under pressure and for its players knowing their roles, while Harvard-Westlake has been mentioned by more than one coach as having the most balanced five in the state. It says plenty about this unit that the starting lineup is greater than the sum of its individual players because there is a terrific talent level.

Notre Dame-bound Brady Dunlap (16.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 4 apg) is the leading returning scorer and was a third team all-state choice last season. He’s a major matchup problem with his inside-out ability and versatile scoring. All-stater Cam Thrower (Penn) has graduated, but guards Trent Perry (6-2, Jr.) and Harvard-bound Robert Hinton (6-4, Jr.) have stepped up their game and play better in the tight moments. The duo can’t be labeled in terms of position and there is not one aspect of the game either is particularly weak in. Perry is a go-to type in crunch time and Hinton gets after it defensively and rarely takes a bad shot. Nikolas Khamenia (6-5, So.) played a minor role last season, but this Slovenian transplant will have a breakout season. Khamenia can guard multiple positions, has a good handle and is a dynamic scorer. Jacob Huggins (6-8, Sr.), bound for Princeton, is the veteran inside and Rebibo likes his bench depth, as Dominique Bentho (6-8, Fr.) is a nice addition to help Huggins inside.

This program has enjoyed success under Rebibo, including a D3 state title in 2018, and three overall, but this is the Wolverines’ best opportunity to earn their second Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year honors. The Jason and Jarron Collins-led 1996-97 unit was No. 1 in the state and No. 4 in the National Prep Poll (precursor to the FAB 50) and considered one of the best in state history. This unit doesn’t have to be compared to that one, it only has to get over the hump of winning CIFSS and CIF state open titles to reach its goals and has an excellent chance to do just that. The first step is to win the Mission League title, which it has won or shared the past four years, and that will be a lot harder now that No. 4 Sierra Canyon is part of the league alongside rival and No. 5 Notre Dame. The Wolverines get Sierra Canyon at home (Jan. 20) and the much improved Knights, whom they split with last year in league play, on the road two days earlier. This year, there is only one round of league play, as there is a Mission League tournament and whoever is the No. 2 and No. 3 seed is likely to meet in the tourney semifinals.

3. (4) Modesto Christian 28-6*

It wasn’t too hard of a call to go with the Crusaders at this spot over Mission League teams Sierra Canyon and Notre Dame if you look at it from a personnel standpoint. If you look at it from a historical perspective, however, head coach Brice Fantasia’s club has some work to do to move up from here. The 2014-15 Bishop O’Dowd team is the only NorCal club to win the CIF open crown since it began in 2012-13 and that Ivan Rabb-led club was only the third NorCal team to open as preseason No. 1 in our 43 years of doing rankings. You have to go back to St. Joseph of Alameda in 1997-98 (led by Ray Young) and in 1991-92 (led by Jason Kidd) to find a NorCal program with all the necessary ingredients to get the nod. Bishop O’Dowd was set to be the first NorCal club to open at No. 1 in 1986-87, but leading player Matt Muehlebach moved to Missouri in the summer and the nod went to Mater Dei of Santa Ana, which won the first of its 11 CIF state titles.

Jamari Phillips is about to score two of his 20 points during Modesto Christian’s loss to Centennial in CIF Open Division state final. Photo: Samuel Stringer / Cal-Hi Sports.

Again, personnel matters and besides guard Alex Argandar, this team returns en masse along with some talented newcomers to make the Crusaders the heavy favorite to represent NorCal in the open title game after starting at No. 6 last season. Jamari Phillips (6-3, Jr.), last season’s State Sophomore of the Year and a first team all-state choice, averaged 23.5 ppg (115 3-pointers) 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg and is one of the best scoring guards in the country. He is capable of taking over games in a short period of time, and at any time, with his confidence and playmaking. San Diego St.-bound B.J. Davis (6-1, Sr.) had a breakout junior season (17.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.8 spg) and can break down defenders as well as any guard in the West Region. Darius Smith (6-3, Sr.) has battled injuries for much of his career, but is eager to make an impact and show recruiters he is a bonafide player for the next level.

MC’s roster also will be bolstered by transfers Jalen Brown (6-3, Sr.) and Kodey Weary (6-7, Sr.), who will play key roles. Highly regarded freshman Rashad Cotton Jr. (6-0) also is talented to push for playing time even though Brown is a dynamic guard in his own right. Prince Oseya (6-10, Sr.) will need to produce at a high level against the Crusaders’ national foes while strongman Manasse Itete (6-6, 2024), who made a big impact in the state title game, is a key cog who plays with an edge even though his future is on the gridiron.

Modesto Christian will go out-of-state twice later in the season, but its first three games will set the tone. The Crusaders will look to be firing on all cylinders when they face FAB 50 power Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas at the O’Dowd Thanksgiving Showcase on Nov. 25. The next evening at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic, Modesto Christian takes on No. 5 Notre Dame and then it’s a CIF open title game rematch with top-ranked Centennial on Dec. 3 in a showcase at Sacramento Sheldon.

4. (2) Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 26-5

For the first time since 2017-18, a team other than the Trailblazers start as preseason state No. 1. They begin as the No. 3 team from SoCal, specifically the powerful CIF Southern Section. In 2017-18, Mater Dei started No. 1 for the 11th time (No. 1 on the all-time state list), the first time coming in 1986-87, and eventually won the CIFSS open title. Last season was the first time since 2016-17 that Sierra Canyon didn’t make the CIFSS open title game after No. 2 Harvard-Westlake beat the Trailblazers in a defacto semifinal game in CIFSS open pool play. Looking at it from the perspective of recent history, it’s therefore an easy call to put Harvard-Westlake in front of this team considering what it has returning.

Bronny James enters his senior season at Sierra Canyon as the team’s leading player for the first time in his career. Photo: Sierra Canyon Athletics.

Looking at Sierra Canyon’s personnel, it’s still a quality group against the standards of the rest of the state. In the four years it started out at No. 1 and had 2021 Mr. Basketball Amari Bailey (now a freshman at UCLA) on its roster, the team played with an incredible amount of talent that has logged NBA minutes. Five (K.J. Martin, Cassius Stanley, Christian Koloko, Ziaire Williams, B.J. Boston) have logged NBA minutes, a sixth (Scotty Pippen Jr.) might and Bailey will soon, too. It’s an incredible amount of talent that we haven’t seen in the annals of our state’s rich history even from L.A. Crenshaw in the 1980s or L.A. Verbum Dei in the 1970s.

Head coach Andre Chevalier knows he doesn’t have that type of blinding talent, but he’s not worried about it either. He’s more worried about building continuity (which last year’s team didn’t have because of transfers and injuries) and peaking at the right time. Bronny James (6-5, Sr.) has played with many of the above-mentioned players and now it’s his time to lead this program. James (8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.9 spg) has been in the national spotlight since entering high school, but has yet to win an on-court CIF open title. James is a physical defender and talented, yet streaky scorer, who must be consistent when defenses key on him. Isaiah Elohim (6-5, Jr.) also has been a two-time Underclass All-American and is one of the nation’s best players in his class (10.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg in 17 games). Elohim battled injuries all summer, however, and must show he’s ready to take his game to the next level and help make James a more effective player. Dylan Metoyer (6-0, Sr.) also has plenty of experience at the point guard spot and is capable of making plays in the clutch.

The key to this team’s fortunes may be the front court production. Jimmy Oladokun (6-9, Sr.) comes over from La Verne Damien with plenty of experience after helping that club win the CIF D1 state crown last season. Bryce Cofield (6-5, So.) is a slashing talent while Majok Chuol (7-0, Jr.) will be needed at crucial times to clog up the lane and rebound. Noah Williams (6-6, Jr.), a transfer from nearby Village Christian, has plenty of potential, while Ashton Hardaway (6-7, Sr.) is a sharp-shooter who will be counted on to keep defenses honest. He was a reserve for 2021-22 FAB 50 national champion Duncanville (Texas) last season after starting his career at Bishop Montgomery of Torrance.

