This group of team writeups begins at No. 13 and continues through teams to watch. Compton, El Camino Real and Modesto Christian could be more talented than preseason ranking and might rocket up the charts with a few key wins.
(Continued from Part I; last year’s final rating in parentheses with last year’s win-loss record)
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13. Compton 19-10 (NR)
The Tarbabes are similar to St. John Bosco in regards to how their roster looks on paper, but the pieces must jell together and prove they can win in the regional playoffs. This perimeter-oriented team has a solid combination of experience, depth and talented newcomers. Isaiah Bailey (6-5, Jr.) is the most talented player in the Moore League who doesn’t play for Long Beach Poly and Iziahiah Sweeney (6-3, Jr.) is another returning all-leaguer with high major offers. Kyron Cartwright (5-10, Jr.) is quickly developing into one of California’s top underclass point guards and coach Tony Thomas expects contributions from newcomers such as Robert Lewis (6-0, So.), RaySean Scott Jr. (6-4, Fr.) and Chris Barnes (6-3, Fr.).
14. Santa Monica 20-9 (NR)
Playing in the Ocean League against the likes of Inglewood and Beverly Hills, it was the Vikings who captured the league title last season before having their season end in the CIFSS Division IAA quarterfinals. With three returning starters, 10 returning and with the addition of players from a JV team that went 24-2, SaMoHi should be slammin’. Guard Jordan Matthews (6-2, Sr.) averaged 21.9 points per game last season and was named to the Cal-Hi Sports all-state junior team after earning MVP honors in the Ocean League. Coach James Hecht has said the team should should be very athletic and quick with lots of experience and depth. Starting point guard Trevis Jackson (6-0, Sr.) not only will control the ball on the court but also will control the student body as its president.
15. Inglewood 23-11 (NR)
Despite suffering numerous losses against a tough schedule, veteran coach Pat Roy’s squad came on strong down the stretch last season and won the CIFSS Division 2AA title. The Sentinels won’t sneak up on anyone this season with just a handful of letterwinners lost and the addition of guard Brandon Randolph (6-3, Sr.), last year’s Division V State Player of the Year at St. Bernard of Playa del Rey. Center Nicholas Smiley (6-7, Sr.), who was the CIFSS D2AA Player of the Year, leads the group of returnees.
16. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 30-4 (30)
The Dons look to be a solid No. 2 in San Diego with four starters back after they reached the CIF SoCal Division III Regional semifinals where they lost to eventual state champion Alemany of Mission Hills. A balanced offense that saw five players average between eight and 13 points was led by forward Xavier Williams (6-3, Sr.), who averaged 13.1 points per game, and forward Niksha Federico (6-4, Sr.), who averaged 12.4. Williams was a first team all-league selection while also back are guard Nick Prunty (6-1, Sr.) and guard Brandon Michel (5-10, Sr.) who were both named all-league second team last year.
17. Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) 30-5 (19)
Pac Hills split with Windward in Alpha League play last year, but was not in the loaded CIFSS Division IV-AA playoff bracket and went on to win a division crown. Coach Ivan Barahona loses CIFSS Div. IV-A Player of the Year Brandon Taylor and Jason Kidd Jr. to graduation, but those were the only two letter winners lost. Pac Hills doesn’t have as much inside firepower as Windward potentially does, but all-section guard Marcus Jackson (6-3, Sr.) and transfer Jahmel Taylor (6-1, Jr.) will make this team tough to beat. Wing Namon Wright (6-4, Jr.) is one of the quickest players in the state and if he consistently scores over 15 points per game the Bruins might be better this year than last.
18. Newark Memorial (Newark) 28-5 (13)
Head coach Craig Ashmore’s Cougars return two key starters from a squad that reached the CIF Northern California Division II Regional Finals where they lost by five points to eventual state champ Archbishop Mitty of San Jose. Among the returning players this season are forward Damian Banford (6-6, Jr.) and guard Joey Frenchwood (6-1, Jr.). Banford can bang with the best of them in the paint while Frenchwood is a returning all-leaguer. Ashmore also has center Matthew Thomas (6-10, Sr.) ready to step into a starring role. With the team’s size and coaching, there shouldn’t be too much of a dropoff from last year.
19. Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 23-5 (21)
Veteran coach Doug Mitchell has another powerhouse squad brewing in the South Bay. The Knights were good enough last year despite their youth to post wins over Westchester, Taft of Woodland Hills and Serra of Gardena. This year’s team will be led by Pepperdine-bound forward Lamond Murray Jr. (6-4, Sr.), who led the way last season with 20.2 points per game. Guard Justin Bibbins (5-9, Jr.) also already has all-state credentials on his resume while guard Stephen Thompson Jr. (6-1, Soph.) has already made a name for himself as the son of the 1986 Division I State Player of the Year from Crenshaw of Los Angeles.
20. Windward (Los Angeles) 20-9 (22)
The Wildcats get the nod over up-and-coming L.A. City Section club El Camino Real for the 20th slot, which had a standout summer, because of their big-game experience and recent track record of success in the state playoffs. Windward coach Miguel Villegas, who has won state titles in two different divisions the last four years, loves what his three-year starting backcourt brings to the table. Jordan Wilson (5-10, Sr.) had a breakout junior campaign and Charles Dawson (5-9, Sr.) is an able defender and ball-handler. The frontcourt is not as experienced, but ultra gifted with a trio of sophomores — Mason Shepard (6-7), Roy Hemsley (6-6) and Roman Davis (6-4) — who each bring something different to the table.
Next 15 teams that received consideration for the Top 20:
21. El Camino Real (Woodland Hills) 27-8 (NR)
The 2012 L.A. City Section Division II champs begin the season as the section’s top-rated team above traditional Division I powers with five starters back, including D2 City Player of the Year Julian Richardson (6-3, Jr.), Maleke Haynes (5-11, Jr.) and rapidly improving Michael Thomas (6-6, Sr.).
