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 and NorCal open contender Branson of Ross and includes the rest of these teams down to No. 40 Vanden of Fairfield, plus a list of 25 more teams that just missed.
Note: All of our new weekly rankings this upcoming season after this free version for the preseason will be posts for our Gold Club members only. This subscription is still just pennies per day and signing up in the preseason is a great time to do it. If you like this free post, that’s great. Consider it a sample of what we do every week for Gold Club members. For details how to join our team today, CLICK HERE.
To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.
16. (NR) Branson (Ross) 28-4
With four returning starters and eight lettermen, the Bulls could challenge for the NorCal open crown after winning the last two NCS D3 titles. Coach Demetrius Roquemore has one of the best backcourts in the West Region with Semetri Carr (6-1, Jr.), a cat-quick point guard, and Illinois-bound Jase Butler (6-4, Sr.), a physical guard who can score or go inside for a key rebound or finish. Finley Keefe (6-6, Sr.) is another veteran who is primed for a big senior year, while Ty Landers (6-7, So.) could be in store for a break-out campaign. James Butler (6-0, So.), N.J. Gray (5-10, Fr.) and Heath French (6-3, Fr.) add depth to what could turn out to be the best team in school history.
The inside work of Keefe and Landers will be key since Roquemore is a bit concerned about his team’s interior against the level of competition the Bulls will face. The Bulls will take on No. 21 Mitty at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic and will play in three excellent tournaments: The Gridley Invitational, the Tarkanian Classic and The Classic at Damien.
17. (31) JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 22-9
The Lions begin a tad higher than last season (No. 23) and the expectations are higher, too, as coach Keith Wilkinson feels his team is better than last year’s unit that tied for third in the Trinity League. CIFSS D1 quarterfinalists don’t make the regional but are often much better than regional qualifiers from other playoff divisions. That was the case last season for JSerra a season after finishing 4-6 in league play yet advancing to the 2022 CIFSS D1 final.
The optimism is high because of the return of the best front court player, Colorado-bound Sebastian Rancik (6-10, Sr.), and the best backcourt player, Aidan Fowler (6-0, Sr.). Rancik returns from a summer European stay bigger and stronger, while Fowler is a cat-quick point guard who has many weapons to work with. The Lions also are one of the bigger teams in the state with Jumaa Kitendo (6-11, So.), Jarne Elouna-Eyenga (6-8. Sr.) and Godschoice Eboigbodin (6-6, Sr.) in the fold. Two other veterans Wilkinson will count on are Braeden Byrne (6-6, Sr.) and Jel Malek (6-5, Sr.). JSerra is capable of big wins, splitting with No. 2 St John Bosco last season, but must keep the loss count closer to five in order to move up from this spot.
18. (NR) Damien (La Verne) 26-5
After going 29-4 in the 2021 CIF Spring season and winning the CIF D1 title in 2021-22, the Spartans’ expectations were much lower last season. They weren’t ranked in the preseason last year and didn’t finish ranked, but should be much improved in 2023-24.
Nate Garcia (7-0, Sr.) was the 2023 Baseline League MVP and with his size, is just a unique check for the vast majority of teams in California. His improvement should open up lanes for Xavier Clinton (6-4, Sr.), a returning all-Baseline League performer. The two other regulars are Lucas Arrieta (6-1, Jr.) and talented Eli Garner (6-4, So.). Garner is an oozing talent in an incredible class statewide and if he takes his game to the next level, Damien will be a viable CIFSS open threat. Garcia was the Classic at Damien’s Bronze Division MVP last season, but the host club is back up with the big boys in the Platinum Division this season.
19. (9) St. Joseph (Santa Maria) 28-7
The Knights have won 27, 27, and 28 games the past three seasons and the goal should be to get to around that number again with this unit. Coach Tom Mott’s (455-200) club started at No. 13 the past two seasons, but expectations are a bit tempered this time as three starters and some key depth was lost from last season’s NorCal open title club.
As long as Tounde Yessoufou (6-6, Jr.) is around, however, the Knights will have a chance against any Central Section or NorCal club, as he can single-handedly take over games with his unique combination of skill and power. As a sophomore, the first team all-state choice (only one of nine in state history retroactively dating back to 1954-55) averaged 27.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 3.7 spg and 1.3 bpg. The other standout is Julius Price (6-2, So.), who started as a freshman and averaged 13.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.9 apg and 1.7 spg while displaying a mature game.
