With the boys' basketball season a week under way, some teams have already proved they're a force to be reckoned with, while a few others have started a step slow. Here's a look at the teams and players to watch in the coming months, and where you can see them play.
1. J.W. North, 4-0
The Huskies return their top two scorers from last season’s 19-11 team. Aaron Peck, a 6-4 senior forward, was an all-Division 2A selection after averaging a team-high 17.5 points and nine rebounds. He forms a dangerous trio up front with 6-5 junior forwards Marcus Baugh (10.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Dorian Butler (7.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg). Rancho Verde transfer DeShon Taylor, a sophomore guard, more than shores up the back court.
2. Etiwanda, 3-1
The Eagles graduated their top five scorers from last season’s team that advanced to the Division 1AA semifinals but should regroup well behind their next superstar, sophomore guard Jordan McLaughlin. The 5-11 ball handler scored 20 points Saturday night in a 72-61 loss to LaVerne Lutheran in the Rose City Classic championship game in Pasadena. Etiwanda will also count on 6-4 junior forward Sheldon Blackwell and 6-3 senior guard Dominique Walker.
3. Murrieta Valley, 5-0
The Nighthawks graduated their top two scorers from a team that finished 24-4 last season but appear to have filled the gaps in a hurray, evident by their 58-54 victory last weekend against Rancho Verde in the final of the Big Daddy tournament at Citrus Hill High. Darius Butler, a 6-3 senior forward, and Reid Shackelford, a 5-11 senior guard, appear willing and able to step into scoring roles. Butler is averaging 21 points through the first five games after averaging 8.7 last season, and Shackelford has bumped his scoring average up from 3.6 last season to 18.8. Jackson Helms, a 6-7 senior forward, is also rounding into one of the region’s better big men.
4. Rancho Verde, 3-1
Jordan Grace, a 6-2 senior guard, is a returning Division I-AA selection. He’ll team up nicely with 6-foot senior guard Kendall Schmidt, who transferred from Woodcrest Christian after averaging 25 points a game last season. Sophomore guards Jalen Hall and Tre Nottingham and 6-3 junior forward Lance Jones give the Mustangs additional depth, while 6-6 newcomer Khalil Fuller, the brother of Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller, will push to join the rotation.
5. Colony, 3-1
The Titans return their two best players from last season’s team, which finished 20-10, including 11-1 in the Mt. Baldy League, and advanced to the Division 2AA quarterfinals. Miles Poullard, a 6-2 senior guard, and Everett Turner, a 6-foot junior guard, were all-Division 2AA selections last season. With no player taller than 6-4 on the roster, the Titans will need to maintain an up-tempo pace to be successful.
6. Montclair, 4-0
The Cavaliers ended Colony’s 60-game league winning streak last season and figure to breath down the Titans' necks against this season. They return their top two scorers from last season’s 23-5 team, both sharp-shooting guards. Devyn Sampson is a 6-3 senior who averaged a team-high 15.9 points and 6.9 rebounds. Bobby Talamantes is a 5-9 senior who averaged 13 points en route to making the all-Division 2AA team.
7. Chino Hills, 2-1
A solid win against Leuzinger last weekend served notice that the Huskies won’t be retooling this season after the graduation of leading scorers A.J. Hecox and Warren Ondatje. Chino Hills, 22-7 last season, is getting superb efforts from twin guards Deion and Deandre Page and 6-3 sophomore forward Bishop Mency. Cameron Curry has done a stellar job at point guard as well.
7. Roosevelt, 1-3
The Mustangs got off to a slow start at the Rose City Classic but have enough talent to move back up the rankings in a hurry. They feature an imposing backcourt led by Kendall Brown, a 6-4 senior who averaged 10.2 points for last season’s 19-7 team. Jalen Young, a 6-5 senior guard, averaged 6.8. Shawn Joseph and Jevion Rowland give Roosevelt additional backcourt depth.
