Los Angeles Preps: USC

Locals off board early in Day 2 of draft

June, 5, 2012
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Right-handed pitcher Chase DeJong of Long Beach Wilson was selected 81st overall by the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday in the second round of the MLB Draft.

DeJong, a USC signee, has some family history with the Blue Jays. His older cousin, Jordan DeJong, played briefly with Toronto in 2007. DeJong was 4-3 with a 0.82 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings in his senior season at Wilson.

Joe Muņoz, a shortstop from Los Altos who has signed with San Diego State, went 90th overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Tyrone Taylor of Torrance was picked 92nd overall by the Milwaukee Brewers. Taylor, an outfielder who also starred on the gridiron, is a Cal State Fullerton signee.

Bishop Amat infielder Rio Ruiz, a two-sport star who was projected as a possible first-round selection before a blood clot sidelined him for most of his senior season, was taken by the Houston Astros with the first pick of the fourth round, 129th overall. Ruiz, a USC signee, was an AFLAC All-American selection and played on the U.S. youth national team last summer.

Kieran Lovegrove, a right-handed pitcher from Mission Viejo, was picked in the third round by the Cleveland Indians. He was the 110th overall selection.

In the sixth round, the Seattle Mariners selected Huntington Beach Edison shortstop Timmy Lopes, the 191st overall pick.

Ron Miller, a third baseman who left Gardena Serra after his junior season, was selected in the 10th round by the Miami Marlins.

Hunter Virant, a left-handed pitcher from Camarillo, was selected in the 11th round by the Houston Astros. He is committed to UCLA.

Trey Williams from Valencia High, a power-hitting shortstop, was picked in the 11th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit .378 with five home runs and 24 RBIs in his senior season. Williams is committed to Pepperdine.

Jordan Guerrero, a left-handed pitcher from Moorpark High School, was selected in the 15th round by the Chicago White Sox.

Lakewood's Watson picked by Phillies

June, 4, 2012
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Pitcher Shane Watson of Lakewood was selected 40th overall by the Philadelphia Phillies in Monday's MLB Draft.

Watson posted a 1.19 ERA this season, striking out 79 batters in 53 innings to lead the Lakewood to a 25-7 record. The right-hander has signed to play at USC.

Harvard-Westlake's dynamic pitching duo of Max Fried and Lucas Giolito were other Southland pitchers selected Monday -- Fried going seventh overall to the San Diego Padres and Giolito 16th to the Washington Nationals. Fried and Giolito are UCLA signees.

Upland infielder Daniel Robertson, also a UCLA signee, was chosen 34th overall by the Oakland Athletics.

Serra's Smith scorching at the plate

May, 1, 2012
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Gardena Serra junior Dominic Smith is proving why he's one of the most feared hitters in the state.

Through 19 games, Smith is batting .596 (34 for 57) with six home runs and 40 RBIs. The left-hander is also 5-0 as a pitcher, compiling 41 strikeouts and a 1.48 ERA in 28 1/3 innings pitched.

Smith is verbally committed to USC.

Serra is 15-4 and ranks No. 3 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 poll.

Dorsey's Brown bags UCLA offer

April, 25, 2012
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Dorsey defensive back Daquawn Brown received a scholarship offer from childhood favorite UCLA this week, the latest indication that recruitment for the rising senior is heating up.

Oklahoma dropped by Dorsey on Tuesday. USC and Nebraska did the same on Wednesday. Brown has college coaches intrigued and looks to add to a list of offers that already includes Arizona State, Cal, San Jose State and Washington State.

"It's catching up to me," Brown said of his recruitment. "To be noticed by my favorite, ideal schools is an honor."

Brown said he will commit to the most "genuine" school, meaning the one that has his best interests, both athletically and academically, in mind. Brown has sought the advice of former Dorsey standouts Jeremiah Allison (Washington State) and Jaydon Mickens (Washington), as well as Oregon phenom De'Anthony Thomas, an inner-city legend who attended rival Crenshaw.

"We all grew up together, playing for the same teams in Pop Warner," Brown said. "They're all helping me."

Don't expect the 5-foot-11 Brown to make a college decision soon. He hopes to take all five official campus visits to get a feel for what each school has to offer, and he anticipates that a choice will likely come near signing day in February.