Mott lost plenty of firepower up front, so the development of Abdoul Bare (6-9, So.) will be key to the fortunes of the defending Valley open champions. Price’s younger brother, Malcolm Price (6-0, Fr.), and Gunnar Morinini (5-11, So.), who averaged 21 ppg on the JV team, also may see the floor more as the season wears on for a team that will need some role players to step up in order to defend its Central Section open crown. Tounde and crew will make stops at the Alaska Airlines Classic in Anchorage Alaska, the King Cotton Classic in Pine Bluff, Ark., and the Capital City Classic in Salem, Ore.
20. (NR) Carlsbad 24-7
Last year the top preseason team in the CIF San Diego Section had CIF open title game aspirations, and St. Augustine (which began at No. 11) did win one game in the SoCal open playoffs. Expectations are scaled back for the section this season, but the Lancers are the early line favorites for their section’s open title after falling to No. 36 Montgomery in the open semifinals last year.
Jake Hall (6-3, Jr.) averaged 26.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.0 apg and 2.5 spg and could be in line for County Player of the Year honors. He’s flanked by Tony Duckett Jr. (6-2 Sr.), a cat-quick guard who averaged 18.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.9 spg and 1.8 bpg. It’s the three newcomers that can help take this team to the next level and the reason why the Lancers get the nod over Montgomery. Pepperdine-bound Jael Martin (6-9, Sr.) will give this team a dimension no other county team contains and opens up opportunities for the perimeter players, while offering a level of rim protection necessary outside the section.
After the 30-day sit out period, Euan Davis (6-2, Sr.) will make a big impact and Deuce Sims (6-1, Sr.) adds to the potent offense. Last season, the San Diego Section got a big-time benefit of the doubt in the SoCal D1 seeding and not surprisingly it went 0-6 in the first round. That means the Lancers and Montgomery have work to do in order to move higher than this spot in the rankings.
21. (17) Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 21-6
The defending co-champs of the WCAL with No. 8 Riordan starts off right in the range it has in recent seasons. Last season, Mitty began and finished No. 17 after starting out 2021-22 in the same spot it does this season. After a 17-1 2021 spring season, coach Tim Kennedy (326-118) is going for a piece of his third consecutive regular season WCAL crown and with three returning starters has the horses to do it. Gavin Ripp (6-7, Sr.) is a returning all-WCAL performer who gives Mitty the ability to switch on defense and draw double teams on offense. Tyler Jones (6-3, Sr.) is headed to UC-Riverside and Nathan Noronha (6-0, Sr.) was second team all-WCAL and is primed to lead this club to another NorCal open berth. Kai Groleau (6-3, Sr.) is another key cog and transfer Caden Hutcherson (6-3, So.) comes highly-regarded.
22. (25) Clovis North (Clovis) 23-8
The Broncos have high expectations, but need to stay healthy and show consistency in order to move into the Top 20 and challenge No. 11 Clovis West and No. 19 St. Joe’s for the Valley open crown. Jordan Espinoza (6-3, Sr.) was the TRAC Player of the Year in 2022-23 and Loukas Jones (6-2, Jr.) is another honors candidate. Last year this team split with Clovis West (and lost to bubble club Bakersfield Christian in the section playoffs) without the services of Connor Amundsen (5-10, Sr.), coach Tony Amundsen’s son, because of two shoulder surgeries. The talented lead guard is also coming off a broken wrist, but he’ll be ready to go while his younger brother McKae Amundsen (5-7, So.) also looks to step up.
23. (13) Etiwanda 26-6
Coach Danny Ryan is now in his second season at the helm following legendary IE coach Dave Kleckner (over 700 career wins) and the Eagles will win many games with their strong defensive principles and talent level. The expectations are not quite as high as they were during Kleck’s final seasons and the team did lose some of its interior strength to transfer, but the senior core is quality. Carrington Pierce (6-1, Sr.) was an all-Baseline League performer at point guard while Amare Campbell (6-0, Sr.) returns as the leading scorer (11.3) ppg and all-leaguer. Christian Harris (6-3, Sr.) is vastly underrated and will increase his scoring output (8.4 ppg) while Zion Booker (6-5, Jr.) could be due for a breakout season. If Booker takes his game to the next level, Clamp City could be moving into the Top 20.
