LAGUNA NIGUEL – The Class of 2020 (current freshmen) was among the better ones in recent hoops memory, across and from top to bottom of California.
Among the most notable – some would suggest the best – of those are Kyree Walker (Hayward Moreau Catholic) and Jalen Green (Fresno San Joaquin Memorial).
But only players from the Southern, L.A. City and San Diego sections of the CIF are eligible for the BurlisonOnBasketball all-Southern California Top Freshmen/Class of 2020 selections.
So, sorry Green (Central Section) and Walker (North Coast Section) . . .
Before I dive into my selections for the Class of 2020, a caveat:
My choices are based upon a combination of how a kid performed and the success his team enjoyed this past season.
This is not a “ranking the college prospects”-type of a deal.
The college coaching staffs (and NBA teams) get those kind of pecking orders, especially relative to both “short-term” and “long-term potential”.
If you’re a college coach and want those in-depth opinions from me, contact me about subscribing to my BurlisonOnBasketball Scouting Service.
So, there are (were? After all, the season is over . . . ) two prime candidates for SoCal Freshman of the Year and I’ve spent a couple of weeks trying to make a decision.
And it’s Clark Slajchert, a 6-footer who helped Oak Park make its’ first-ever appearance in the Southern Section’s Open Division.
The Eagles were 23-9 and the No. 13 seed in the Open Division, losing to eventual section and state Open champion Torrance Bishop Montgomery in the first round before knocking off ultimate state Division II champion Anaheim Esperanza and then losing to eventual state Division I winner Eastvale Roosevelt in Open consolation games.
A Slajchert 3-pointer at the buzzer gave his team a stunning upset of host El Cajon Foothills Christian (led by McDonald’s All-American Jaylen Hands) in the first round of the State Southern Regional Division I playoffs.
Of the team’s nine losses, seven were to teams that played in the Southern Section Open playoffs and the eighth was to L.A. City Open champion Birmingham.
Slajchert averaged 16.7 points and 2.4 assists per game and can be watched the spring and summer as a member of the Earl Watson Elite 15 UAA squad.
He averaged 19.0 points in five playoff games, including 21 vs. Bishop Montgomery and 24 against Foothills Christian.
And the runner-up is 6-6 Johnny Juzang (Studio City Harvard-Westlake). The decision was so tough I could have easily made them “Co-Freshmen of the Year” if I didn’t have such an aversion to the cop-out “co-Player of the Year” approach seen so often on “all” teams.
Juzang (whose brother Christian Juzang was an all-Southern Selection at Viewmont High and is currently a freshman at Harvard) was the most productive member of the best freshman class in California for Coach David Rebibo.
The Wolverines finished 23-12. Although they weren’t one of the 16 teams selected to the Southern Section’s Open Division, they won the SS’s 1A championship while knocking off Pasadena in the final, 68-58.
In the State Division II competition they beat Chula Vista Mater Dei Catholic (San Diego Section) upset Mission League rival Mission Hills Alemany in the second round and then fell at Pasadena in a rematch of the SS championship game.
Juzang averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, scoring 25 points twice (against Sacramento Sheldon and Riverside Martin Luther King).
You can check him out this spring and summer with the Compton Magic Elite 16 squad on the adidas circuit.
So here are the 16 players I selected (POY Slajchert plus three teams of five, with an alpha listing).
There are a whole lot of quality freshmen in Southern California – some of which could have better long-term futures than some of the guys among these selections.
But, for purpose of being selected here, a player must have stated the bulk of the season or at least played “starter-like” minutes very often as a reserve.
Player of the Year
Clark Slajchert 6-1 Oak Park
Amound Anderson 6-1 Lawndale Leuzinger
Jaylen Clark 6-4 Corona Centennial
D.J. Davis 5-11 Corona Centennial
Johnny Juzang 6-6 Studio City Harvard-Westlake
Evan Mobley 6-8 Temecula Rancho Christian
Lamont Butler 5-11 Riverside Poly
Austin Cook 6-5 La Verne Damien
Dillon DePina 6-4 Northridge Heritage Christian
Tellen Frank 6-6 Studio City Harvard-Westlake
Dominick Harris 6-3 Newport Beach Pacifica Christian
Mason Hooks 6-9 Studio City Harvard-Westlake
Jaden Jones 6-4 Montebello Cantwell-Sacred Heart
Shemar Morrow 6-4 La Mirada
Beon Riley 6-3 Chula Vista Mater Dei Catholic
J.T. Tan 6-5 San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep