NBA Draft: McCain Stands Tall

Jared McCain was all smiles at the NBA Draft on Wednesday night in Brooklyn after the former Corona Centennial standout was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers. Photo: @sixers /

The 2023 Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year from Corona Centennial goes at No. 16 in the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft to the Philadelphia 76ers. There was one more from the state in the first round and there were three in the second round, with the most attention obviously on the No. 55 pick that Los Angeles Lakers made on Sierra Canyon’s Bronny James.


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The last of the five players from California high schools who heard their names called in the first or second round of the 2024 NBA Draft on Wednesday and Thursday was the one that generated the most media attention.

But before going over the details of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon’s Bronny James being selected in the second round on Thursday by legendary father LeBron James’ team, the L.A. Lakers, it’s only fair to start writing about the first four.

This year’s draft held in Brooklyn had a change in that the first round was held on Wednesday during prime time on ABC with the second round on Thursday afternoon. Previously, both the first and second rounds were ripped through in one session in one day.

Foreign-born players were expected to be the headliners at the top of the first round and they were with Frenchmen Zaccharie Risacher going at No. 1 to the Atlanta Hawks and Alex Sarr at No. 2 to the Washington Wizards.

2023 Mr. Basketball Jared McCain raises trophy after team won CIF Open Division state title in 2022 at the Golden 1 Center. Photo: Nick Koza.

California didn’t have a first player selected last year until No. 18 with Camarillo’s Jaime Jaquez to the Miami Heat. This year, the wait was slightly less at No. 16 as 2023 Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year Jared McCain from Centennial of Corona was chosen by the Philadelphia 76ers.

McCain, who played last season at Duke and helped the Blue Devils reach the Final Four, might be the most popular new NBA player next season due to his social media followers, but isn’t the biggest guard out there and perhaps dropped a few places lower than some had predicted. Regardless, the way he played in some of Duke’s postseason games may really help him on a contending team like the 76ers.

The second player from the state who went in the first round was more of a surprise as there weren’t too many mocks we saw that had A.J. Johnson of Australian pro team Illawara going in the first round. But the Fresno native who played at more than one California high school made an impression on scouts of the Milwaukee Bucks and they took him at No. 23 in the first round.

Johnson first played as a freshman at San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno. He then went to Taft of Woodland Hills where he was the leading scorer for the 2021-22 season at 16.7 ppg. The 6-foot-4 guard didn’t finish with the Toreadors and played one season for the Spire Academy prep school team in Ohio. That was followed by playing one season professionally in Australia. It wasn’t exactly similar to Chino Hills’ LaMelo Ball, who played one season in Australia and left Chino Hills before his junior season.

Second Round: Three Between 39-55

One of the fastest risers we’ve ever seen has been Folsom’s Jaylen Wells. The second team all-state overall selection for the 2021 is now headed to the Memphis Grizzlies with a No. 39 selection in the second round of this year’s draft.

Bronny James received all-state second team overall honors after his senior season. Photo: Sierra Canyon Athletics.

Wells played last season for Washington State and averaged nearly 13 ppg, including a night when he hit for 27 against UCLA. The 6-foot-4 guard was a JV player when he started out at Folsom, but came out of the pandemic a different person. In his senior season, Wells was the Sacramento Bee All-Metro MVP and averaged 26.5 ppg. He initially wasn’t recruited by major colleges, but went to Washington State as a transfer from Sonoma State.

Another Pac-12 guard from last season, K.J. Simpson of Colorado, was then picked three places behind Wells at No. 42 in the second round by the Charlotte Hornets. Simpson is from Chaminade of West Hills. He was first team all-state in the same season (2021) that Wells was second team. Simpson was not any kind of a late bloomer like Wells, either. He had an honor-filled four-year career at Chaminade and will be the first Eagles’ player to be in the NBA. K.J. averaged more than 22 ppg as a senior and his career total of 2,342 points did land him a spot on the all-time state list since it takes 2,300 or more to get on.

This now brings us to Bronny James later in the second round. It was long speculated that the Lakers were going to take the son of their superstar in the second round and they did at No. 55. He’s never had the overwhelming size and power of his dad, but has always had projectable athleticism. The production hasn’t always been there, but this last season at USC he was coming off of a heart-related health scare. Bronny’s best season at Sierra Canyon, which had a loaded roster of future NBA players older than him for his earlier seasons, was his senior season in 2023. He finished at 14.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 apg and 1.7 spg in 27 games for a team that went 23-11 and finished ranked No. 7 in the state. That led to a more than solid showing at the McDonald’s All-American Game.

For us, the biggest news about Bronny going in the second round is that it kept alive a streak of years (it’s now at five) in which at least one player from Sierra Canyon has been chosen in either the first or second round of the NBA Draft. The Trailblazers also have had at least one player picked in the first or second round six times in the last seven years. There are many Power 5 college programs that would love to say the same thing.

Amari Bailey, the 2021 Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year, went in the second round last season to the Hornets. The streak began in the 2018 NBA Draft when Marvin Bagley (went to Sierra Canyon as a junior before reclassing and leaving for Duke the next season) was chosen at No. 2 overall by the Sacramento Kings. There were no Trailblazers chosen in 2019, but then in 2020 there were two in the second round, Kenyon Martin Jr. and Cassius Stanley. The streak has continued since then with Ziaire Williams in the first round and Brandon Boston in the second round and then in 2022 with Christian Koloko in the second round.

Former Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks standout Caleb Foster, who played at Duke last season with Jared McCall, is projected to be a first round selection for the 2025 NBA Draft.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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