24. (NR) Windward (Los Angeles) 23-8
The Wildcats didn’t have a particularly noteworthy 2022-23 season, but that sophomore-oriented group is a year older and showed well in fall league competition. If that junior core continues to improve, it should give No. 14 Campbell Hall all it can handle in the Gold Coast League. Gavin Hightower (6-1, Jr.) is a supreme scoring threat with jet speed, while Jeremiah Hampton (6-4, Jr.) is a smooth lefty who can score inside and out. Next season he’ll join Hightower as a four-year regular for coach D.J Gay. J.J. Harris (6-6, Jr.), the son for former Cal-Hi Sports Hot 100 and USC guard Burt Harris (L.A. Fairfax), is oozing with potential, while Louis Bond (6-5, Jr.) is a terrific glue player.
25. (10) Modesto Christian 27-7
The Crusaders have been in the thick of the CIF open race the last two seasons (when they started out No. 6 and No. 3, respectively), but will take a step back this year due to heavy graduation losses off a team that was one game shy of a second straight CIF Open title game appearance. Coach Brice Fantazia (169-42) has a nice core that includes a mix of veterans and newcomers. The lone returning starter is Rashad Cotton Jr. (6-1, So.), a fearless guard who should average well over 15 ppg, while Jeremiah Bernard (6-0, Sr.) is a cagy veteran. The talented transfers include Myles Jones (6-3, So.), Gavin Sykes (6-4, Jr.), Marcus Washington (6-6, Sr.) and Ryan Atkins (6-7, Jr.) for a club that could be dangerous come playoff time after the 30-day sit outs build cohesiveness with the regulars.
The Next 15
26. (22) San Ramon Valley (Danville) 26-8
The Wolves were sneaky good in 2022-23, and could be even better this year with seven lettermen returning from a club that tied for third place in the powerful East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) with four teams. This NorCal D1 playoff entrant returns two-time all-EBAL wing Seamus Neely (6-5, Sr.) and Luke Isaak (6-2, Jr.). Isaak is a knock down shooter and was the Gold Division MVP at the Damien Classic last season. SRV, which plays Capital Christian at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic, is back in the Gold Division at the Damien Classic along with No. 10 St. Bernard, No. 12 St. Pius-St. Matthias, No. 23 Etiwanda, No. 30 Redondo Union and No. 37 La Mirada.
27. (NR) Heritage Christian (Northridge) 20-12
The Warriors began at No. 32 last year after their 2021-22 season was a disappointment when they began at No. 11. The playoff performance was better last season and coach Paul Tait (178-84) returns three junior starters and adds a special freshman to a unit that lost a close game to No. 3 Mater Dei in the CIFSS D1 playoffs. Tae Simmons (6-6, Jr.) is a beast in the post and Dillan Shaw (6-5, Jr.) is a smooth scoring wing and both could be in line for all-state underclass honors. Roman Fisher (6-2, Jr.) can play either guard spot and will help bring along Josiah Nance (6-5, Fr.), who could be a State Freshman of the Year candidate if the Warriors beat some teams ranked ahead of them. Should No. 14 Campbell Hall fail to qualify for the CIFSS open playoffs, a potential CIFSS 2AA final between that club and the Warriors would be a doozy. All the other CIFSS state ranked clubs are classified as D1.
28. (NR) Crean Lutheran (Irvine) 23-8
Another team that could be a factor in the CIFSS D1 playoff race is the Saints. After all, coach Nate Klitzing not only has last season’s league MVP returning in Kaiden Bailey (6-3, So.), one of the better lead guards in the loaded 2026 class, but the 2021-22 choice as well. That would be Vyctorius Miller (6-5, Sr.) who left for a prep school in Arizona last season but is back in the fold. He was all-state as a sophomore and is a legit first team all-state talent. Klitzing also welcomes Troy Jenkins (6-4, Sr.) from Sonora of La Habra and the interior is manned by Milanas Luksas (6-10, Sr.) and Jacob Majok (6-7, So.).
29. (NR) Weston Ranch (Stockton) 19-11
The Cougars are chomping at the bit to make noise on a statewide level and challenge No. 25 Modesto Christian for the CIF Sac Joaquin Section D1 crown. Last year, this club defeated No. 16 Branson in the NorCal D1 playoffs and could be better this year with the addition of Cornell-bound Mateen Rafiq (5-11, Sr.). This high-level 3-point sniper averaged 27 ppg, 7 rpg, and 4 apg at El Camino (Sacramento) and even though his numbers could go down, he could be more potent. That’s because Richard Banks (6-3, Sr.) and Darrion Lilly (6-5, Jr.) are top-notch players in their own right for coach Nicholas Podesta (51-30). Banks averaged 13 ppg, 4 rpg and 4 apg, while Lilly averaged 7 ppg and 4 rpg. Izaias White (6-3, Sr.) is another key new piece for a club that opens with bubble club Bakersfield Christian at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic.