Ironically, Sierra Canyon could meet Duncanville at the Les Schwab Invitational (Dec. 27-30) in Oregon. That’s the only tourney it will be involved in (besides the Mission League tourney), as Sierra Canyon has single games with New York power Christ the King, FAB 50 ranked Miami Columbus, and a date with St. Vincent-St. Mary (Bronny’s dad’s alma mater) in Ohio.

5. (13) Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 21-8

After going 5-11 in the 2021 CIF spring season, the Golden Knights played to the level expected of them in the 2021-22 preseason, qualifying for the CIFSS open playoffs. This season, the expectations are much greater for a team with veteran talent and two talented newcomers.

Dusty Stromer will play next at Gonzaga. Photo:

When it was announced No. 4 Sierra Canyon would be joining the Mission League, it was quickly evident the games between the Trailblazers, league kingpin Harvard-Westlake and the Golden Knights would have major implications on the CIFSS open playoffs, and around the state, after point guard Caleb Foster (6-3, Sr.) and Mercy Miller transferred over from famed Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Foster, bound for Duke, is one of the best perimeter players in the country who excels at getting into the key and heading to the free throw line. Miller, bound for Houston, is a terrific outside shooter and can get hot in a hurry.

Head coach Matt Sargeant already had one of the nation’s best perimeter players returning in Gonzaga-bound Dusty Stromer (6-6, Sr.). An all-CIFSS open and first team all-state pick as a junior, Stromer was the leading scorer (20.1 ppg) and rebounder last season (6.4 rpg) and added 1.4 spg and 0.9 bpg while making a big impact on both ends of the floor. Sergeant also has two more perimeter players with plenty of experience in Dante Ogbu (6-2, Sr.) and Angelino Mark (6-1, So.). Interior play and rebounding will be the key to this team’s fortunes, so Jayden Harper (6-7, Jr.) must step up his production from last season. Freshman Zach White (6-5, Fr.) also can mix it up and the guards must also do their fair share on the boards if this team is going to meet expectations.

Does Notre Dame have better personnel than Sierra Canyon? It can be argued yes, but the Trailblazers have the edge in championship experience and dealing with the expectations of playing for a CIF open crown. We dinged this team a bit for going 0-3 in last season’s CIFSS open division playoffs and we have a hunch Sargeant has no quarrels with that, as there is a fine line between winning the CIF open crown and the uphill battle of trying to reclaim the title as a potential third-place team in a league. That’s the scenario Notre Dame faces and it certainly plays the schedule to prepare for a deep playoff run. The Knights will have a big game on Nov. 26 at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic vs. No. 3 Modesto Christian, face highly-regarded DeMatha Catholic of Maryland in SoCal on Dec. 3, face Duncanville (Texas) on Dec. 10, and play top-ranked Centennial on Jan. 7. The two Mission League showdowns with Harvard-Westlake and Sierra Canyon also will take place at home.

6. (7) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 20-4* 

The teams in front of the Knights are FAB 50 ranked in the nation to begin the season and this is the first drop-off in terms of preseason expectations in the rankings. After going 8-9 in the 2021 CIF spring season, the Knight started at No. 22 last season and played above expectations, advancing to the SoCal open semifinals with a 58-53 victory over No. 7 Mater Dei before losing by 21 points (76-55) to top-ranked Centennial. As we stated in last year’s preseason, this unit could be the one that returns the program to the level it was between 2015-17, when it captured two CIFSS open crowns and the 2017 CIF open title, and if it catches a few breaks it’s a real possibility.