Wilson's DeJong breaks the mold

April, 19, 2012
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Chase DeJongStephen Dachman, Courtesy of GazettesSports.comChase DeJong enjoys a challenge, which explains why he left a small private school for a large public school.

LONG BEACH -- Chase DeJong wanted to challenge himself.

In a time when transfers from public to private schools are common, the senior pitcher decided to go the other way, leaving the comforts of Valley Christian in Cerritos for Long Beach Wilson at the end of ninth grade. He could stay and dominate at Valley Christian, where he knew the first and last names of about 600 students, but that would have been easy. No, like any great competitor, DeJong wanted to challenge himself.

It was difficult to leave because he had attended Valley Christian since preschool. His two older brothers had gone there as well. It was home for him, all he ever knew.

"I knew if I wanted to experience a big public school and play against top-level competition, I needed to test myself," says DeJong, the 12th-ranked player in the state according to ESPN.

DeJong adjusted well to the move and, a year later, burst onto the scene with a 10-2 record and 1.00 ERA as a junior. In 50 innings pitched this season the 6-foot-5 right-hander has given up nine earned runs and struck out 71 batters.

"His biggest transition was getting used to the large number of personality types and religious beliefs," says Bruins head coach Andy Hall, whose team is 14-6 with all six losses coming by one run. "He's lived a sheltered life. Being exposed to this has helped him mature and grow."

DeJong throws an unmistakeable low-90s fastball and mixes in what Hall describes as a "vicious" curveball. He received his first recruiting letter as an eighth grader and, eventually, was pursued by nearly every major college program before settling on local USC. DeJong broke the news to Trojans head coach Frank Cruz with a late-night phone call last August.

"It was 11:45 at night," DeJong says. "I woke him up."

Not that Cruz complained or anything.

DeJong has remained humble through the added attention and higher profile. Hall says he receives baseball cards of DeJong from autograph seekers in his school mailbox. The 18-year-old signs them and sends them back.

(Read full post)

Fairfax's Taylor signs with USC

April, 11, 2012
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Fairfax guard Brendyn Taylor, one of the top players in the City Section this past season, signed with USC on Wednesday. He averaged 18 points and five rebounds as a senior at Fairfax.

"Brendyn has a great upside," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said in a statement. "He is an athletic wing who's best days are ahead of him. He is going to be a major plus both on and off the court for USC."

The 6-foot-2 guard missed most of the last two seasons because of CIF transfer rules after leaving View Park. Fairfax finished 20-10 and tied for first in the Western League. Taylor's brother, Bryce, played for Oregon from 2004 to '07.

Spencer steps into big role for Price

March, 22, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- There was no shortage of high-profile post players in the Southland this season. The position, in fact, was seemingly the deepest it has been in recent years.

Attempting to determine who the best of the bunch was could prove to be a difficult task given the long list of candidates. A case can certainly be made for Skylar Spencer, considering the 6-foot-9, 220-pound senior from Los Angeles Price senior is the last man standing.

[+] EnlargeSkyler Spencer
Courtesy of Nick KozaSkyler Spencer has been consistent in his play and that is a big reason Price finds itself in the state title game.
While most of his highly regarded peers sit at home on Friday afternoon and wonder about what could have been, Spencer will suit up for the Knights (26-8 overall) and likely be the difference between winning and losing in the CIF state championship game against Richmond Salesian (33-2). The opening tip is at 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento at Power Balance Arena.

“I wouldn't trade Skylar for anybody out here,'' Price coach Michael Lynch said. “He's our captain, our leader on the team, we've been on his back so many times this year.''

If given the chance, many would choose Grant Jerrett from La Verne Lutheran as the premier player in the greater Los Angeles area. The senior and Arizona commit, after all, was recently named the Gatorade State Boys' Basketball Player of the Year.

North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake's Zena Edosomwan deserves consideration with regard to being mentioned in the same sentence as some of the Southland's best bigs. Also worth mentioning is Woodland Hills Taft's Anthony January. Gardena Serra's Daddy Ugbede and La Verne Damien's Chris Reyes round out the well-rounded group.

Spencer can't be overlooked if winning is a criteria used in the conversation. The Knights were among the top programs in the ESPNLosAngeles Top 20 rankings this season with Spencer leading the way. Remember, Price played one of the more competitive schedules around.