30. (NR) Redondo Union (Redondo Beach) 20-10
Three starters return for veteran coach Reggie Morris Jr. (126-39 in two stints at Redondo), making the Sea Hawks the slight favorite for the Bay League title over No. 32 Mira Costa. The Mustangs won the title last season by one game. Devin Ringer (6-3, Sr.) and Sean “S.J.” Madison (6-2, So.) are highly-regarded, while Hudson Mayes (6-3, Jr.) returns from ACL surgery and could take this team to the next level when he gets to 100 percent. Newcomers Devin Wright (6-2, So.) and Chris Sanders (6-3, Fr.) also will make an impact.
31. (NR) Lynwood 28-11
The Knights are a CIF state champ and return their team en masse, but considering it was in D5 The Wood has significant work to do in order to move into the weekly State Top 25. This sophomore-oriented bunch is dynamite offensively, led by Jason Crowe (6-4, So.), the state freshman of the year who scored 1,295 points (No. 3 all-time in state history) as a 14-year old. While he averaged 36 ppg, Chace Holley (6-1, So.) averaged 15.5 ppg and was terrific during the summer in games Crowe sat out, while Jahaz Wright (6-0, So.) averaged 12.8 ppg using a more power game. Rebounding at a state-ranked level remains a concern.
32. (23) Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) 28-4
Coach Neal Perlmutter lost a terrific senior core off a Bay League championship team, but has a nice junior group that’s good enough for an encore league performance. The Mustangs, which won the league crown at 9-1 over 8-2 Redondo, have one of the most unheralded standouts in the state in Jacob De Armas (6-4, Jr.), a big guard who can beat teams in multiple ways. Another standout is Preston Ezewiro (6-7, Jr.) for a club that could be dynamite in 2024-25. The Mustangs won one of the divisions of Cali Live 2023, the first June scholastic live period event in the state that drew 163 teams and over 190 college coaches.
33. (NR) Bosco Tech (Rosemead) 27-7
The Tigers won the CIFSS 5AA title over No. 31 Lynwood and have a strong core back. Ryan Osborne (6-4, Sr.) and Jaden Erami (6-2, Jr.) were all-CIFSS selections and are flanked by Darius Benitez (5-10. Jr.). Erami is especially talented, with one of the better offensive games among juniors in the Southland. This team has an upgraded schedule, but falling completely flat against San Pedro (87-72) in the SoCal D4 regionals after beating Lynwood is concerning if this unit is to make a move towards the Top 25.
34. (NR) Monterey Trail (Elk Grove) 15-14
A team that could be hot on the heels of No. 25 Modesto Christian and No. 28 West Ranch in the quest for the Sac Joaquin Section D1 crown is the Mustangs, who have a nice core of returnees. Coach Robert Fields has a nice 1-2 punch in Brandon Gibson Jr. (6-5, Sr.) and Damarion Vann-Kelly (6-2, Sr.), while Rashawn Inglemon (5-10, Jr.) and Derron White (5-11, Jr.) are scrappy guards who don’t back down from anyone. Similar to No. 32 Mira Costa, the Mustangs won a Cali Live ’23 Division, as did state-ranked clubs Corona Centennial, Salesian, and Mitty.
35. (16) Rancho Christian (Temecula) 24-11
The Eagles were serious CIFSS open contenders last year, but expectations are a bit lower this season after some key graduation losses. The talent level is still high for coach Ray Barfield, whose club defeated No. 37 La Mirada for the CIFSS D2A title. Kallai Patton (6-3, Sr.), Sam Galindo (6-8, Sr.) and Jaden Smoot (6-2, Jr.) have plenty of experience. Brian Amuneke (6-5, Sr.), Yeshua Kessa-Beda (6-7, Jr.) and Corona Centennial transfer Santana Huff (6-2, Sr.) could be the difference-makers for a team now in the CIFSS D1 ranks.
36. (36) Montgomery (San Diego) 25-7
We start the Aztecs in the same spot they finished last season after losing to No. 32 Mira Costa by four points in the SoCal D1 playoffs. The San Diego Section open runner-ups return their best players, including J.J. Sanchez (6-5, Jr.), who averaged 18.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.5 spg. His brother Alek “Flako” Sanchez (6-4, Jr.) is a bit more perimeter-inclined but just as effective scoring and play-making while Xair Mendez (6-2, Sr.) is an underrated guard. How many games will San Diego win in the SoCal open and D1 regional this year? We’ll see.