One of the main keys will be the production of Xavier Edmonds (6-9, Sr.), one of the state’s top interior players who is looking to close out his career with a bang after earning all-CIFSS D1 honors as a sophomore. He’s complimented nicely inside by Will Brenner (6-9, So.), a physical player who is capable of doing the dirty work necessary on an open divisional level championship team. Will Smith III (6-3, Sr.), an all-state underclass choice last season, also is a physical guard who has worked hard to improve his offensive game and gets better when the opposition tires. The graduation loss of Jalen “Butter” Vazquez hurts, but Portland St.-bound Kelcy Phipps (6-2, Sr.) is primed for a big senior season. Christian Jones (6-3, Sr.) also brings plenty in terms of athleticism and scoring and if the three-guard attack is on point this team will be hard to beat. Bishop Montgomery will be competitive down the stretch, but will have a hard time moving up from here because of the lack of big-time games on its non-league slate. That will make Del Rey League games with No. 8 St. Bernard especially important.

Zack Davidson will look to be a senior leader on a Mater Dei team that should have more than one freshman in the rotation. Photo: @ScholSeries /

7. (12) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 26-5

When the final buzzer sounded on its season last year, it looked like this might finally be the year another team from its league (Trinity) might deserve to start ahead of the Monarchs. They lost two senior captains and sophomore big man Tee Bartlett left for Nevada. Taking a closer look, however, Mater Dei has the Trinity League MVP returning in Zach Davidson (6-8, Sr.) and a talented crop of freshmen that helps it get the nod over its tough league foes and fall right behind the Bishop Montgomery team it lost to in the SoCal open playoffs.

Mater Dei has also been the most consistent program in the state the past 40 years and gets the benefit of the doubt after going unbeaten in league play last season and winning its state-record 34th consecutive outright or shared league crown. Mater Dei has been preseason ranked each season in the tenure of longtime head coach Gary McKnight (1,214-127), has been preseason No. 1 in the state a record 11 times, is the only program to appear in the CIFSS open playoffs each season and has won no fewer than 21 games each season since McKnight’s first (1982-83), recording a 21-8 record in both 1997-98 and 1987-88, the latter season being the last time the Monarchs didn’t win a league crown.

Davidson (17.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg) leads the charge and is a tough check with his versatile scoring and shooting range. Scotty Belnap (6-5, Jr.), Brady Karich (6-2, Jr.) and Owen Verna (6-3, So.) will play key roles and are schooled in Mater Dei’s system of quick ball movement and meaningful and sharp cutting. What will really get the Monarchs’ faithful excited is the crop of freshmen, led by Che Brogan (6-6, Fr.) and Brannon Martinsen (6-8, Fr.), plus Luke Barnett (6-3, Fr.) and Cole Leinart (6-3, Fr.). Brogan is a talented lefty in the mold of Manu Ginobili, while Martinsen has a unique combination of skill and athleticism for a young player his size. Barnett adds another shooter to a roster full of capable ones and Blake Davidson (6-7, So.), Zack’s brother, adds interior depth. Mater Dei will venture to London to play in Hoophall Europe vs. Pace Academy of Georgia, and will venture to Las Vegas for the Tarkanian Classic before Christmas.

8. (10) St. Bernard (Playa del Rey) 23-7 

After a 7-4 mark in the shortened 2021 CIF season, the Vikings opened at No. 12 last season, the ninth team from the CIFSS. With the eight-team, pool play format the section utilizes, that put St. Bernard as the best bet in the CIFSS D1 playoffs. After a slow start, coach Tony Bland’s troops went on a tough run to capture the CIFSS D1 crown and finish in the range expected of them in the preseason.

This year, we project St. Bernard to be a major CIFSS open contender despite the graduation of Jason Hart Jr. (LBSU) and the transfer loss of New Mexico St.-bound Darius Carr (L.A. Fairfax). Carr teamed up with Tyler Rolison (6-1, Sr.) in the summer and in past seasons, but both are ball-dominant guards, so Rolison (the returning first team all-state underclass choice and CIFSS D1 player of the year) could be primed for a big season knowing he’ll have the ball in his hands at crunch time.

