LAGUNA NIGUEL, Ca. – Southern California’s high school basketball Class of 2019 proved every bit impressive this past season as it did a year ago.
The likes of the Chino Hills High duo of Melo Ball and Onyeka Okongwu as well as guards Ethan Anderson (Fairfax), Cassius Stanley (Harvard-Westlake), Gianni Hunt (Bishop Montgomery and Jarod Lucas (Los Altos), along with forwards Jaime Jaquez (Camarillo) and Jake Kyman (Santa Margarita), each made strong impacts on their programs in 2015-16.
And, as the case a year ago when my choice for BurlisonOnBasketball’s top Southern California Freshman of the Year came from among Ball, Okongwu and Stanley, the same three lads were the top candidates this time around for Sophomore of the Year.
Each polished strong credentials while utilizing their individual skills to help Chino Hills win 31 games and Harvard-Westlake capture the CIF Southern Section’s 1A championship.
But, even with their well-advanced offensive repertoires and respective flairs for the spectacular (Stanley, vertically, and Ball, by way of his often-dazzling passing and head-shaking shot selection), neither Stanley nor Ball impacted games at both ends of the floor with the veracity that Okongwu did.
And that’s why Okongwu walks away with BurlisonOnBasketball Sophomore of the Year hardware – or, at least, he would get that hardware if I in fact provided “trophies” or “plaques” to my honorees.
He – like Clark Slajchert of Oak Park (my choice for top freshman) and my eventual choices for top Junior and Senior of 2016-17 in Southern California – will have to be satisfied with my deep-felt congratulations that go along with their honors.
As a refresher from the caveats I provided with the all-Freshmen selections (Class of 2020), players from the CIF Southern, L.A. City and San Diego Sections were eligible for the “all” selections, and each player should have been a starter or at least, if a reserve, often played something approaching “starters’ minutes”.
And players were selected based upon their individual accomplishments coupled with their teams’ successes – not on “college potential” or “how many scholarships offers” they may have received at this point of their prep careers.
In preemptive explanation, L.A. Fairfax’s Robert McRae – an “all-freshman” BurlisonOnBasketball selection last year – didn’t land a spot on one of the following five “all-sophomore” teams because he missed such a large percent of the season with a broken hand bone.
Player of the Year
Onyeka Okongwu 6-8 Chino Hills
Ethan Anderson 6-1 L.A. Fairfax
Melo Ball 6-3 Chino Hills
Jaime Jaquez 6-6 Camarillo
Isaiah Mobley 6-9 Temecula Rancho Christian
Cassius Stanley 6-5 Studio City Harvard-Westlake
Gianni Hunt 6-2 Torrance Bishop Montgomery
Jake Kyman 6-7 RSM Santa Margarita
Jarod Lucas 6-3 Hacienda Heights Los Altos
Jaden Shackelford 6-2 Hesperia Oak Hills
Boogie Ellis 6-2 San Diego Mission Bay
Braelee Albert 6-5 L.A. Brentwood Academy
Kyle Owens 6-6 Encino Crespi
Wony’a Singleton 6-1 Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula
Jaxen Turner 6-2 Moreno Valley Rancho Verde
Makani Whiteside 6-2 Bellflower St. John Bosco
Jordan Hilstock 6-3 Vista
Julien Franklin 6-6 Villa Park
Amani Harris 6-1 Playa Del Rey St. Bernard
K.J. Martin 6-6 West Hills Chaminade
Joseph Octave 6-2 San Pedro Mary Star of the Sea
Jordan Brinson 6-2 L.A. Westchester
Phaquan Davis 5-11 Chino Hills
D.J. Rodman 6-5 Newport Beach Corona Del Mar
Josh Vazquez 6-3 Torrance Bishop Montgomery
Romelle Mansel 6-9 Playa Del Rey St. Bernard