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  • Devin Ugland

HoopsByUgland SoCal preseason Top 20: No.'s 1-5

The fourth and final release of the SoCal preseason Top 20 presents the choices for the top five teams in Southern California.

The top team in the region isn't a shock, but No.'s 4 and 5 might be.

1. Chino Hills 2014-15 record; results: 17-15 overall (vacated seven wins for use of inelgible player); lost to Mater Dei, 72-63, in CIF-SS Open Division quarterfinals; lost in overtime to San Ramon Valley, 79-71, in Division I State Championship Key returning players: PG Lonzo Ball (6-6, 180, Sr., UCLA-signee); SG LiAngelo Ball (6-4, 215, Jr., UCLA-commit); SF Elizjah Scott (6-4, 190, Jr.); G Cameron Shelton (6-1, 150, Soph.); SF Andre Ball (6-6, 180, Soph.); F Chazz Smith (6-6, 185, Sr.) Key newcomers: G LaMelo Ball (5-8, 140, Fr., UCLA-commit); C Onyeka Okongwu (6-8, 210, Fr.) Key departures: None Where you can see them in SoCal: BattleZone at Corona Centennial, Nov. 30-Dec. 5; MaxPreps Holiday Classic, Dec. 26-30; Sierra Canyon Super Showcase, Jan. 9; Fairfax State Preview, Jan. 30; Mater Dei Nike Extravaganza, Feb 6.

From left to right: Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball and LiAngelo Ball headline the Chino Hills attack, giving the Huskies the nod as's preseason No. 1. Photo Credit: Devin Ugland