That also could create more opportunities for the returning personnel. Caleb Versher (6-2, So.) is an excellent shooter and clutch performer and a good bet to make all-state underclass this season. Josh Palmer (6-3, So.) is another good shooter and has terrific long-term potential, as does Christian Taylor (6-5, So.). Deven Tillet (6-1, Sr.) is a cagy veteran with plenty of big-game experience, while Tajh Ariza (6-6, Fr.), the son of 2003 Mr. Basketball and former NBA player Trevor Ariza, is a big-time talent who will play major minutes. Up front, Kendyl Sanders (6-6, Jr.) is an improved playmaker and returning center James McCallum (6-6, Sr.) is the key cog in terms of the dirty work required to be a championship team.

St. Bernard, which began as preseason state No. 1 in both 1981-82 and 1982-83, will look to make rankings noise with good performances at the Tarkanian Classic in Vegas and The Classic at Damien.

West Ranch’s Andrew Meadow reveals his choice of Boise State as his college destination at the press conference. Photo:

9. (14) West Ranch (Valencia) 20-8*

If the rankings hold to form, the Wildcats would be the eighth team in the CIFSS open playoffs, so you can bet the final spot to qualify for the prestigious section playoff tournament will be cut-throat. Head coach Jeff Bryant has a terrific core returning along with an impact transfer in Jazz Gardner (7-0, Sr.).

Even though sophomore Bryce Cofield transferred to Sierra Canyon, Gardner could be a difference maker by allowing the returnees to play more of their natural positions and help clog up the lane on defense. “Big” averaged 19.3 ppg, 13.0 rpg and 3.6 bpg at Hacienda Heights Los Altos and doesn’t even need to put up those offensive numbers in order for this team to play at its maximum potential. Andrew Meadow (6-7, Sr.) and James Evans (6-6, Jr.) both were all-state underclass picks and will be even more dangerous offensively with Gardner in the fold. Meadow averaged 19.9 ppg and 7.2 rpg, while Evans sports norms of 16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.9 apg and 2.1 spg. Jaqari Miles (6-2, Sr.) is the third starter returning and is one of the section’s most underrated players, as he averaged 16.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg and 1.6 spg. Crean Lutheran transfer Darrell Morris (5-10, Jr.) also makes this team even more potent because of his big-game experience and Isaiah Fields (6-5, Sr.) comes over from Santa Clarita Christian and should have a big impact on both ends of the floor.

West Ranch will take on No. 12 San Ysidro on Dec. 17, and similar to St. Bernard, will head to the Tarkanian Classic and The Classic at Damien tournaments also during the holidays.

10. (NR) St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 22-10

The Braves began No. 19 in the state last season, but the 2020-21 SoCal Div. I-AA champs lost to La Costa Canyon in the first round of the SoCal D1 playoffs and did not finish in the final state Top 40. Head coach Matt Dunn hopes this year’s team shows more consistency and avoids the injury bug that plagued it last season.

The returning core at Bosco were all chosen for the all-state underclass team and have displayed marked improvement from last season. Jack Turner (6-3, Jr.) averaged 16.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, and and 2.1 apg after gaining eligibility following a 30-day transfer sit out. He played in 17 games, while freshman guard Elzie Harrington (6-5, So.) played 19 while missing some time with injury. Harrington’s health is important because he’s a difference maker who should see his freshman numbers (13.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.1 spg) improve. The third all-state underclass pick is Kade Bonam (6-8, So.) who impacts the game both inside and out and has improved his conditioning and intensity. He averaged 12.3 ppg and 6.9 rpg while being the only returning rotation player to participate in all 32 games. The other player to participate in all of last season’s games was rugged forward Christian Estrada (Biola) and the toughness he brought to the table will be missed. Dunn is looking for Xinyi Li (6-9, Sr.), a transfer from Wasatch Academy in Utah, to pick up some of that slack.

