CERRITOS, LYNWOOD and WESTMINSTER, Calif. — The first weekend of October presented the opportunity to partake in a Southern California prep hoops trifecta and I couldn’t help but partake.
The first stop was Saturday night at Gahr high school in Cerritos - where it feels like 6.0 earthquake is hitting every time someone dribbles the ball - for Ryan Silver’s West Coast Elite High Academic Fall Showcase.
Silver, the head-man behind the Earl Watson Elite AAU program who focuses as much on the 40-year plan as he does on the basketball side of the development of young men, put together another good event just as he always does.
There was a solid mix of scholar athletes ranging from the eighth grade to seniors in high school and from the projected NAIA ranks to potential Division I talent.
My player of the evening went to 2017 Santa Margarita forward Adrease Jackson. The junior has sprouted to a legitimate 6-feet-8 and plays with an undying motor that’s lost on a lot of prep players in this age of basketball.
Jackson, who transferred to Santa Margarita from Las Flores Tesoro, is exactly the kind of player the Eagles needed to make a run at Santa Ana Mater Dei for the Trinity League title in the upcoming season.
Another standout of what we’ll refer to as the “upperclassmen” was senior guard Koko Kurdoghlian of La Canada.
The 6-foot-3, 170-ish pounder was the best outside shooter in the gym, always staying on balance, repeating his mechanics and with a pretty follow through and rotation.
Silver had a handful of his youngsters on hand, as well, and one of the more impressive prospects was sophomore point guard David Atencio of Huntington Beach Edison.
Atencio is a solid 6-feet-2 and 160 pounds with speed, handle, toughness, IQ and a high motor thanks in large-part to his football background. He’s the starting safety at Edison and plays a little wide receiver, too.
Another sophomore to watch is Gahr’s own Gary Williams. The long-armed and athletic 6-foot-3 wing, who transferred from Artesia, has the tools to be a Division I prospect. He’s smooth the ball in his hands, can get to the basket and finish and has a sweet-looking jumper.
Class of 2019 point guard Dorian Stewart might be small in stature (5-7, 140), but he has major game. The freshman at Culver City High has a great understanding for the point guard position and showcased playmaking ability with high-level ball handling and vision.
There were a number of pre-high schoolers on hand, as well, and a few to keep an eye on are 2020’s Paris Dawson, Jadon Jones, Jahveon Medeari, Austin Cook, Justin Kirkpatrick and Joseph Johnson.
After a short night’s sleep it was off the Lynwood High on Sunday where youth hoops savant Julius von Hanzlik was hosting the Julius V. Select 24, a two-game showcase with some of the top young talent in SoCal.
The first game was for current freshmen (and a couple of eighth graders) and a couple of familiar names stood out.
Freshman Jake Kyman is poised to be an impact varsity player as a freshman at Santa Margarita. Photo Credit: Devin Ugland
Six-foot 7 Santa Margarita forward Jake Kyman, 6-foot-3 Lynwood guard Oscar Lopez, 6-foot-7 La Jolla Country Day forward Matt Bender and 6-foot-4 Gardena Serra wing Doctor Bradley and 6-foot Fairfax point guard Dijuan Chumack all had great moments throughout the 10 a.m. contest.
Class of 2020 prospect Johnny Juzang, brother of Harvard-commit and Calabasas Viewpoint point guard Christian Juzang, was also impressive with his advanced “combo guard” skill set.
The class of 2018 game followed soon after where Compton Dominguez shooting guard Wayne Arnold and La Verne Damien combo guard Elijah McCullough made serious statements.
The lift the Arnold gets on his jump shot is absolutely absurd. He’s an effortless high major athlete who makes the game look easy.
Sophomore SG Wayne Arnold was impressive at Julius V. Select 24 Saturday. Photo Credit: Devin Ugland
While his shooting stroke from 3-point and mid-range are definitely his strengths, Arnold’s perimeter ball skills are beginning to round into form. Scouts and media have been waiting for Arnold to show the blow-by first-step and ability to break guys down off-the-bounce. He showed us flashes of that at Lynwood.
McCullough, the sturdily-built 6-foot-2 guard, was refreshingly controlled in an atmosphere which normally produces the opposite.
He took and sank a number of mid-range and 3-point shots in the rhythm of the game, got his teammates involved, and led a second half comeback when it seemed as if the game was headed to the blowout category.
La Verne Damien sophomore Elijah McCullough was one of many standouts at the Julius V. Select 24. Photo Credit: Devin Ugland
Six-foot-5 West Ranch shooting guard Austin Galuppo was another player knocking down shots in the 2018 game. Galuppo is one of those high-lift, low release shooters with Vladimir Radmonovic-type arc. He has range, too. Deep, deep range.
The final stop of the weekend basketball tour hit close to the home-base of Huntington Beach at Westminster High for the Compton Magic backed fall league which is rightfully called, “The LEAGUE.”
The first conclusion drawn from Westminster was that Villa Park has the pieces to be one of the better public school teams in Orange County.
Start with 6-foot-3 junior point guard Myles Franklin (who is seeing Pac-12 interest), add the skilled 6-foot-8, 280-pound LACES transfer Evan Battey, finish it with 6-foot-4 freshman Julien Franklin (Myles’ brother) and 6-foot-4 3-point shooter Imran Takhar and the Spartans are going to be a difficult team to beat.
Another impressive public school squad on hand was Long Beach Poly.
The Jackrabbits defeated a short-handed Corona Centennial team, 64-52, by following the lead of 6-foot-2 Hawaii-commit Drew Buggs. The senior had a second half stretch where he scored or assisted on six straight possessions and pulled down two defensive rebounds in that same timeframe to put Poly on top for good.
Centennial was without junior power forward and UCLA-commit Jalen Hill who was attending USA Mini Camp in Colorado Springs and its head coach Josh Giles, but 6-foot-8 senior center Ike Anigbogu was his usual self. The other UCLA-bound big man for the Huskies was doing his best to rip the rim off the glass with his powerful dunks.
The two preseason favorites in the race for the CIF-SS Open Division championship, Chino Hills and Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, provided some fireworks for onlookers.
Chino Hills crushed Riverside J.W. North, 109-79, behind the UCLA-bound Ball brothers, Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo.
The highlight of that game was Melo’s pre-half court lob pass to Lonzo, who hung in the air for what seemed like a minute, for a dunk.
Sierra Canyon was flying all over the court with its uptempo offense and relentless full-court pressure defense. The Trailblazers defeated Compton, 69-51, and were winners over Cathedral later on in the day.
The group of 2016 Devearl Ramsey, who committed to Nevada on Monday, and juniors Cody Riley, Remy Martin, Terrance McBride and Adam Seiko make up the talented squad from the Valley.