“We did not back down from anyone, we'll play anyone, anytime, anywhere,'' Spencer said. “To be the best, you have to play the best. That's the way you have to think.''

(Read full post)

Recruiting process heats up for Cravens

March, 13, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- The football season ended for Su'a Cravens from Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta in early December. That, however, does not mean the gridiron goings on for the highly-touted 2013 prospect have come to a complete standstill.

The buzz is just getting started, in fact.

The recruiting process had not subsided for Cravens since the beginning of the new calendar year as Division I colleges from all over the country remain in constant contact with the 6-foot-1, 205-plus pound junior safety who has more than 25 offers.

“In some cases the hype can be bad, but overall, I think Su'a has a good problem on his hands with the whole recruiting process,'' Vista Murrieta coach Coley Candaele said. “There are times when he has to turn his phone off because of all the calls he receives on a weekly and daily basis. When it comes to talking to people, he's on a strict schedule now.''

Powerhouse programs such as Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma are among those interested in his services. To somewhat of a lesser extent, Arkansas, Clemson, Nebraska and Wisconsin are in the hunt for a Cravens' pledge.

A bit closer to home, seemingly every Pac-12 Conference school around has put a scholarship offer on the table for him. Nearby UCLA and USC would like nothing more than for Cravens to offer up an all-important, yet elusive to this point commitment.

"I don't have any top teams right now, there is no team ahead of any other one,'' Cravens said. “Really, I'm not worried about making a decision soon.''

(Read full post)

Stanton starting to carve out niche

March, 6, 2012
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LOS ANGELES – In recruiting circles, Johnny Stanton from Rancho Santa Margarita Santa Margarita is well-known on the West Coast. As far as reputations go on the national level, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback from the 2013 class has some work to do.

Nevertheless, Stanton is one of the Southland's most promising prospects around. One need not look any further than his offers from Air Force and Washington for proof. He also recently received varied levels of interest from nearby schools such as UCLA and USC.

“I've been hearing from some teams, but I don't worry about that stuff, my goal is take care of business on the field and things will work out off the field,'' Stanton said.

He made a name for himself this past season with the Eagles. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 2,439 yards and 13 touchdowns in the air. Equally effective on the ground, Stanton gained 1,428 yards rushing and found the end zone another 21 times.

If he's able to duplicate that type of production during his senior year, chances are Stanton's name will mentioned in the same sentence as the country's elite signal callers.

“In my 40 years of coaching, I haven't seen many players like Johnny,'' Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch said. “We've had a plenty of scouts at our practices over the course of this season to see him and we're just now starting to hear from colleges from all over the country.

“What people might not know about him is that Johnny also has a very strong academic background, he's a Stanford-type of individual which always looks good in the eyes of college coaches and scouts. Remember, we're talking about a kid who is 6-2 and close to 220 pounds.''

Whether Stanton emerges as a national recruit in the near future still remains to be seen. One thing is certain: He is heading in the right direction. The fact Stanton possesses most of the measurables and stats colleges look for in a quarterback certainly helps his cause.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Williams makes splash on recruiting radar

March, 1, 2012
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LOS ANGELES -- Troy Williams was a relative unknown on the recruiting landscape around this time last year. The status of the 2013 prospect from Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne, however, has recently changed. Rightfully so, considering his body of work lately.

The 6-foot-2, 190-plus-pound quarterback had a breakout effort during his junior season and enters the spring as one of the West Coast's hotter commodities. Williams, in fact, has emerged as legitimate prospect on the national scene as well.

“The recruiting process has been crazy lately,'' Williams said. “I'm talking to coaches from all over the the country every week. It seems like there's a lot of interest in me and that means I have to work twice as hard to keep my reputation going strong.''

Williams has scholarship offers on the table from six programs, mostly from those within the Pac-12 Conference. Arizona State, UCLA and Washington were a few of the first to jump on the bandwagon. Bowling Green, Nevada and SMU are the others.

His days of flying under the radar came to an end after Williams completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,247 yards and 34 touchdowns a season ago for the Gauchos. Equally effective on the ground, he gained 587 yards and scored 11 times.

Plans are in the works for a visit to Washington's junior day later this month. An April trip to Arizona State's junior day is the next order of business.

Williams has been contacted programs such as Oregon and USC. Clemson, Florida and Wisconsin have also expressed varied level of interest.