If the rankings hold up, Bosco would be the first team out of the CIFSS open playoffs, but if it were to win or tie for the Trinity League title, there is a good chance it will make the eight-team cut.

Ian De La Rosa of St. Augustine was one of the top breakout stars last season in the CIF San Diego Section. Photo:

11. (15) St. Augustine (San Diego) 23-8

The Saints have all five starters back from a team that captured the CIF San Diego Section open crown and starts right in the range predicted at the end of last season. Similar to No. 6 Bishop Montgomery, this team was hampered by COVID-19 protocols during the season so last year’s loss count is a bit deceiving.

County Player of the Year Jurian Dixon (6-4, Sr.) returns after averaging 22.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 2.9 apg and ending the season with a 27-point performance in a close loss to No. 4 Sierra Canyon in the SoCal open playoffs. The two-time Western League Player of the Year could be in the running for Mr. Basketball honors if Saints have a big season on a statewide level. Ian De La Rosa (6-4, Jr.) is another two-time Western League performer who is solid in all aspects of the game. Lawrence “LoLo” Rudolph (6-2, Jr.) has taken his explosiveness to another level as well and is one of the best junior point guards in the West Region. Jaden Matingou (6-2, Sr.) is another talented double-digit scorer with a ton of experience. Arizona Christian-bound Derrius Carter-Hollinger (6-5, Sr.) also will be counted on for his inside scoring and will need to crash the boards feverishly with the graduation of 6-foot-7 Prince Adjej. Vincent Ricchiuti (6-6, Sr.) is another veteran who makes head coach Mike Haupt’s club awfully tough to beat because of its experience.

Sure, San Ysidro has a large following and a talented lineup bolstered by transfers, but after last season’s wire-to-wire run as San Diego County’s top-ranked team, Saints deserve to start ahead of the Border Boyz until an on-court result dictates a change.

12. (35) San Ysidro 23-9

It’s a major jump for head coach Terry Tucker’s squad from the end of last season’s rankings, but not surprising given who is on the roster. The Cougars lost a good crop of seniors, but an infusion of talent will make them major contenders for the CIF San Diego Section Open title after a runner-up finish to No. 11 St. Augustine.

If Saints didn’t have its team returning intact, the Border Boyz would be a cinch county No. 1 with Mikey Williams (6-3, Sr.) back in the fold. He was the State Freshman of the Year in 2019-20, then left for two years and came back with a historic multiyear footwear and apparel deal with Puma for an amount that many college graduates will never see annually. There are plenty of published opinions about Williams, but there is little doubt he is an explosive and impactful high school player. He’s headed to Memphis, as is Donda Academy transfer J.J. Taylor (6-8, Sr.). This Windy City native is instantly one of the most talented forwards in the state, but he was also at one time considered a top 10 player nationally in the 2023 class and would like nothing more than to turn in a monster senior season to get back on that perch.

An underrated piece is Angelo Gil (6-1, Sr.), a transfer from Mission Bay of San Diego who brings toughness and playmaking ability. Gerardo Guerrero (6-3, Sr.) also comes over from Mexico and is talented, as is newcomer Steven Evans-Glynn (6-2, So.). Ty Ingram (6-4, Fr.) is the best 2026 in San Diego County while the glue of the team and the top holdover from last season is the much improved Andrei Tovar (6-8, Jr.). This team plays a loaded schedule too, beginning with top-ranked Centennial on Nov. 18.

Tounde Yessoufou was the 2022 State Freshman of the Year and has only enhanced his reputation as an elite prospect nationally since then. Photo: Ronnie Flores.