22. Oak Park (Agoura Hills) 25-9 (31)
There’s a lot to like about the Eagles with three starters and six lettermen returning, including Ventura County MVP Ron Lee Jr. (6-2, Sr.), one of the few players in the state capable of carrying a team.
23. Serra (Gardena) 31-3 (12)
The Cavs lost a ton to graduation, but point guard Ellis Salahuddin (5-10, So.) and Emmanual Ndumanya (6-10, Sr.) are expected to play bigger roles and the team will receive a boost from Pasadena transfer Ajon Efferson (5-11, Jr.) and Grid-Hooper Adoree Jackson (6-0, Jr.).
24. Serra (San Mateo) 24-7 (NR)
Princeton-bound Henry Caruso was one of the top players in the West Catholic Athletic League last season and the Padres also will be welcoming back top-notch guard Andre Miller, their second-leading scorer. They lost in the Division II NorCal playoffs last year to Newark Memorial by just two points and gave Archbishop Mitty some close league contests.
25. Modesto Christian 28-6 (NR)
Led by senior Raymond Bowles, a University of the Pacific commit who averaged 18.6 points per game last season, the Crusaders return all five starters and nearly their entire team that reached the CIF NorCal Division IV semifinals. Also back is forward Anthony Townes (6-7, Soph.), an all-state freshman, plus there’s the addition of transfer guard T.J. Wallace (6-3, Sr.), who is also going to Pacific and who was the 2012 Stockton Record Player of the Year at McNair of Stockton.
26. Central (Fresno) 21-7 (NR)
Murshid Randle, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, is one of the top returning Class of 2014 players in the state and teams with talented classmate Darius Hamilton (6-5, Jr.) to make the Grizzlies the preseason team to beat in the CIF Central Section. Central also has two other top returnees in guard L.J. Moore (6-1, Sr.) and forward Desmond Brown (6-6, Sr.).
27. Sacramento 23-6 (NR)
With a team that had just three seniors, the Dragons still managed to earn the No. 2 seed in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs before a surprising second-round loss to No. 7 Lodi. Two of those players that should be key factors are guard Joseph Barnes (6-2, Sr.), who averaged 11.9 points and 5.2 rebounds and forward James Hadnot (6-6, Sr.), who averaged 9.8 points and 6.9 rebounds.
28. Fairfax (Los Angeles) 20-10 (39)
The Lions start outside the top 25 for the first time since the 1997-98 season, but could hop right back in if veterans Reggie Theus Jr. (6-5, Sr.) and Chauncey Hill (6-6, Sr.) show improvement and Lorne Currie Jr. (6-1, Soph.) lives up to his advance billing.
29. Westchester (Los Angeles) 22-8 (40)
The six-time Division I state champs might be a year away from a return to elite status, but could make noise if talented newcomers from a 25-1 J.V. team, such as Myles Stewart (6-4, Jr.) and Josh Rideau (6-8, Jr.), compliment veteran Matthew Grant (6-3, Sr.).
30. Price (Los Angeles) 26-9 (11)
The CIF Southern California Division IV state champs lost a lot of firepower, but Chance Murray (6-3, Sr.) does return as the building block and coach Michael Lynch is excited about his team’s defensive capabilities on the perimeter with players such as Chris Martin (5-11, Jr.).
31. Village Christian (Sun Valley) 33-3 (NR)
Last season’s CIF Division V state champion should be strong again with three starters back, including highly recruited forward Bryan Alberts (6-6, Jr.), who led the team with 18.4 points per game last season. The Crusaders also return center Marsalis Johnson (6-7, Jr.), who averaged 14.8 points and was an all-league selection.
32. Foothill (Santa Ana) 21-5 (NR)
The defending Century League champs return three starters and 11 lettermen, including three-year standout Steven Browne (6-7, Sr.) and Justin Davis (5-11, Sr.), from a well-coached team that lost to Mater Dei by just 12 points in the playoffs.
33. Bullard (Fresno) 31-4 (8)
Head coach Tony Admundsen led his Knights to the CIF Division I Southern Regional Finals last season after a shocking buzzer beating win against Long Beach Poly and they once again should be solid with just four seniors lost from last year’s roster. Bullard returns both guard Adam Armstead (6-4, Sr.) and point guard Austin Armstead (6-3, Soph.), but will miss graduated Aaric Armstead, who led the team in scoring.
34. Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 19-10 (NR)
Veteran coach Greg Hilliard (573-203 at school, 707-276 overall) likes his backcourt and also has some experience up front with Derick Newton (6-5, Jr.) and David Winfield Jr. (6-10, Sr.), the son of the MLB hall of famer.
35. Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 26-6 (26)
It’s just too hard to leave the Dragons completely off the list. They reached the NorCal Division III final last season and will feature forward Ivan Rabb (6-9, Soph.), one of the nation’s top-ranked power forward prospects for his class. New coach Lou Richie does have a lot of other open starting spots to fill, but depth at O’Dowd has never been a problem.
Teams on the Bubble (Listed Alphabetically):
Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo) 25-7
Cantwell Sacred-Heart (Montebello) 27-6
Centennial (Corona) 7-19
Crespi (Encino) 24-8
Hoover (San Diego) 28-5
JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 17-12
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 34-3
La Verne Lutheran (La Verne) 25-8
Lutheran (Orange) 22-11
Mayfair (Lakewood) 27-6
Mission Viejo 28-5
Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 22-6
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 28-6
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 14-15
St. Anthony (Long Beach) 17-10
St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 29-5
St. Mary’s (Stockton) 22-7
Taft (Woodland Hills) 29-4
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