Outlook: Chino Hills used a tough fall league and tournament slate to warm the engine of “Run G(elo)M(elo)Z(o).” The Trio of Ball Brothers shoot, pass, dunk and press at a breakneck pace that proved to be unstoppable against many of the teams below them in this ranking. Lonzo, who signed a National Letter of Intent with UCLA Wednesday, runs the show with his unbelievable passing, vision and command of the Huskies fast-paced system. Lonzo’s brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, both of whom are committed to UCLA, fire off 3-pointers at a high-rate and have range that extends to, honestly, near half-court. The X-Factor for Chino Hills will be do-it-all junior Elizjah Scott. Scott is a gifted rebounder, shot blocker and finisher in transition who can defend multiple positions. He does all of the grunt work needed to win close games. So, how do you beat Chino Hills? The jury is still out on that, but here’s a quick guide to how to not get blown out of the gym: 1. Take care of the basketball; 2. Don’t try to outrun them; 3. Don’t try to outshoot them; 4. Execute and get high-percentage shots; 5. Hope that Lonzo Ball fouls out somehow. 2. Sierra Canyon 2014-15 record; results: 26-4 overall; won Division V State Championship, 80-55, over University High of San Francisco Key returning players: PG Devearl Ramsey (5-10, 175, Sr., Nevada Reno-signee); G Remy Martin (5-10, 180, Jr.); G Adam Seiko (6-2, 210, Jr.); G Terrance McBride (6-2, 175, Jr.); PF Ira Lee (6-7, 230, Jr.); PF Cody Riley (6-7, 240, Jr.); G Michael Feinberg (6-3, 175, Soph.) Key newcomers: F Stefan Kljajic (6-8, 215, Jr.) Key departures: G/F Robbie Feinberg Where you can see them in SoCal: Sierra Canyon Invitational, Dec. 7-12; Sierra Canyon Super Showcase, Jan. 9; Fairfax State Preview, Jan. 30 Outlook: When your entire starting five has the potential to play at Division I college programs and your sixth-man is in the same boat, you’re going to be pretty good. That’s the case for Sierra Canyon with Ramsey, Martin, Seiko, Lee, Riley and McBride returning for another season in Chatsworth. The Trailblazers are another team in the area who play at a fast pace and put points on the board in a hurry. Ramsey and Martin are interchangeable at the point guard spot, while Riley and Lee have shown the ability to play both on the low-block and on the perimeter. Seiko and McBride will be the key factors to just how successful Sierra Canyon can be when it comes time for the CIF-SS Open Division playoffs. The two junior guards are, from what I’ve seen, the Trailblazers best perimeter defenders and guys who can knock down open 3-pointers off of drive-and-kicks. Sierra Canyon will need those two to be hitting shots at a consistent clip to keep opposing defenses from clogging up the lane for the rest of the Trailblazers. 3. Bishop Montgomery 2014-15 record; results: 31-2 overall; won CIF-SS Open Division championship, 56-50, over Etiwanda; lost to Mater Dei, 65-59, in CIF State Southern California Open Division regional semifinals Key returning players: SG Ethan Thompson (6-3, 175, Jr.); SG David Singleton (6-3, 185, Soph.); W/F Jordan Schakel (6-5, 185, Jr.); Fletcher Tynen (6-5, 190, Soph.) Key newcomers: PG Gianni Hunt (6-0, 170, Fr.); PG Josh Vazquez (5-11, 165, Fr.) Key departures: SG Stephen Thompson, Jr.; F Christian Oshita; F Matthew Mondesir (transfer to Washington Prep) Where you can see them in SoCal: Coaches for a Cause at Ocean View High, Nov. 28; Westchester Tournament, Nov. 30-Dec. 5; D1 Bound SoCal Christmas Classic at La Salle, Dec. 26-30; Jordan Take Flight Challenge, Jan. 2; Westchester Shootout, Jan. 9; Fairfax State Preview, Jan. 30 Outlook: The loss of Stephen Thompson Jr., now at Oregon State, and Christian Oshita, now at the University of San Diego, stings a bit, but the returns of Ethan Thompson and Jordan Schakel, along with the fast-improving David Singleton have Bishop Montgomery poised to pick up where it left off last season. The Knights will have no key contributors over 6-feet-5 this season, but coach Doug Mitchell’s fundamental, intense and team-oriented approach works well with the “positionless” brand of basketball that Montgomery will play. Thompson and Schakel are two of the best juniors in the state. Both are wing players who can shoot it from 3-point range, score off the dribble in the paint and know how to play team defense. Singleton had himself a strong summer on the camp and AAU circuit with his multi-faceted offensive game and toughness on the defensive side of the ball. Sophomore forward Fletcher Tynen and freshman point guard Gianni Hunt will be crucial pieces to the success of the Knights this season. 4. Mater Dei 2014-15 record; results: 29-5 overall; won CIF State Southern California Open Division regional finals, 51-40, over Fairfax; lost CIF State Open Division championship, 65-64, in overtime to Oakland Bishop O’Dowd. Key returning players: PF M.J. Cage (6-9, 220, Sr., Oregon-signee); G Bailey Stout (6-1, 170, Sr.); SF Harrison Butler (6-4, 200, Soph.); PF Michael Wang (6-9, 225, Soph.); PF Miles Brookins (6-8, 210, Jr.); G/F Reagan Lundeen (6-5, 190, Soph.) Key newcomers: PG Spencer Freedman (6-0, 155, Soph., Santa Monica transfer); SG Justice Sueing (6-5, 185, Jr., transfer out of Hawaii) Key departures: SG Rex Pflueger; G K.J. Smith; G La’Vette Parker Where you can see them in SoCal: Beach Bash at Corona del Mar, Dec. 7-12; North OC Championship Tournament at Sonora High, Dec. 15-19; Mater Dei Nike Extravaganza, Feb. 5-6 Outlook: Mater Dei had to replace current Detroit Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson in 2014-15 and the Monarchs have yet another big hole to fill left by current Notre Dame freshman Rex Pflueger. But any person familiar with Southern California high school knows that Mater Dei is quick to reload and it did so for this upcoming season with talented sophomore point guard Spencer Freedman, a transfer from Santa Monica High and one of the best passers in California, and smooth left-handed wing Justice Sueing who came stateside from Hawaii. In addition to the two newcomers, Mater Dei has a number of players returning who saw big minutes last season. University of Oregon-bound forward M.J. Cage will anchor the paint both offensively and defensively, while Michael Wang and Harrison Butler are looking to build upon solid freshman campaigns. Bailey Stout, a four-year varsity player, will bring plenty of experience for coach Gary McKnight. Mater Dei rarely enters a season with big question marks surrounding the program, but this isn’t your typical Monarchs squad. A storyline to watch will be how the new pieces gel with the old ones, especially with Mater Dei missing Cage for most of its fall league games. 5. Long Beach Poly 2014-15 record; results: 26-5 overall; lost to Chino Hills, 78-54, in first round of CIF-SS Open Division playoffs; won CIF-SS Open Division consolation championship, 48-40, over Redondo Union; Lost to Torrey Pines, 54-49, in the second round of the CIF State Southern Regional Division I playoffs Key returning players: G Drew Buggs (6-3, 185, Sr., Hawaii-signee); F Zafir Williams (6-5, 200, Jr.); G Harrison Bonner (6-4, 175, Sr.); PG Darryl Polk, Jr. (5-7, 140, Soph.); G Reuben Williams (5-8, 150, Sr.); C Myles Johnson (6-8, 245, Jr., *out indefinitely with knee injury) Key newcomers: F John Duff (6-9, 195, Jr. transfer from Venice); G Garrison Gowens (6-3, 185, Sr., played JV at Poly last season) Key departures: PG K.J. Feagin; F Jordan Dallas Where you can see them in SoCal: Pacific Shores Tournament at Redondo Union, Nov. 23-28; Jordan Take Flight Challenge, Jan. 2; Westchester Shootout, Jan. 9

Long Beach Poly sophomore Darryl Polk, Jr. (above) will be running the show for the Jackrabbits this season. Photo Credit: Devin Ugland

Outlook: Poly coach Shelton Diggs had the Jackrabbits playing team ball all throughout the fall and it resulted in a number of impressive performances. Drew Buggs, one of the most underrated guards in Southern California, is who makes this team go. Buggs embodies what it is to be a leader both on and off the court and his teammates follow his lead. Darryl Polk, Jr. is one of the quickest players you’ll find. He’s a heady point guard who gets into passing lanes and seems to always make the right decision. The Jackrabbits have a versatile and talented front court with John Duff and Zafir Williams. At 6-9, Duff can spread the defense with his outside shooting, while Williams can play inside-out with shooting touch to the 3-point stripe. Senior wing Harrison Bonner could be the most essential piece to the Jackrabbits. Bonner can defend multiple positions, uses his athleticism to attack the rim in transition and half-court situations and is beginning to knock down shots from behind-the-arc with regularity. Poly can go into its bench, as well, with Reuben Williams and Garrison Gowens being two guys coach Diggs can count on to produce. If Myles Johnson can return to health before the season is over, look for the Jackrabbits to make some major noise come playoff time.

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