13. (17) St. Joseph (Santa Maria) 27-4

The Knights have won 27 games in each of the past two seasons and will be a strong bet to win that many in 2022-23 with easily the most talented unit in the CIF Central Section. We did give some consideration to putting Clovis West in front of St. Joe’s, but the Golden Eagles’ lack of size is the Knights’ strength. Not to mention head coach Tom Mott (428-193) has the best player in the section and one of the best in the state, period, at his disposal.

Tounde Yessoufou (6-6, So.) sported averages of 26.4 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.1 spg, and 2.9 bpg during his State Freshman of the Year campaign and is a much better player today. Yessoufou can operate on the perimeter and has more explosive face-up ball skills than he did last winter. The improvement of Caedin Hamilton (6-9, Sr.) also is key because it allows Yessoufou to operate away from the basket. Luis Marin (6-5, Sr.) also is a big guard who averaged 12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, and 5.6 apg and he’ll be complemented nicely by Julius Price (6-2, Fr.), a member of Sweden’s FIBA 16U team who made a positive impression this summer when St. Joe’s beat some of the state’s best teams.

Will Kuykendall (6-3, Jr.) is the third returning starter and has all-league potential while Darian Mensah (6-3, Sr.) is a Grid-Hoop stud who can contribute in a variety of ways. Three seniors will start, so Mott feels the team will be better as the season wears on when the young bench (which includes 6-8 freshman Abdoul Bare) gets some game experience under its belt.

14. (28) Inderkum (Sacramento) 28-3

After a 7-2 mark in the 2021 CIF spring season, the Tigers played a bit better than predicted in the 2021-22 preseason, advancing to the San Joaquin Section D1 semifinals after beginning at No. 37. Inderkum could have closed even stronger if not for a late injury to graduated star Derrick Claxton.

Head coach Fred Wilson welcomes back four starters and six lettermen led by Jalen Glenn (6-5, Sr.), one of the best all-around wings in the state who is vastly underrated. Jermaine Haliburton (6-2, Sr.) also is one of the best on-ball defenders in the state and led the team in steals and deflections. Isaiah Chandavong (6-4, Sr.) is athletic and can defend multiple positions, while Rohan Sheemar (6-6, Sr.) is one of the best shooters in the section and a willing passer.

If veteran Logan Steuben (6-7, Sr.) has a big season upfront, there is no reason why the Tigers won’t be a major threat to No. 3 Modesto Christian in the SJS section and NorCal Open playoffs. Inderkum will meet No. 19 Dublin at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic.

15. (NR) Rancho Christian (Temecula) 8-17

The Eagles had a similar season to No. 14 Inderkum in the 2021 CIF spring season (going 7-4), but they just could never get on track in 2021-22 even though there was some talent on hand. On paper, this team is as talented as any, but must get everyone eligible and in cohesion after the 30-day transfer sit-out period (Dec. 26).

Kevin Patton (6-8, Sr.), a transfer from Maricopa, Ariz., and Colony transfer Kollen Murphy (6-3, Sr.) could both sit out until The Classic at Damien after Christmas. Murphy definitely will. Head coach Ray Barefield, whose 2018-19 team featuring the Mobley brothers (Cleveland Cavs) spent some time at state No. 1, is hoping for a smooth blending of the newcomers to the veterans, including Pepperdine-bound Martin Gumwell (6-11, Sr.) and Cal-bound Rodney Brown (6-6, Sr.), a terrific talent just scratching the surface off his potential. Bailey Chambers (6-3, Sr.) is another quality player, while Sam Galindo (6-8, Jr.) is a nice complement to Grumwell inside. If this team jells, the Eagles will be a major player in the CIFSS open race.

For a look at the teams we’ve ranked from No. 16 to No. 40, plus 15 more on the bubble, CLICK HERE.

Ronnie Flores is the managing editor of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

Enjoy this article?

Find out how you can get access to more exclusive content, one-of-a-kind California high school sports content!

Learn More

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


    Latest News

    Insider Blog