“I have a target on by my back, I want to be No.1 quarterback in the nation next year, but that's up to everyone in the media,'' Williams said. “Right now, I don't have a leader, you know, a school that I like the best. Everyone is about even. At some point soon, I think I'll have to narrow down my list. I am going to try and keep my options open.''

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Ribet knocks off Village Christian

February, 24, 2012
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SUN VALLEY -- There has been plenty of hype surrounding Tyler Dorsey and his emergence as one of the Southland's top underclassman this season. And after seeing the freshman from Los Angeles Ribet Academy in action on Friday, it turns out the advanced billing was indeed worthy.

Sun Valley Village Christian early on had no answer for Dorsey, who had 11 points in the first quarter. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 6-foot-4 guard finished with 26 points to guide the visiting Frogs to a 64-52 victory in a Southern Section Division 5-A semifinal.

“Yeah, I have heard all of the talk about me, but I try not to worry about it,'' Dorsey said. “My focus is working hard on my game, that's it, and letting everything else fall into place.''

Who is going to argue with his game plan? The strategy, after all, has worked out particularly well this season. Dorsey is averaging 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists per game. On the defensive end of the floor, he's no slouch and averages more than two steals and a block per game.

Keep in mind, we're talking about a ninth-grader who plays beyond his years.

“I know he's young, but honestly, I don't worry about Tyler when he's out there on the floor,'' Frogs coach William Middlebrooks said. “He was under some pressure tonight, in a big environment, and I think he handled himself. He doesn't play like like a freshman, not in my book.''

Middlebrooks is not the only individual who has been impressed with the play of Dorsey. Division I college coaches and scouts appear to be enamored with the upside he possesses.

Arizona put a scholarship offer on the table for Dorsey over the summer. USC offered him on Tuesday. Duke, North Carolina and Louisville are among the other programs interested.

(Read full post)

Ndiaye a curious mystery in many ways

February, 2, 2012
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HUNTINGTON BEACH -- Heads turn. Jaws drop. Gasps follow. Cameras flash.

The circumstance does not matter. The second Mamadou Ndiaye steps onto the basketball court in uniform or exits the gym in civilian clothes afterward, the junior from Brethren Christian draws plenty of attention. It's something that simply comes along with the territory when you are 7 feet, 5 inches tall.

[+] EnlargeMamadou Ndiaye
Courtesy of Art RamosAt 7-foot-6, Mamadou Ndiaye's decision to sign with UC-Irvine was a big surprise -- literally.
That is not a typo. Ndiaye is 7 feet 5.

An unassuming teenager seemingly in a grown man's body. An overgrown man's body, that is. An 18-year old underclassman from Senegal with a future that appears to be limitless given his improving skill set. The upside Ndiaye possesses is off the charts, in fact. A college scholarship almost certainly waits in the wings. A career in the NBA thereafter remains a distinct possibility.

You can't teach size, after all.

Perhaps most interesting, aside from his potential path in life, is the somewhat mysterious journey Ndiaye has been on so far, as well as the tight-lipped nature of Ndiaye and those closest to him.

“Things have been crazy around our little high school lately,'' Brethren Christian coach Jon Bahnsen said. “We've had camera crews here for Mamadou every day the past month or so. He's been all over the local news and papers, on websites; it's been overwhelming. Everyone wants to know more about Mamadou. I'm consistently getting calls from college coaches and scouts interested in him too. To be honest, he doesn't like the attention.''

Video of Ndiaye's exploits on the hardwood have circulated all over the country -- and world, for that matter -- the past couple of weeks. Not surprisingly, he has become an Internet sensation of sorts. As of Thursday, one of his YouTube clips has more than 660,000 hits. Another is closing in on 525,000.

For those hoping to catch a glimpse of Ndiaye -- he averages 23 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks -- the Warriors (18-5 overall) play at Newport Beach Crean Lutheran on Friday night.

Receiving recognition on a regular basis, however, does not seem to sit particularly well with Ndiaye. His legal guardians refuse to speak with the media and have not allowed him to share his side of the story with reporters since Ndiaye's arrival at Brethren Christian around this time last year.

When approached, Ndiaye is non-confrontational. Often times, he prefers to offer up a big smile and the occasional: “What's up...” Aside from that, he and his camp mostly keep quiet.