37. (34) La Mirada 25-10
One of the state’s top shooting guards, Julien Gomez (6-2, Jr.), will be the main focal point for the Matadores, who had a win over Bakersfield Christian in the CIF SoCal D2 playoffs before going out with a three-point loss to a 31-win team from Oxnard. Gomez showed he could score buckets in bushels against the best competition and finished with averages of 26.6 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Head coach Randy Oronez also will have a lineup bolstered by the addition of Gene Roebuck (6-4, Fr.), who is considered one of the best incoming ninth graders in California. If returnees like Isaiah Valenzuela (6-2, Sr.) and Morgan Smith (6-3, Sr.) can improve their production, La Mirada could go far this season.
38. (35) Lincoln (Stockton) 25-5
Three of the four leading scorers from a Trojans’ squad that last season went into overtime before falling short in a Sac-Joaquin Section D1 playoff game to eventual NorCal Open runner-up Modesto Christian will be back. Anthony Moore (6-5, Jr.) averaged 14.7 ppg and Donez Lindsey (5-9, Jr.) averaged 13.2 ppg. Both will be three-year varsity regulars. Quentin Thompson (6-5, Sr.) was just under 10 ppg but in that playoff game vs MC he had 20. Another plus for Lincoln is the arrival of transfer Zeke Davis (6-3, Jr.), who played key minutes last season at Modesto Christian. The Tri-City Athleic League games between those two teams should be terrific.
39. (NR) Crespi (Encino) 25-5
All of the excitement surrounding the Celts is naturally due to new head coach Derek Fisher coming on board. Getting beyond that glitter, though, the former L.A. Laker and NBA star should have a lot to work with, although the group is still quite young compared to some of other teams it will face in the Mission League. The top returnee is Joe Sterling (6-3, So.), who was one of the leading ninth graders in the Southland last season. Peyton White (6-5, Jr.) is coming off of an injury that knocked him out of action for the end of last season but is good to go for this season. Coach Fisher’s son, Drew, (6-4 Sr.), and incoming freshmen Carter (5-11) and Isaiah Barnes (6-0), who are the sons of former NBA player Matt Barnes, are other players to watch.
40. (NR) Vanden (Travis AFB) 25-11
The Vikings have been toiling in this range of the preseason rankings for three years and are looking to capture their second CIF Sac Joaquin Section D3 crown in three years. Last year it came in as the favorite, but fell to Sacramento in the section final before losing to San Joaquin Memorial in the NorCal D2 final. Montana-bound Tyler Thompson (6-5, Sr.) has already been all-state underclass twice and could be the difference-maker. Ashan Huff (6-6, Sr.) and Nathan Hibbert (6-4, So.) are two more key cogs.
Five Teams That Just Missed
Bakersfield Christian 22-10
Bentley Waller (6-4, Sr.) one of the best point guards in the state.
Mission Bay (San Diego) 24-10
Charlie Hutchinson (6-7, Sr.) one of several Bucs who are still playing football.
Pacifica Christian (Newport Beach) 27-10
The D2 state runner-up from last season still have E.J. Spillman (6-4, Jr.) and Alex Stewart (6-5, Jr.) as part of its starting lineup.
San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) 26-9
Dre Davis (6-7, Sr.) and Julius Olanrewaju (6-5, Jr.) are back for D2 state champs.
West Ranch (Valencia) 29-3
There are heavy graduation losses for the D4 state champs, but there’s some size with James Evans (6-6, Sr.) and Tracy Bryden (6-9, Sr.).
20 More Teams To Watch
*(NR) Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 20-10
*(NR) Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 16-12
*(8) Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 28-5
*(NR) Bullard (Fresno) 18-12
*(NR) Centennial (Bakersfield) 23-6
*(NR) Crossroads (Santa Monica) 22-9
*(NR) Foothill (Tustin) 24-6
*(NR) Jesuit (Carmichael) 26-5
*(NR) Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 13-16
*(NR) Los Alamitos 23-7
*(NR) Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 23-7
*(NR) Oakland 26-8*
*(NR) Poly (Riverside) 17-11
*(NR) Rancho Cucamonga 23-8
*(NR) Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 19-12
*(NR) St. Anthony (Long Beach) 14-14
*(5) St. Augustine (San Diego) 28-5
*(NR) Sheldon (Sacramento) 14-14
*(NR) St. Paul (Santa Fe Springs) 19-12
*(NR) Torrey Pines (San Diego) 18-12
To check out the teams we ranked from No. 1 to No. 15, CLICK HERE.