8. Elsinore, 0-0
The Tigers are led by perhaps the best player in the I.E. this season, 6-1 senior point guard Earl (E.J.) Twyman, the two-time Sunbelt League MVP who helped Elsinore to a 24-5 record last season. Twyman will have some help in fellow all-leaguer Lawrence Chamberlain, a 6-3 senior shooting guard, and second teamers Daniel Dedeaux, a 6-4 senior forward, and Chance Hover, a 6-foot senior wing. Elsinore will face a good test in the season opener Tuesday night against Cajon at the Nighthawk Classic.
9. Cajon, 1-3
Cajon is another team that ran into stiff competition at the Rose City Classic, losing two games by one point. The Cowboys, who finished 18-10 last season, should do OK with the return of senior point guard Devin Jones, the team’s leading scorer last season at 15.2 points a game. Bill Belvins was a second-team all-San Andreas League selection after averaging 9.9 points and 9.4 rebounds, and Kendrick Gaines was also a solid contributor for Cajon last season.
10. Sultana, 5-0
Sultana is home to the High Desert’s best player in 6-4 senior guard Daaron Flagg, last season’s Mojave River League MVP. He averaged 21.9 points and 11.4 rebounds while leading the Sultans to a 19-6 mark. Flagg won’t have to shoulder all the scoring, as Sultana also returns 5-9 senior guard Chrishtian Buttler (11.8 ppg. last season) and 6-4 senior forward Robmar Porter, who averaged eight points and eight rebounds. Brian Enriquez, a 6-2 sophomore guard, has been a solid addition.
Others players to watch:
Devon Alexander, Summit, 6-0, Sr., G
Anthony Rounds, Citrus Hill, 6-7, Sr., F
Sam Finley, Corona Centennial, 6-2, Jr., G.
Sedrick Barefield, Corona Centennial, 6-0, Fr., G
Victor Joseph, Rancho Cucamonga, 5-10, Soph., G,
Davin Guinn, Vista Murrieta, 6-5, Sr., F
Khleem Perkins, San Bernardino, 6-3, Jr., G
Richie Ragoo, Colton, 5-11, Sr., G
Josh Thompson, Don Lugo, 6-4, Sr., G
Nicholas Pete, Tahquitz, 6-7, Fr., F
Denzel McCloney, Serrano, 6-0, Sr., G
Brad Amburgey, Big Bear, 6-0, Jr., G
Dutch DeMeo, Yucca Valley, 6-0, Sr., G
Justin Snavely, Citrus Valley, 6-5, Jr., F
Jonathan Serven, Palm Desert, 6-3, Sr., G
Quintin Taylor, Palm Springs, 6-2, Jr., G
Nick King, Palm Springs, 6-1, Sr., G
Brandon Pippenger, Riverside King, 6-8, Sr., C
Nikko Turner, Riverside King, 5-8, Sr., G
Key Tournaments and Showcases:
Inland Empire Classic at A.B. Miller, Dec 12-17
Shoot-Out @ Eisenhower HS, Jan. 7
Nighthawk Classic (Elsinore vs. Cajon), Dec. 6
Nighthawk Classic (Roosevelt vs. Cajon), Dec. 7
Nighthawk Classic (Roosevelt vs. Elsinore), Dec. 9
Citrus Hill @ Murrieta Valley, Dec. 7
Chino Hills @ Vista Murrieta, Dec. 8
Murrieta @ Elsinore, Dec. 20
Sultana @ Big Bear, Dec. 21
Canyon Springs @ Rancho Verde, Jan. 3
Montclair at LaVerne Lutheran, Jan. 3
J.W. North @ Roosevelt, Jan. 9
Palm Desert @ Palm Springs, Jan. 11
Tahquitz @ Citrus Hill, Jan. 17
Murrieta Valley @ Vista Murrieta, Jan. 19
San Bernardino @ Cajon, Jan. 19
Colony @ Montclair, Jan. 20
Chino Hills @ Ayala, Jan. 27
Montclair @ Colony, Feb. 9