(Read full post)

Simmons can't wait to get to USC

February, 1, 2012
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Seven football players from Crespi in Encino will be continuing their careers in college.

Jordan Simmons is the top recruit from Crespi. The 6-feet-5, 330 pound offensive lineman is headed to USC.

“I decided to go to USC because I felt like it was the perfect fit for me,” Simmons said. “I just want to compete when I step on that first day. I’m excited. I’m ready to start.”

Simmons wanted to enroll at USC in the spring, but he said Crespi wouldn’t allow him to graduate early. He will be competing for a spot on a USC team that is coming off NCAA sanctions and is expected to challenge for a national championship.

Payton ends up picking Washington

January, 31, 2012
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Wide receiver Jordan Payton from Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian committed to Washington on Tuesday, making his choice known during a live announcement on ESPNU.

Among the many others thought to be in the running for a pledge from the senior were Cal and UCLA.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder initially committed to USC. Payton changed his mind recently and appeared heading to Cal. In the end, however, the Huskies proved to be the best fit for Payton, considered one of the Southland's premier players.

“I like everything about Washington, I had a visit, it went well and I think I can go there and play right away if I do what the coaches tell me,'' Payton said. “I wanted to make my college pick today and have a clear mind about the future."

Payton had scholarship offers on the table from some of the country's powerhouse programs. Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oklahoma had courted him for quite some time. Arkansas and Penn State were believed to be players at one point as well.

“Jordan is the type of player that is going to make an immediate impact once he reaches the next level,'' Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said. “He was able to do plenty of special things for us here. We're talking about a kid with a bright future ahead of him.''

Staying close to home and playing in the Pac-12 Conference proved to be too good of an opportunity to pass up, apparently. Payton will have the chance to make things official on Wednesday morning during national signing day.

“There was a lot of indecision at first. It was hard for me to choose a school. I learned plenty of things along the way though,'' Payton said. “The whole recruiting process has been crazy. It's not one of those things for everybody. Only a few select people go through some of the things I did. Bottom line is, I'm a Husky. I couldn't be more happy.''

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Westlake QB Moore decides to move on

January, 24, 2012
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WESTLAKE VILLAGE -- In a rather surprising announcement, Westlake's Justin Moore has decided that he no longer wants to play prep football. Warriors coach Jim Benkert confirmed the news on Tuesday and said the highly-touted junior quarterback plans to transfer to Simi Valley Royal.

Moore was integral part of the program for the last three years, particularly last season when he threw for 2,483 yards, rushed for another 1,099 on the ground and accounted for 40 touchdowns. His well-rounded effort earned him Southern Section Northern Division player of the year honors.

“Justin told me he was done playing football, it was not his path in life anymore, he had deviated from some of his goals,'' Benkert said. “I'm sure that people are going to say he had some kind of issue here at Westlake, I can assure you Justin had no problems. You can look, look, and look, no one will be able to draw any conclusions. It was time for him to move on, that's basically what he said.''

Nevertheless, the decision to all of a sudden quit playing the game figures to be perceived as somewhat puzzling. Moore, after all, guided the Warriors to a section title this past season, an appearance in the CIF State Football Championship Open Division Bowl and a 14-1 overall record.

Moreover, the future appeared bright. The 5-foot-10, 165-plus pound athlete was considered as one of the more high-profile players in the 2013 class. Moore had been receiving interest from a number of different Division I programs, several within the Pac-12 Conference, most notably UCLA and USC. He had a scholarship offer on the table from SMU.

Moore could not be reach for comment. Benkert, however, elaborated on the situation.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook today, college coaches and scouts want to know what's going on with Justin,'' Benkert said. “We're not talking about the third string defensive back here. He was our quarterback, the one who has been receiving all the accolades for years and years now.

“Bottom line, Justin accomplished a lot here at Westlake. He wanted to do something else with his life. Football was not in his future. He is walking away for all the right reasons. I wish him the best. He's a great kid and I was happy when he told me that he would stay in touch with me.''

In the meantime, it appears as if Moore will enroll at nearby Royal. If he decides to change his mind, under transfer rules, Moore will not be able to play next season. His next step is anyone's guess. One thing is certain: Moore's decision to no longer play football is somewhat of a shocker.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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